Red Sox

White House visit by 'Red Socks' a failure of spelling and hopefully division, too

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White House visit by 'Red Socks' a failure of spelling and hopefully division, too

Just when we had turned the Red Sox going to Washington into a matter of existential importance, the White House press office spelled it "Socks."

"President Trump Welcomes the 2018 World Series Champions The Boston Red Socks to the White House," blared the official event listing online, with a link to the White House YouTube page, which also utilized the Seussian spelling of socks (as in, "Fox in . . .") instead of the baseball one that's easy to screw up because it's only been in place for 111 years.

At times like these, with the nation divided and sports no longer a safe haven for easy-breezy escapism, we should remind ourselves that they spelled it "Socks." This pedestrian buffoonery feels oddly reassuring. If you can't spell the word, you can't rip us apart.

Only the best people, indeed.

The administration has wielded sports as a cudgel in the culture wars, whether it's weaponizing the NFL's anthem protests into some warped battle over patriotism, or questioning the intelligence of an NBA star like LeBron James, even as he opened an ambitious new school in his hometown for disadvantaged kids.

White House visits often serve as Ground Zero in these skirmishes, with NBA teams and their largely African-American rosters declining to attend, many women's champions not even being invited, and football teams falling somewhere in the middle, from the rogue nation (Eagles) to the favored nation (Patriots), to the fast food nation (Clemson).

All that division grows exhausting, which is why the Red Sox have squirmed for about two months over their decision to accept the invite and then leave it up to the players to choose. To the surprise of no one, the inevitable occurred, with the players of color mostly declining the invite and the white ones embracing it. Culture warriors on both sides co-opted the response to suit their personal narratives and away we went.

This resulted in coast-to-coast coverage decrying either baseball's overall racial divide or specifically the one many assumed was splitting the Red Sox clubhouse. Beyond manager Alex Cora and reliever Hector Velazquez -- who objected to the president's rhetoric towards their native Puerto Rico and Mexico, respectively -- most players declined to articulate their reasons for staying home with any specificity.

The Red Sox are sensitive to the franchise's disgraceful history in matters of race, petitioning the city to rename Yawkey Way and trying to make Fenway feel more inclusive with their Take the Lead anti-racism initiative. Baseball's don't-ask, don't-tell culture, meanwhile, effectively limits any meaningful conversation on prickly topics like race and the president, which frankly makes sense as a matter of pragmatism.

After the Red Sox beat the Orioles on Wednesday night behind a brilliant performance from Chris Sale (attending the White House), a home run from Mookie Betts (not attending), a catch of the year from Jackie Bradley Jr. (not attending) and a save from Heath Hembree (attending), Cora defiantly crowed about clubhouse cohesion.

"There's been a lot of talk about what's going on tomorrow, the clubhouse being divided, race, politics, whatever," he told reporters at Camden Yards. "Those kids went out there and they played their heart out. We know who we are in the clubhouse. We know a lot of people doubt that. But like last year, we cancel the noise, we show up every day, and we play. I was watching the game, and I was like, 'You know what, yeah.' It was cool. For everybody that's talking about us, the situation, crushing us throughout the week, well, they played extra innings. They didn't give in.

"You see them in the clubhouse, they're celebrating Heath because of the first save, they're celebrating Jackie, and now, we go. There's a group that's going home, and there's a group going to the White House. And on Friday, we get back – get back to playing baseball."

The team's situation was portrayed as a can't-win. Stay home, and welcome to the Resistance. Attend, and welcome to QAnon.

But maybe it's actually a can't-lose. If these people can't spell Red Sox, they can't divide the Red Sox. Perhaps there's a lesson in there for the rest of us.

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MLB rumors: Yankees land Gerrit Cole with 9-year, $324 miillon deal

MLB rumors: Yankees land Gerrit Cole with 9-year, $324 miillon deal

The Boston Red Sox will get to see plenty of Gerrit Cole this season - in pinstripes.

The New York Yankees have landed the pitching prize of the offseason, agreeing to terms with the free-agent right-hander on a nine-year, $324 million contract, according to Jon Heyman of the MLB Network.

