Red Sox

Red Sox wave white flag of surrender on season by doing nothing at trade deadline

Red Sox wave white flag of surrender on season by doing nothing at trade deadline

BOSTON -- Dave Dombrowski shifted in his seat and then delivered the saddest opening statement since Brett Kavanaugh ranted about PJ and Squee.

"We do not have any announcements," Dombrowski proclaimed with faux cheer. "We did not make any trades."

Dombrowski probably should've stopped right there, because the next 25 minutes left the distinct impression that no matter what they say, management and ownership have collectively given up on the 2019 season.

Uncomfortable doesn't even begin to describe Dombrowski's attempts to explain away this disaster of a trade deadline, which did indeed pass without the Red Sox doing anything beyond acquiring fifth starter Andrew Cashner a couple of weeks ago.

Instead, Dombrowski tried to sell us (and maybe himself?) on the idea that the bullpen is actually really good, and no, seriously, a bunch of teams wanted to acquire *his* relievers, thank you very much. He noted that internal solutions exist at Triple A, which means he's counting on the disappointing Ryan Brasier or the unproven Tanner Houck to rescue his flawed bullpen.

A week that started with the hopes of acquiring Mets closer Edwin Diaz before downshifting to the possibility of adding two relievers ended with the Red Sox acquiring no one because the price was too high. Dombrowski admitted the team's place in the standings played a role.

"If we were closer to first place, I would've been more open minded with some of the other things," he said.

Translation: this team isn't good enough to justify any further expenditures, not when the prize is a one-game wild card crapshoot at Cleveland or Minnesota. Ownership doesn't think this club is worth another penny, and it's definitely not my fault.

"The reality is, if we're going to make it, it's going to be the guys that are in the clubhouse," Dombrowski said. "That is the case."

Translation: Did I mention this isn't my fault?

While the Red Sox stood pat, the rival Astros acquired former Cy Young Award winner Zack Greinke to pair atop a rotation that already includes Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole, becoming prohibitive World Series favorites in the process. The Rays bolstered their bullpen (Miami's Nick Anderson) and offense (slugging first baseman Jesus Aguilar). The Indians added Yasiel Puig. The Twins grabbed a pair of relievers. If there was any remote solace, it's that the Yankees struck out, too.

What happened? For two days, manager Alex Cora had strongly hinted that the Red Sox would be adding bullpen help. Tuesday night's implosion, when Marcus Walden, Josh Taylor, and Colten Brewer combined to blow a 5-4 lead in a 6-5 loss to the Rays, seemed to cement the marriage of need and availability.

And then … crickets. Dombrowski described the costs as prohibitive, but it's hard to believe he couldn't have struck a deal for someone, anyone.

"I don't know that there was a player out there that was traded that we couldn't have acquired," Dombrowski said. "It's just that we didn't like the price that was asked. And I guess the other part of it is to know that as we talked about our farm system over the years, we got asked about a lot of our players that we just didn't want to make moves on."

This is a complete and utter surrender. With the starting pitching middle of the pack and the bullpen still two arms short, the Red Sox didn't see the point in sacrificing future resources on a hopelessly flawed team. From an ownership perspective, it might prove the right move in the long term.

But if that's the case, let's call it what it is and agree to wait 'til next year.

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Judge tosses suit against MLB for sign-stealing scheme, but rips Red Sox and Astros

Judge tosses suit against MLB for sign-stealing scheme, but rips Red Sox and Astros

The lawsuit against Major League Baseball filed by daily fantasy game players, who claimed to be defrauded by the Boston Red Sox and Houston Astros sign-stealing scandal, has been dismissed, but not without harsh criticism of the teams by a federal judge.

U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff in his ruling blasted the Red Sox and Astros for "shamelessly" breaking both baseball's rules and "the hearts of all true baseball fans."

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In throwing out the suit brought by five daily fantasy players, Rakoff invoked the New England Patriots "Spygate" scandal from 2007, agreeing with MLB lawyers' contention that rulings in similar suits brought by fans against the NFL after the Patriots were caught illegally taping opponents' defensive signals had set a legal precedent for this suit to be dismissed. 

