February 26, 2018

With His Deal Now Official, JD Martinez Pretty Much Calls David Price A Liar

J.D. Martinez is now an official member of the Boston Red Sox. And one of his first acts was to apparently (and freely) expose David Price as a liar.

About a week ago, on February 20, USA Today's Bob Nightengale posted a story in which Price revealed that in one of his winter conversations with Martinez, he told JD about the fickle fans at Fenway Park:
Oh, yeah, he'll get booed. I told J.D. he will love the guys here in this clubhouse but also told him he'll get booed. He's a quiet, soft-spoken guy, but he'll handle it. Besides, everyone gets booed.
Today, however, Martinez (appearing on WEEI's "Kirk & Callahan") said Price never told him anything about the fans possibly jeering him:
He never said that to me, honestly. But you always hear that. That's the thing around the league. Everybody knows that. But I get it. If I'm doing well, I'm going to get cheered. If I'm doing bad, I'm probably booing myself. ... I understand it. I'm excited to just be able to play in front of fans who feel the same way.
Martinez - who will wear #28 - also said that Boston was
never pitched to me as a tough market to play in. It was always pitched as a fun market, like, 'Can you imagine playing in front of these fans every single day?' ... From an outsider looking in, I've always dreamed of playing on a team with so much history.
Last season, Martinez sprained the Lisfranc ligament in his right foot and missed the first six weeks of the season. The Red Sox will receive some financial relief in the last two years of the contract if Martinez spends at least 60 days on the disabled list in either of those seasons or 120 days cumulative because of a reoccurence of the foot injury. Also, Martinez now has three opt-out opportunities in the 5/110 deal, after the second, third, and fourth seasons.

Fangraphs projects the Red Sox, with the addition of Martinez, to tie the Yankees for the second-most runs scored in the major leagues this year (5.22), behind the Astros (5.33). Boston was 10th among MLB teams in runs scored last year.

Hammerin' Hanley Ramirez is ready to go: "Now we're going to step on everybody's neck."... Winning the World Series? "That's our fucking goal. ... To beat everybody. We're trying to go 162-0." ... Note: The Red Sox are 5-0 this spring.

The Deal (according to Cot's):
2018:  $23.75M
2019:  $23.75M (or $2.5M buyout)
2020:  $23.75M (no buyout)
2021:  $19.35M (?)
2022:  $19.35M

February 25, 2018

Olney: MLB Should Reduce Games To Seven Innings (I Think He's Serious)

Buster Olney makes a lot of sense in his latest ESPN column, but then he goes utterly off the rails, with no explanation or follow-up:
Commissioner Rob Manfred should propose that the players select and build their own committee to shape initiatives that reduce the average time of games.

The composition of that committee could be determined entirely by the union. ...

The players would have the power to design rules acceptable for them, rather than have unwanted regulations foisted on them.

But that won't happen because the relationship between the union and Major League Baseball is probably at its worst since the 2002 season. The spirit of cooperation that had evolved is now just about dead ... The players are furious about how free agency has played out, they are furious about the current economics of the game, and their solution is intransigence. ...

Manfred had the power to implement any change he wanted in the pace-of-play rules, but he didn't, because he knows the players are mad, and he didn't want to pick a summer-long fight. Instead, he went with a much more modest proposal ...

Privately, a lot of players think the new regulations are a joke ...
The players should be part of the process, but Manfred's tenure as commissioner has been like acid corroding the relationship between management and the union. So far, so good.

But then:
The disconnect seems so enormous that a negotiated, collaborative solution seems completely out of the question. If MLB wants to effect serious change – if it truly wants to reduce the game to an NBA-like 2 hours, 30 minutes – it should seriously consider pushing for a reduction of games from nine to seven innings.
Seven-inning games!

What can you say to that? Frankly, it's not even worth considering a response beyond "Are you out of your fucking mind?" because the suggestion is asinine. But after putting forth that incredibly radical idea, Olney simply moves on. He doesn't say anything else about it. Nothing.

Why is Olney saying that MLB should "seriously consider" lopping off two innings from every game? Does he believe playing games of only seven innings* is a reasonable solution to the length-of-game "problem" (even though Manfred's recent proposals concern "pace of play", which, while it affects the length of games, is a different matter)?

