Red Sox

Red Sox White House visit: Watch champs meet Donald Trump (live stream)

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NBC Sports Boston Illustration

Red Sox White House visit: Watch champs meet Donald Trump (live stream)

The 2018 Boston Red Sox are headed to the White House to celebrate their World Series title.

Well, some of them.

The Red Sox are scheduled to meet Donald Trump in Washington, D.C. on Thursday afternoon, continuing the tradition of championship teams visiting the current president.

But their manager, Alex Cora, won't attend, citing Trump's handling of post-Hurricane Maria recovery efforts in Cora's native Puerto Rico. Several other minority players also won't make the trip -- Mookie Betts, David Price, Jackie Bradley Jr., Xander Bogaerts, Rafael Devers, Sandy Leon, Christian Vazquez and Hector Velazquez -- prompting some to question if there's a racial divide in Boston's clubhouse.

Cora shot down that notion Wednesday, but plenty of eyes still will be on the attendees Thursday at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

The festivities are set to begin at 3:45 p.m. ET. You can watch via the link below or the live stream in the MyTeams app.

When: Thursday, May 9, 3:45 p.m. ET
Live Stream: NBC Sports Boston
Mobile: MyTeams App

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As MLB teams report, let's count the ways the Red Sox will be worse in 2020

As MLB teams report, let's count the ways the Red Sox will be worse in 2020

It is time for a Red Sox reality check. They were never, ever meant to contend in 2020.

This 60-game sprint will probably keep them from plummeting completely out of the playoff race, but let's not kid ourselves. They'll be in the wild card hunt in much the same way a 6-8 NFL squad technically maintains postseason aspirations come late December — by relying on mathematical gymnastics rooted more in hope ("If the Bengals and Bills play to a scoreless tie …") than substance.

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They're worse than they were last year, and they weren't very good last year. With Spring Training 2.0 set to open on Friday, let us recount how much has changed since 2019 ended with a disappointing 84 wins and the Sox 12 games out of the playoff race.

Before the season even concluded, the Red Sox fired Dave Dombrowski, architect of 2018's World Series juggernaut, whom they had hired in 2015 to put them over the top. They didn't view him as a builder, however, tabbing Chaim Bloom from the Rays to oversee what could be a lengthy rebuild.

Needless to say, a team that wants to win now does not fire Dombrowski and replace him with Bloom. That only happens when prioritizing the long view.

Bloom's first order of business, even if it took the entire winter to accomplish, was trading MVP Mookie Betts and former Cy Young Award winner David Price to the Dodgers. This provided much-needed salary relief. It did not make the Red Sox better, a fact Bloom acknowledged the night he announced the deal.

"I certainly think it's reasonable to expect that we're going to be worse without them," he said, "but we have real good talent coming back."

Right fielder Alex Verdugo, the centerpiece of the trade, may not be Betts, but he's a lot better than people think. He's also coming off a cracked bone in his back that sidelined him for the last two months of 2019 and would've delayed the start to this season if COVID-19 hadn't shut it down first. The Red Sox need him to be a star, and that's asking a lot.

Offense is supposed to be a strength, but it could be a problem.

In Rafael Devers, Xander Bogaerts, and J.D. Martinez, the Red Sox possess an impressive heart of the order. Perhaps Verdugo and the perpetually underachieving Andrew Benintendi can expand the attack. If they can't, the Red Sox could end up being no better than average offensively at catcher (Christian Vazquez), first base (Mitch Moreland), second base (Jose Peraza), and the entire outfield (Benintendi, Jackie Bradley Jr., Verdugo).

In an age when even teams like the Twins can suddenly mash 300 home runs, that doesn't sound like nearly enough offense to compensate for a pitching staff that has been absolutely decimated.

It's worth repeating exactly what the Red Sox lost this winter. In dealing Price, dismissing Rick Porcello, and disabling Chris Sale, they watched over 400 innings vanish. Because John Henry locked his checkbook below deck on the Iroquois, they replaced that trio with Martin Perez and, if he's healthy, Collin McHugh.

They're banking on left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez to repeat his breakout 19-win campaign, even though inconsistency has been a hallmark of his career, and they need forever-injured right-hander Nathan Eovaldi to give them a lot more than the 5.99 ERA he provided in just 67.2 innings last year.

After that? Hold your nose.

Perez posted an ERA over 5.00 and soft-tossing Ryan Weber, a favorite of manager Ron Roenicke, is expected to claim the fourth spot despite barely cracking 89 mph. The Red Sox hope McHugh recovers from a non-surgical offseason procedure on his elbow, but he's still ramping back up as he throws off a mound, and his spot in the rotation is more likely to be manned, at least initially, by an opener.

Overseeing all of this considerable change is Roenicke, who emerged from Alex Cora's scandal-fueled departure to oversee what amounts to an interim two-month season. Cora's leadership was indispensable to the 2018 title run, and there's no guarantee the 63-year-old Roenicke will be able to push the right buttons in a truncated campaign. Though the Red Sox have technically struck the interim from his title, it wouldn't shock anyone if they're in the market for a longer-term solution come fall.

So to recap: the new baseball chief is here to rebuild but can't spend any money, the offense looks top-heavy, the starting rotation is made of paper clips and gum, and the new manager might only be on the job for nine weeks.

Does that sound like a contender to you? Me, neither.

Ranking the Top 10 biggest brawls in Red Sox history

Ranking the Top 10 biggest brawls in Red Sox history

The 2020 MLB season is already going to look different.

Teams will only play 60 games instead of 162. There likely won't be any fans in the stands. The National League will use a DH. Extra innings will start with a runner on second base.

But thanks to the realities of the coronavirus and the need to stay socially distanced, we're unlikely to see one staple of the baseball season: bench-clearing brawls.

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Tempers often rise along with the temperatures, and when the bad blood boils and pitches start flying high and tight (or sometimes behind) batters, teams mix it up and start throwing punches.

That doesn't mean we can't look back at some of our favorites, however. The Red Sox have been no strangers to fisticuffs over the years, from Billy Martin jumping Jimmy Piersall in a tunnel before a game in 1952 to Machine Gun Joe Kelly beckoning Tyler Austin to join him on the mound in 2018.

This list was originally going to be top five, but there were too many memorable options and no shortage of worthy candidates the ended up on the cutting room floor -- David Ortiz vs. the Orioles' Kevin Gregg was a good one, for instance. So enjoy this list and don't be surprised when a number of entries are accompanied by a jolt of adrenaline.

Click here for the gallery of the Top 10 Red Sox brawls of all-time.