While the suit charged that the Red Sox and Astros had engaged in consumer fraud that created "corrupt" and "dishonest" fantasy contest for companies such as Draft Kings, Rakoff agreed with previous decisions in the NFL cases that ruled fans should know teams will look for any advantage - even "foul deeds" - to try and win.

From Rakoff's ruling: 

[D]id the initial efforts of those teams, and supposedly of Major League Baseball itself, to conceal these foul deeds from the simple sports bettors who wagered on fantasy baseball create a cognizable legal claim? On the allegations here made, the answer is no.

The Astros' sign-stealing scheme led MLB to fine the team $5 million and the one-year suspensions and subsequent firings of manager A.J. Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow. The Red Sox then parted ways with manager Alex Cora, who, according to MLB's findings, was the mastermind of the scheme as Houston's bench coach in 2017. 

That team won the World Series, as did the 2018 Red Sox, who are accused of using a similar system to steal signs under Cora.

MLB has yet to release a report on the Red Sox allegations. Commissioner Rob Manfred said it has been delayed by the coronavirus pandemic but will be released before MLB begins its 2020 season. In comments last month in court an MLB lawyer seem to imply the Red Sox are aware of Manfred's findings and that they disagree with them.



Say hello to Arizona Red Sox? How MLB's Cactus League could save 2020 season

Say hello to Arizona Red Sox? How MLB's Cactus League could save 2020 season

Nothing says Red Sox home game like iguanas, scorpions, and cacti, but these are desperate times.

Barring millions of instant tests or a miracle cure, COVID-19 will just be a fact of our pent-up, penned-in lives for the foreseeable future.

This makes embarking on the baseball season problematic, since one infection would theoretically sideline an entire team for two weeks, and good luck staying virus-free while flying all over the country. Visiting hot spots would not only increase a player's risk of illness, it would also up the odds of one becoming a vector himself, which is bad for the brand, not to mention public health.

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But what if baseball could maintain some control over its players' whereabouts while limiting travel to a fleet of buses? Could a season happen under these tightly managed circumstances? And if so, where?

It may be a long shot, but the more one considers the alternatives, the more it sounds like the best hope we've got is for MLB to hold its entire season in Arizona.

The logistics are nightmarish regardless, but in a situation this unprecedented, the fewer variables the better. And MLB won't find a higher concentration of acceptable facilities than in the 48th state.

The Cactus League features 10 ballparks that host 15 teams in two months of spring training. Unlike the far-flung Grapefruit League, with teams scattered across Florida's east and west coasts, the Arizona sites are compact.

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Parks stretch from Mesa in the southeast to Surprise in the northwest, a drive of only 45 minutes. Everything else lies in between, a constellation of moons tightly orbiting Phoenix.

Decamping to the desert for the duration would eliminate air travel and give the league a chance to closely monitor its players. The challenge is Herculean: hosting roughly 800 players, plus at least that many coaches, staff, families, umpires, and broadcasters without anyone contracting the world's most contagious virus, against which we possess zero natural immunity.

Players would need to be quarantined in league-controlled hotels, tested constantly, and shuttled to and from the park. For such a plan to work, they'd have to sacrifice their most basic freedoms of movement, because a single failed test would grind the season to a halt while at least one team spends two weeks in isolation, potentially triggering a cascade of shutdowns, too (the mere possibility of which prompted the NBA to suspend its season, after all).

Convincing the union to sign off on such draconian restrictions won't be easy, but the alternative may very well be no baseball.

The games would be made-for-TV events without fans. If each ballpark hosted one or two games a day, a regular schedule could be played.

The challenges would be enormous. Do three teams share one clubhouse? Could ballpark and hotel staff be expected to live in isolation as well to avoid infection? How long could players live like prisoners? Will testing capacity ramp up enough to accommodate an entire league? Are the results even reliable? And how would teams keep their facilities germ-free if they're in use all day?

Politics matter, too. Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey only belatedly ordered a stay-at-home order on Monday, and it has drawn criticism from the state's mayors as one of America's weakest, with exceptions for "essential" services like golf courses, nail salons, and hotels. If Arizona experiences an outbreak, then this little thought experiment dies on the vine. The same goes for extending the order past its current April 30 expiration and into the summer.

But we're here to ponder best-case scenarios, not fill your heads with more unrelenting negativity. And though the task would be monumental, if there's to be a baseball season, our best bet might be to play it in the desert.