*: The games of minor league doubleheaders are seven innings, but that seems irrelevant when you are thinking of such a monumental change. Why not cut games back to six innings? Linescores would look tidier. Complete games would make a comeback, which would please some people. ... Hey, why not have only one inning, but have nine outs per side?

Now I am wondering if this is something MLB is actually considering. I never thought I'd say this, but Rob Manfred is well on his way to making us wistful for the days of Bud Selig.

Rodriguez And Wright Will Not Start the Season In The Rotation

Neither Eduardo Rodriguez nor Steven Wright - both of whom are coming back from knee surgery last year - will be ready to start the regular season.

Manager Alex Cora said Brian Johnson, Roenis Elias, and Hector Velazquez are the most likely candidates to take their places.

In less important news, infielder Marco Hernandez has gone back to Boston to "have hardware removed from his surgically repaired left shoulder".

February 24, 2018

MLB Limits Teams To Six Non-Pitching-Change Mound Visits Per Game

Earlier this week, MLB announced some pace-of-play changes for the coming season. Teams will be limited to six mound visits (by anyone: manager, coaches, even the catcher or an infielder) per nine innings.

Pitching changes will not count against the total. And, as SB Nation's Whitney McIntosh reported, teams "won't be penalized for a mound visit if a pitcher might be injured, or after an offensive substitution. Expect a lot of managers to start practicing their 'my pitcher might be injured oh nope look he's fine now but that was a good chat' faces". Catchers are also likely going to be far more "crossed-up" on pitches than ever before.

Joel Sherman of the New York Post tweeted that he was told "there is no penalty for 7th visit to mound, that umps will just disallow it, which I see causing problems both hysterical and confrontational".

After nine innings, each team will be allowed one additional visit for each extra inning. There will also be a countdown clock during commercial breaks and pitching changes. The clock will run for 2:05 during inning breaks in normal games, 2:25 for national games, and 2:55 in postseason games.

In June 2017, David Laurilla and Eno Sarris of Fangraphs asked a bunch of players (and other people): "Just how important are mound visits, and how much would limiting, or even doing away with them, impact the game?" Renowned brainbox Craig Breslow of the Twins:
Rather than questioning how vital they are, or what the impact on the game would be, I would ask, "What would be the impact on pace of play, and overall time of game, by limiting mound visits?" I think you would find it's largely inconsequential. Maybe we'd shave off a minute and a half, and I would be hard-pressed to find an argument that shaving a minute and a half would be the difference between someone tuning in until the end or switching the channel. Another way to look at it is this: if there's no mound visit, maybe you get two more walks and a pitching change. Are we better off with that? ... Nobody can prove how much we need to shorten a game, or how much we need to increase the pace by, in order for there to be a meaningful difference. We're just kind of throwing darts in the dark, hoping that where we land is better than where we are.
During a recent press conference, Commissioner Rob Manfred revealed that he is not happy when people claim that certain teams are "tanking". He noted: "We've always had a cyclical sport."

SB Nation gathered some responses from Twitter: "pace of tanking" ... "Selective Non-competitiveness" ... "strategically misplacing wins" ... "refusing to use redistributed luxury tax windfall on player salaries".

The Red Sox Are Playing Baseball!

The Red Sox began their spring schedule on Thursday, beating both Northeastern (15-2) and Boston College (4-2) in a couple of seven-inning affairs. Yesterday, Boston played a full nine innings and defeated the Twins 4-3.

The Red Sox's lineup was extremely top-heavy, with Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, and Hanley Ramirez in the 1-3 spots. They went a combined 0-for-6. We're doomed! ... Jeremy Barfield doubled in two runs. Actually, three of the Red Sox's five hits were doubles. Hector Velazquez and Eduardo Rodriguez each pitched two innings and allowed one hit apiece.

Today's game against the Rays has Jackie Bradley, Andrew Benintendi, and Rafael Devers at the top of the order. And they kicked off the bottom of the first with: single, single, double. We're not doomed!

