Red Sox

Why David Ortiz would join Alex Cora, Red Sox players in White House boycott

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USA TODAY Sports

Why David Ortiz would join Alex Cora, Red Sox players in White House boycott

David Ortiz has visited multiple presidents to celebrate multiple Boston Red Sox championships.

But if he was still on the team, he'd be staying home Thursday.

In a phone interview Monday with WEEI's Rob Bradford, Ortiz admitted he would follow manager Alex Cora's lead by declining to visit the White House, in part because of President Donald Trump.

"Of course, bro," Ortiz told Bradford. “Alex is in a tough spot right now, going there and acting like nothing is happening.

"It’s like you are going to shake hands with the enemy. Think about it, all the stuff that has been going on since (Trump) took office. People are angry. People are mad. He has divided people, that’s how it feels like."

Cora, a Puerto Rico native, cited Trump's handling of post-Hurricane Maria recovery efforts in his decision not to go. Several of Boston's minority players -- Mookie Betts, David Price and Xander Bogaerts among them -- also won't make the trip.

In his typical candid style, Ortiz pointed to his status as a minority and an immigrant -- he became a U.S. citizen in 2008 after growing up in the Dominican Republic -- for why he'd join those players in solidarity.

“I’m an immigrant," Ortiz said. "When it comes down to the political side of it I don’t know much about politics and things like that. But when it comes down the way immigrants have been treated it’s something that goes a long way. You don’t want to go and shake hands with a guy who is treating immigrants like (expletive) because I’m an immigrant."

There still will be a healthy contingent of Red Sox executives and players at the Oval Office on Thursday, and team president and CEO Sam Kennedy has stressed he doesn't want to make the trip political. In Ortiz's mind, though, it would impossible to separate a simple commemoration of the 2018 World Series champions from the politics of the person in office.

"Once you see what is going in this country based on being an immigrant or being black, it’s something that goes beyond going into the White House and shaking hands with the President just because," he added. "That’s the situation that everyone is facing right now."

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Red Sox' Xander Bogaerts, Mookie Betts and Rafael Devers get some MVP recognition in AL voting

Red Sox' Xander Bogaerts, Mookie Betts and Rafael Devers get some MVP recognition in AL voting

In a disappointing season for the Boston Red Sox, the productive years of Xander Bogaerts, Mookie Betts and Rafael Devers did warrant some MVP recognition.

Bogaerts finished fifth in the American League MVP voting (The Angels' Mike Trout was your winner for the third time in six years), Betts, who won the award a year ago, was eighth and Devers 12th in the voting by the Baseball Writers Association of America.

Bogaerts hit .309 with 33 homers, 52 doubles and 117 RBI; Devers .311, 32 HR, 54 doubles and 115 RBI. They became the first teammates to ever reach the 30-homer/50-doubles mark in the same season. The numbers for Betts (.295, 30 HR, 80 RBI), the subject of trade rumors this offseason, were considered by many to be a down year for him.

The Dodgers' Cody Bellinger was voted National League MVP.

Justin Long, the Sox Senior Manager of Media Relations and Baseball Information, points out that having three players in the top 12 is the best showing for the Red Sox since 2011:    

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There's only one way Astros sign-stealing story blows back on Red Sox, and we're not there yet

There's only one way Astros sign-stealing story blows back on Red Sox, and we're not there yet

Let's say for the sake of argument that Alex Cora played the role of lead drummer when the 2017 Astros were stealing signs like a merry band of trash-can pounding subway buskers.

So what?

That's an institutional crime and Houston should pay the price, not a former bench coach. Think of it like Deflategate. The Patriots deserved their punishment, but taking Tom Brady within a whisker of the Supreme Court was overkill.

Here's where things get dicey. What if Cora imported some of Houston's less savory tactics to Boston, a team that has already been censured by MLB — under former manager John Farrell, to be fair — for using Apple watches to help steal signs in 2017?

Because Cora and bullpen coach Craig Bjornson were both members of that compromised Astros staff, and because the arms race to gain even a tiny edge can very easily blur the line between gamesmanship and fraud, the only way this story truly becomes relevant to the Red Sox is if an MLB investigation reveals that Boston has enacted some of Houston's worst practices over the last two seasons.

There's no evidence that the Red Sox have deployed technology with similar nefariousness, and the numbers under Cora don't reveal any wild home-road splits. Since 2013, for instance, the Red Sox have outperformed their road OPS at Fenway Park by anywhere from 3.34 percent (2014) to 17.65 percent (2015). Cora's two Red Sox clubs fall in the middle of that range — 9.66 percent in 2018 and 7.33 percent last year.

In conversations with multiple executives at this week's GM meetings in Scottsdale, Ariz., one theme emerged consistently — the Astros don't consider their actions cheating, because they believe they live in a world where Everybody is Doing It, and if they happen to be better at finding those edges at the margins, that's not their problem. Don't hate 'em 'cuz you ain't 'em, so to speak.

This issue has burst into the public eye because The Athletic has broken a series of stories about the Astros stealing signs. Former Astros reporter Evan Drellich and national writer Ken Rosenthal first reported that the Astros stole signs in 2017 by positioning a center field camera on the opposing catcher, connecting it to a monitor outside the dugout, and banging on a trash can in real time to warn the hitter when a breaking ball was coming.

The Athletic followed up on Wednesday night with a report that Cora and Mets manager Carlos Beltran — Houston's DH in 2017 — will also be summoned as part of MLB's investigation. ESPN added that the league has already spoken to Bjornson, who served as Houston's bullpen coach in 2017.

While the involvement of Cora and Bjornson makes this tangentially a Red Sox story, for the time being it's just an Astros story. That will change if MLB determines the ex-Astros didn't want to fall behind their former team in the information race after they arrived in Boston, but so far there's no indication that they're under suspicion.

Making all of this murkier is Cora's well-earned reputation for sign stealing and pitch tipping. He was considered one of the best in the game at these very particular skills as a player, and he hasn't lost his touch as a manager. Of course, there's a big difference between noting glove placement on a fastball and cracking opposing signals on a high def monitor over the toilet next to the dugout.

So let the Astros take the heat on this one, at least for now. If something changes, we can reconvene.

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