Red Sox

When it comes to the 2019 Red Sox, even the walk-off wins are kind of boring

When it comes to the 2019 Red Sox, even the walk-off wins are kind of boring

BOSTON -- It's just a curiosity in a season distinctly lacking the excitement of 2018, but the Red Sox have managed to turn the walk-off — what should be the most thrilling play in baseball — into an aesthetically meh anticlimax.

The Sox recorded their fifth walk-off of the season on Monday, and it fit the general pattern of its predecessors, with Marco Hernandez sending everyone home by beating out an infield single to short in a 6-5 victory over the White Sox that looked like it would be another sloppy loss, with Rafael Devers erased at third on a short fly to left, Christian Vazquez failing to put his bat on a hit-and-run fastball, and a 3-for-12 performance with runners in scoring position.

"We let some chances slip away," said manager Alex Cora. "We had men in scoring position and we didn't put one ball in play. There were a few things we did not do offensively today. Early on with Devers running the bases. We didn't put that ball in play with the hit and run in the eighth. There was a lot of stuff that didn't go right, but in the end, you know what? We won and that's the most important thing."

It wasn't exactly pretty, but with the exception of Christian Vazquez's mammoth homer over the bullpen on Friday night to complete a stirring comeback vs. the Blue Jays, the Red Sox have delivered the least dramatic walk-offs imaginable this year.

Are we going to nitpick their game-winners? You'd better believe we are. Consider the others:

-- After dropping the home opener, the Red Sox trailed the Blue Jays 6-5 in the ninth inning on April 11. Toronto closer Ken Giles tried to nail things down, but couldn't throw a strike. A walk to Mookie Betts and double by Mitch Moreland tied the game before two more walks loaded the bases with one out.

The Blue Jays brought the infield in and Rafael Devers chopped one in front of home plate and into the second base hole that landed on the infield dirt. Statcast had it traveling 135 feet at a minus-29 degree launch angle. The expected batting average? An even .100.

-- It looked like the Red Sox were going to blow a second straight heartbreaker to the Rockies on May 15 after Colorado scored three in the seventh off of Eduardo Rodriguez and Matt Barnes to erase a 5-2 deficit, but a Xander Bogaerts leadoff double in the 10th and intentional walk of Devers set the stage for Michael Chavis to ground one sharply up the middle to win it.

-- The Red Sox blew another lead, this time in the eighth, against the Rangers on June 12, but reliever Jesse Chavez lost his command in the ninth after allowing a double to Christian Vazquez and single to Jackie Bradley. He walked Chavis on four pitches to load the bases, and then issued a five-pitch walk to Betts to force in the decisive run.

-- And that brings us to Monday. The Red Sox overcame deficits of 2-1, 3-2, and 5-3 before loading the bases on a double and pair of intentional walks in the ninth. With two outs, Hernandez sliced one to deep short, where Tim Anderson passed up an opportunity for an out at third and instead unloaded a strong fall-away throw across the diamond which first baseman Jose Abreu couldn't scoop and Hernandez beat by half a step anyway.

The exit velocity of 74 mph and launch angle of two degrees suggested a hit 23 percent of the time, but as far as the Red Sox are concerned, it was a missile.

There's been a lot of that this year.

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How Bobby Bonilla Day can save MLB's ongoing salary dispute

How Bobby Bonilla Day can save MLB's ongoing salary dispute

If baseball wants to solve its impasse over player compensation during the pandemic, here's a thought — make Bobby Bonilla Day a holiday.

Bonilla is the former Mets slugger who struck an incredible deal as his career wound to a close.

In exchange for waiving the final $5.9 million he was owed in 2000, Bonilla agreed to receive 25 payments of roughly $1.19 million every July 1 from 2011 through 2035.

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Why trade $6 million in 2000 for nearly $30 million later? Because Mets owner Fred Wilpon intended to invest the money with Bernie Madoff, whose funds consistently delivered massive returns. We now know Madoff was running the world's biggest Ponzi Scheme, and when his $64 billion fraud collapsed in 2008, it took hundreds of millions of Wilpon's money with it.

What's bad for him was good for Bobby Bo, however. Every summer, the six-time All-Star receives a check for over a million dollars, payments that will continue until he's 72. (The Mets, it should be noted, also agreed to make 25 annual $250,000 payments to Bret Saberhagen for similar reasons, starting in 2004.)

Here's where the current contentiousness enters the picture.

The owners want the players to take a massive pay cut in exchange for a season, arguing they can't afford to play in empty ballparks without salary concessions. The players don't want to return a penny, and in fact hope to play more than the proposed 82 games to make as much of their prorated salaries as possible.

One solution is deferrals. The players agree to put off some portion of their earnings, allowing ownership to maintain cash flow in the short term before the game's economics hopefully stabilize in the future.

And what better day to do it than Bobby Bonilla Day? Every July 1 starting next year, the players can receive a portion of their 2020 salary. Maybe it's paid in installments over three to five years, or maybe it's a lump sum.

However it's done, it could represent a meaningful olive branch from the players and a signal that they're willing to compromise in these unprecedented times.

The value for the owners is clear, because Wilpon isn't the only one who sees the allure of deferrals. The World Series champion Nationals prefer them as a rule, deferring not only $105 million of Max Scherzer's $210 million contract, but even $3 million of the $4 million they gave reliever Joe Blanton in 2017.

With players and owners at each other's throats, it could be disarming to invoke one of the game's stranger annual curiosities. And if it helps us play baseball in 2020, there's also this: Open the season on July 1 and make Bobby Bonilla Day, for one year anyway, a national holiday.

Who are the best right fielders in Red Sox history? Ranking the Top 5

Who are the best right fielders in Red Sox history? Ranking the Top 5

Corner outfielders for the Red Sox have vastly different responsibilities. 

While left fielders have to learn how to play with the Green Monster at their backs, right fielders are tasked with covering an immense amount of ground with some quirky angles —duties which require not just a mobile defender, but a fearless one. A strong arm helps, too, lest the turnstiles between first and third just spin all game.

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Fortunately for the Red Sox, there have been no shortage of exceptional right fielders over the years, including a number who didn't make our top five, like Dirt Dog Trot Nixon; postseason heroes J.D. Drew and Shane Victorino; and Earl Webb, whose 67 doubles in 1931 remain one of the longest-standing single-season records in the game.

The final list includes a Hall of Famer, two MVPs, a hometown hero, and one of the franchise's longest tenured stars.

Click here for the Top 5 right fielders in Red Sox history.