J.D. Martinez arrived in Fort Myers for his physical on Wednesday morning. And nothing has been announced since that time. We're doomed! ... You can be sure that some media people are saying this is the worst thing ever, but manager Alex Cora remarked, "We're still working and getting ready. ... I'm not concerned."

There is a positive headline on Steve Buckley's column in today's Herald: So Far, Alex Cora Looks Like A Good Fit With Red Sox:
While it's hard to form an opinion on Cora's ability to make key in-game decisions based on a couple of spring training games and the daily grunting and groaning of batting practice, rundown drills and pitcher' [sic] fielding practice, there's a calmness about the guy his players are going to find refreshing.
Please do not tell me it's his eyes.

February 21, 2018

David Price: "We Hate The Yankees. We Hate Them."

It's not a bad thing that David Price is trying to rebuild his tattered image with Red Sox fans, but I don't think I'll ever really like the guy - he was a jerk too many times for too many years before coming to Boston.

Still, offering some perfunctory quotes regarding the rivalry is preferred to being an actual asshole for no coherent reason.

Marly Rivera, ESPN Writer:
David Price when asked whether the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry has heated up with the Stanton/Martinez acquisitions (with a big smile on his face): "You guys want it, let's do it, we hate the Yankees. You guys want it, yeah we hate the Yankees. We hate them."
Scott Lauber, ESPN Staff Writer:
David Price describes J.D. Martinez as "quiet" and "different than me." Price claims he "didn't talk anything about baseball" in his recruiting pitches to Martinez. His advice to Martinez on dealing with everything that comes with playing for the Red Sox: "Go play baseball. Just go be yourself."
Scott Lauber, ESPN Staff Writer:
David Price on the potential impact that J.D. Martinez could make on the AL East race: "To add a hitter like that to the lineup, that's good, especially in this division. The Yankees made moves this offseason. To be able to combat those moves with a guy like J.D., that was a good move."
I wish Price had taken his own advice last season when it came to "everything that comes with playing" in Boston. But who knows? Maybe he's gained some insight in the last five months.

Earlier this week, Price told USA Today:
I told J.D. he will love the guys here in this clubhouse, but also told him he'll get booed. He's a quiet, soft-spoken guy, but he'll handle it. Besides, everyone gets booed. I heard Big Papi get booed many times in Fenway. ... Go out there and win. Winning cures everything.

Globe: The Red Sox In Spring Training 100 Years Ago

What Red Sox Spring Training Was Like 100 Years Ago
Mark Dunphy, Boston Globe
When pitchers and catchers reported for Red Sox spring training last week, it was an early sign of warmer things to come for fans back in Boston. A century ago, Babe Ruth offered the same sunny promise as he waited for his ride south, saying, "I'll see you kids at Fenway Park this summer." ...

Ruth had always been a pitcher for the Red Sox, but when numbers were short he was sent out to cover first base in one of the spring training games. The switch worked, to say the least. Ruth hit two home runs in the game, one of them traveling 573 feet before landing in an adjacent alligator farm. The Sox liked what they saw in that game and decided to give Ruth time in left-field during the regular season. According to Allan Wood's Babe Ruth and the 1918 Red Sox, Sox manager Barrow had been loath to do so before, despite Ruth desperately wanting to play and hit everyday. ... Ruth led the American League with 11 home runs in 1918 ...

February 20, 2018

Finally! Red Sox Sign JD Martinez (5/110)

J.D. Martinez has agreed to a five-year, $110 million contract with the Red Sox.

The deal is front-loaded, with Martinez getting $50 million over 2018-19, and includes two opt-out clauses, one after two seasons and another after three seasons. Martinez will turn 31 in August.

According to Buster Olney, the reports of Boston putting $125 million on the table were inaccurate. The Red Sox offered 5/100 very early in the off-season and stuck to those numbers as the weeks passed, before upping it slightly in the last 48 hours.

SoSHer RedOctober3829 posted:
Giancarlo Stanton and J.D. Martinez Since 2014
Stanton  - .366 OBP, .573 SLG, 149 wRC+, 2,118 PA
Martinez - .362 OBP, .574 SLG, 148 wRC+, 2,143 PA
Dave Dombrowski handled this long saga with a deft hand. To paraphrase a former Red Sox World Series MVP, when an elite hitter and his agent ask for 7/210 and you grab him for 5/110, that's when you know you're a bad man.