Cole, 29, went 20-5 with a 2.50 ERA, 326 strikeouts and 0.86 WHIP in 2019 for the Houston Astros, who lost in Game 7 of the World Series to the Washington Nationals. 

It was thought that Cole, a Southern California native who pitched at UCLA was looking to go to the West Coast, but the Yankees offer was apparently enough to lure him to the Bronx.

The addition of Cole fortifies a Yankee rotation that includes Masahiro Tanaka, James Paxton and Luis Severino and likely makes New York, which won 103 games but lost to Cole and the Astros in the 2019 ALCS, the World Series favorite. 

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Trading David Price would save Red Sox a ton of money, but not without meaningful risk

Trading David Price would save Red Sox a ton of money, but not without meaningful risk

SAN DIEGO -- The Red Sox could save a lot of money by moving on from David Price.

They could also blast a gaping hole in their rotation that precludes them from seriously contending in 2020.

Welcome to Chaim Bloom's nightmare.

Rumors have swirled for a week that the Red Sox would rather move the three years and $96 million remaining on Price's contract than trade former MVP Mookie Betts. Given Price's injury history -- he just started playing catch after September surgery to remove a cyst from his wrist -- it would be hard to blame them for attempting to get out from under as much of that salary as possible.

ESPN on Tuesday reported that multiple teams have targeted Price. The opinions of rival executives in the lobby at the Manchester Grand Hyatt for this week's winter meetings run the gamut. One believes the Red Sox could make taking Price a requirement in any deal for Betts, a la the 2012 mega-trade with the Dodgers that carved about $400 million off of Boston's books and allowed for the reset that led to a 2013 championship.

Another not in contact with the Red Sox believes they could move Price, keep Betts, and then entertain offers for the five-tool outfielder at the deadline in July if they're out of contention, noting that the Nationals missed an opportunity to make a similar move with Bryce Harper in 2018 before he walked in free agency.

And still another with a team interested in Betts and to a lesser extent Price expressed mild surprise that the Red Sox hadn't reached out as of Tuesday afternoon.

While trading Price seems like the right long-term move, it would come with considerable risk. There's a clear path to a World Series in 2020 if Betts stays, Price and Chris Sale regain their All-Star form, and Bloom makes some smart acquisitions for the right side of the infield. Jettisoning Price eliminates the possibility that he muddles through another injury-marred campaign, but it also removes a potential ace, and his spot would either be filled with a mid-level signing or (ugh) another opener.

For all his faults, particularly when it comes to clubhouse distractions like picking a fight with Dennis Eckersley, Price has been better than he gets credit for in Boston. He's 46-24 (.657) with a 3.84 ERA and in his 2016 debut, he led the AL with over 230 innings pitched. He was otherworldly in the 2018 postseason, shedding his reputation as a playoff choker once and for all.

Thus far it has been hard to read the direction of the front office under Bloom, who's still learning the organization and has remained tight-lipped in his dealings with the media. That said, after spending a couple of days around the team, it feels like the Red Sox have been forced into a reactive position where they're serving as Plan B for a number of clubs, particularly as it relates to Price.

Any team that misses out on one of the top-tier free agent starters could make a case that Price's upside outweighs concerns over his health. Premium starters, after all, remain a precious commodity. Zack Wheeler and Stephen Strasburg have already signed nine-figure deals, Gerrit Cole could soon earn $300 million, and Madison Bumgarner and Hyu-Jin Ryu will draw interest, too. Once they're gone, anyone shut out of that market could consider Price.

The Red Sox know this, which is why they signed Price to a $217 million deal in the first place. Though he has yet to make an All-Star team or earn a Cy Young vote in four seasons here, he has dominated a postseason run to a title, and ditching him in a salary dump has some serious come-back-and-bite-you potential.

That said, if they can find a taker without eating too much money, it's hard to imagine they wouldn't pull the trigger. This winter is all about saving money, and clearing Price's $32 million salary off the books is the most palatable way to do it.

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