Red Sox

This is the single biggest reason for Red Sox not to sign Mookie Betts long-term

This is the single biggest reason for Red Sox not to sign Mookie Betts long-term

Whoever gives Mookie Betts a 10-year contract will pay him to be an all-time great.

Tell me how many of those greats stand 5-foot-9.

There is no questioning Betts' preeminence at this moment. The former MVP is one of the five best players in baseball, and when everything is clicking, he's the only human alive who can challenge Mike Trout for five-tool dominance.

But anyone giving him 10 years and $300 million, like the Red Sox reportedly offered, or 12 years and $420 million, like Betts reportedly wants, must determine the likelihood that he'll remain productive well into his 30s.

LIVE stream the Celtics all season and get the latest news and analysis on all of your teams from NBC Sports Boston by downloading the My Teams App.

And if there's one number that should give everyone pause, it's the one he can't do anything about — his height.

Undersized stars simply don't last, no matter how many MVP awards they win in their 20s. We laid this out recently, but it's worth examining in greater depth.

Since integration in 1947, only seven players 5-9 or shorter have compiled 50 career WAR: Joe Morgan (100.6), Tim Raines (69.4), Pudge Rodriguez (68.7), Yogi Berra (59.3), Luis Aparicio (55.8), Dustin Pedroia (51.7), and Kirby Puckett (51.1). Betts (42.0) should join them sometime in early 2021.

By comparison, 125 players 5-10 or taller have cracked the 50-WAR plateau in that time, from Barry Bonds (162.8) to Torii Hunter (50.1).

Morgan, Raines, Rodriguez, and Pedroia each delivered their last standout offensive seasons at age 32, while Berra remained an All-Star into his late 30s. Aparicio was a remarkably below-average offensive player even in his prime — he reached the Hall of Fame with a lifetime OPS of .653 — and that leaves Puckett, who's the tragic best-case scenario.

The Hall of Famer remained an offensive force through age 35 before a freak eye injury ended his career. He made his 10th straight All-Star team in his final season while batting .314 with 23 homers and 99 RBIs.

Had he signed a 10-year deal at age 28, he would've been worth it. The others on this list, not so much.

For proof, Red Sox fans need look no further than Pedroia, a gritty, gutsy, MVP-caliber sparkplug whose body simply couldn't take the pounding. The 5-foot-8 former All-Star signed an eight-year, $110 million extension in 2013 that runs through 2021.

"If we're going to bet on someone at 37 or 38 years old, we're not sure there's a better guy to bet on," general manager Ben Cherington said the day the extension was announced, unaware that Pedroia would play his last effective game at 33. They'll likely have three hits in nine games to show for the final four years and $56 million of their investment.

If there's a saving grace from a roster-building standpoint, it's that Pedroia only banked a relatively modest $14 million a year. He long ago earned every penny of his $110 million. However, betting on your guy to buck the trends when we're talking about $400 million is a very different gamble.

Only three players Betts' size since 1980 have delivered a .900 OPS in at least 100 games after age 30 — Matt Stairs (twice), Lonnie Smith, and Puckett. Assuming Betts plays out this season and signs a long-term deal that starts in 2021 with his age-28 season, would you pay him $35 million annually into the next decade for an OPS that doesn't crack .900 after 2022?

Consider how Betts generates his power. He relies on lightning-quick wrists, because he's never going to muscle his way out of the park like Albert Pujols or Miguel Cabrera or Adam Dunn. Virtually all of his homers are to the pull side, because he lacks the bulk to consistently launch them out the other way.

What happens if he breaks a hamate, or tears a thumb ligament, or sprains his wrist? Both Pedroia and Nomar Garciaparra looked like they were on their way to Cooperstown before hand injuries robbed them of their reflexes at the plate. Neither one ever sniffed $35 million a year.

Betts has earned the right to seek that rate, and someone will almost assuredly give it to him. Just don't be surprised when they end up with a case of buyer's remorse, because players his size simply aren't built to last.

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."

Get the latest news and analysis on all of your teams from NBC Sports Boston by downloading the My Teams App

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.

Get the latest news and analysis on all of your teams from NBC Sports Boston by downloading the My Teams App

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.

Tomase: Hindsight 2020 - remember when the Red Sox built around the wrong All-Star?

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.