February 16, 2018

Betts And Bogaerts Describe A Tense, Uncomfortable 2017 Clubhouse

Both Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts admitted yesterday that the 2017 Red Sox had a tense, problematic clubhouse.

Dan Shaughnessy wrote a column about it in Friday's Globe and (what a surprise!), he made it all about him (and the other writers) right off the bat:
So there. It's all true. We weren't making it up last summer/fall when we told you that the first-place 2017 Red Sox were sour, unhappy, dysfunctional, and headed for a fall. ...*
Betts:
I think we still enjoyed it. But we could have had more fun. Through the rough times, I think those are the times when we could have had a little more fun instead of being down so much. If we hit a rough patch this year, I feel like maybe we can learn from last year and continue to enjoy the game and maybe get out of it faster. ...

[There was] tension in the locker room as far as if things are down. ... I think this year will be a little different. I'm going to approach things a little differently as far as, if I'm not playing well or if we're losing or whatnot, I can do my best to try and find a way to get everybody back happy, smiling, excited and going to play. There were times where we lost a couple games in a row and we weren't necessarily down but we were kind of pressing to try and get back to the winning side instead of just letting it happen, letting the game play out. Especially late in the season when the gap started closing as far as the winner of the division.
Betts talked about moving forward without David Ortiz:
Nobody is him. So we have to find our niche in the clubhouse and figure out what works for us and how to get back to that. I knew it would be kinda tough. ... [L]ast year was definitely a learning curve. I think this year we're getting to kinda know how it works without him now. We may have him around a little bit but I think we have to work on just focusing on us and who's in the clubhouse and figuring out a way to lighten things up throughout the whole process. ... I think as a whole group it's just going to take four or five, six guys to kinda fill that one spot. It just lets you know how important he was.
Bogaerts recalled the 2013 team:
We were a lot like brothers, a lot like family on and off the field. All these years, I believe we have better teams, paperwise, namewise. [But] 2013, we were so close with each other. We had such a bond. You try to learn the stuff that they learned and [pass it] on to a guy like maybe Devers. I'm looking forward to it, to that challenge. ... We're all grown men. I definitely believe we all learn from last year. We had a lot of stuff going on last year, to be honest. We all live, learn and move forward. We can't just sit back and keep reminding ourselves about the past. That's not something we want to do.
When asked to elaborate on "a lot of stuff", Bogaerts replied: "I mean we all know. We all know what was going on. I don't think I really want to get into details."

Also: Hanley Ramirez promised to hit for more power in 2018.
You're gonna see it, for sure. Literally, I was hitting with one arm last year and I hit 23 [home runs]. Now that I feel good, there are not going to be excuses. Better go out there and hit 30.
* The CHB informed Betts that "the team [described elsewhere in the column as "a pack of sensitive, spoiled millennials"] isn't generating much buzz back home" and asked if Betts could do anything to fix that ... because ... well, all smart baseball fans know the team that generates the most "buzz" a day or two after spring training camps open in mid-February automatically wins the World Series. (No link to any CHB material will ever be provided here.)

American League "To Speed Up Ball Games"

To Speed Up Ball Games
Ban Johnson Declares Unnecessary Delays Must Cease


Ball games in the American League will be speeded up hereafter, according to President Johnson, who has instructed his umpires not to tolerate any unnecessary delays. The order today is the outgrowth of a complaint made by President Comiskey of the Chicago Americans, who said that protests of some managers and players about the condition of the ball in recent games has made it to necessary to play two hours or more.
The New York Times, September 2, 1917

February 8, 2018

Truck Day

Holy shit. Truck Day was this past Monday! ... How did I miss it?


Ian Browne noted this year's truck contains "20,400 baseballs, 1,100 bats, 200 batting gloves, 200 batting helmets, 320 batting-practice tops, 160 white game jerseys, 300 pairs of uniform pants, 400 T-shirts, 400 pairs of socks and 20 cases of bubble gum". Al Hartz is driving the truck for the 20th* consecutive year. He will arrive in Fort Myers today.

* The Herald claims this is Hartz's 21st consecutive year.

Predictions For 2018: Lindy's & Athlon

Two more baseball annuals are out.

Lindy's

Yankees
Red Sox (WC)
Blue Jays
Rays
Orioles

World Series: Dodgers versus Yankees

MVP: Francisco Lindor, Cleveland; Corey Seager, Dodgers
Cy Young: Justin Verlander, Astros; Carlos Martinez, Cardinals
Rookie: Francisco Mejia, Cleveland; Ronald Acuna, Atlanta
Rookie Pitcher: Shohei Ohtani, Angels; Walker Buehler, Dodgers
Manager: Mike Scioscia, Angels; Dave Roberts, Dodgers

Capsules

Red Sox
The road to the East title still goes through Boston. The Red Sox, who have won the division the past two seasons, have the requisite 1-2 punch at the top of the rotation (Chris Sale and David Price) to be formidable in playoff series. It's a good situation for new manager Alex Cora.
Yankees
The new look Bronx Bombers will be one of the sport's focal points this summer with Giancarlo Stanton joining Aaron Judge in a power-packed lineup. The pitching is first-rate, too; they yielded the second fewest runs in the American League last season.
Scouts

Red Sox
Cora played in Boston. That should give him a good idea of what it takes to manager there, but it is not enough. He's going to have a tough time this year. He's smart and will learn, and be better in his second year. ... The first thing Cora has to do is get Pedroia on his side. Pedroia runs that clubhouse. Farrell lost Pedroia and was finished from there on out. ... They really missed Big Papi last year. Nobody is that lineup really hit for power. You can't win playing 81 games in that ballpark with a bunch of Judy hitters. ... Bogaerts should do some damage in that park. He hits too many grounders. Pull the ball in the air; and he'll get 50 doubles. ... Price's command was terrible last year. He used to throw strikes with everything, but only the fastball worked for him.
Yankees
Things must hve really gotten bad in the clubhouse for Cashman to fire Girardi. He's an uptight guy, but he won and did a good job with that club. ... I get that Boone's a great guy and relates well to people, but there's more to the job than that. ... It's the type of lineup that can go into a funk without warning for a week or so because everyone is striking out.
Athlon Sports

Yankees
Red Sox (WC)
Blue Jays
Orioles
Rays

ALCS: Astros over Yankees
NLCS: Nationals over Cubs
World Series: Astros over Nationals

MVP: Mike Trout, Angels (Giancarlo Stanton #2, Aaron Judge #6, Mookie Betts #7, Didi Gregorius #9); Bryce Harper, Nationals
Cy Young: Chris Sale, Red Sox (Luis Severino #3); Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers
Rookie: Shohei Ohtani, Angels; Ronald Acuna, Atlanta

Scouts

Red Sox
The Yankees, on paper, have passed them. ... You don't know what you'll get from David Price with that elbow. And that market is all wrong for him. I bet he wishes he'd signed somewhere else, but he does have the chance to opt out after the season. ... Their young core is impressive. Andrew Benintendi has a lot of ceiling left, Jackie Bradley Jr. is a fabulous defender, and Mookie Betts can do it all. I'm excited to see Rafael Devers for a full year. He's got great hands at the plate, he plays loose, and he knows the strike zone.
Yankees
They're primed to make a deep run. There's nowhere for a pitcher to breathe against that lineup. ... Stanton and Judge can be pitched to; like most big guys, they have a hole up and in. ... But only the best of the best have the command to consistently exploit that weakness, and of course those guys hammer mistakes. I have a lot of confidence in Luis Severino; he's found his footing now, and he'll be one of the best pitchers in the game for the next decade.
Final Analysis

Red Sox
Two years ago, after a season that saw every New York regular post a below-average OPS, it appeared the Red Sox would dominate their rivals for at least five years. Instead, the Yankees once again look ready to rule, and it's fair to wonder if the Red Sox can keep pace. ... If they don't, we'll be wondering how this all fell apart so quickly.