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Alex Cora…

…so I feel like I should comment on the whole cheating scandal going on in Major League Baseball.  Not only because it involves the Boston Red Sox.  But also because the New England Patriots have been known to ummmmm…push the envelope a time or three as well.  So I guess it is in the water here.  Or it’s prevalent around all leagues.  Either way…

The punishment has not come out against the Red Sox as of yet, so I am not really sure how I feel about them in particular.  Though the punishment has been levied against the Houston Astros already, they still seem to be the focus of the public somehow.  I’ll take that.

There is nothing really to write about the actual Red Sox team either.  Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom has spent the offseason basically exchanging bum/unproven relievers for…bum/unproven relievers.  And NOT cutting payroll, as he was apparently “mandated” to do.  He also got rid of some AAAA infielders and signed a backup catcher.  So there’s that.  Oh, and now he has to find a manager.  Seems pretty productive thus far, right?

So instead of wasting any words on Sam Travis, Bobby Poyner, Jeffrey Springs or Matt Hall, here are some completely random thoughts on the cheating coming out of my head, in no particular order.  And I am not even guaranteeing they will make any sense either:

*As written in an ESPN article, “Cora is described by commissioner Rob Manfred as being “involved in developing both the banging scheme and utilizing the replay review room to decode and transmit signs. Cora participated in both schemes, and through his active participation, implicitly condoned the players’ conduct.””

YIKES!!

Yeah, based on that, I can’t say I am surprised by the Sox firing him…oops, I mean, “agreed with Alex to mutually part ways…”  Sorry about that.

But what penalty can Cora expect?  Based on the year that former Astro manager A.J. Hinch received, is there a chance Cora gets banned for life?  Is it worse than what Pete Rose did to get him banned for life?

I may be the wrong guy to ask about Rose.  Truly an abhorrable (abhorrent?) individual, he bet on his own team while he was managing the Cincinnati Reds.  He may have not been the only one doing it, but he was dumb enough to get caught.  And, not to mention, dumb enough to do it in the first place.  Some may point out that he may have been showing confidence in his own team that day.  But he also likely tanked other days to assure the team was at its best the day he threw money down on them.  Or something like that.  In any event, despite being a colossal scumbag, Rose should be in the Hall of Fame as a player.  Since he would be far from the only scumbag in the Hall.

But I digress.  As for Cora…I don’t even know the answer.  It would seem kind of obvious that he would get more than Hinch.  But life?

I can’t go there unless I hear more damning evidence against him.  Perhaps that comes when the Red Sox investigation is complete.

*What does MLB do from here?  I mean, video is everywhere.  Some dude can take video from the 6th row and get valuable information, can’t he?  The Astro dude that was standing in plain view and recording in games against the Red Sox, Indians and who knows who else…was that even necessary?

I know the teams have some sort of video rooms in the back and all.  But even if they were eliminated, would that make a difference?

I’ve actually been wondering for years how on an NFL telecast in any year someone like Tony Romo, Troy Aikman or Cris Collinsworth say stuff early on like, “when we spoke to the quarterback and coaches on Friday, they told us they were going to do (this) to (combat the other team)”.  I mean, no one listens to the telecast and communicates that to the opposing sideline?  Yeah, it isn’t the whole game plan.  And maybe what was said was kind of obvious.  But still…

Video and recording devices are all around us.  How do you stop it?  I don’t know.  And I am not sure MLB does either.

*What about player suspensions?  Will we see any of those?

My guess is no.  For several reasons.  Are any of the reports going to single out any of the players?  Are there really any players that took advantage more than others?  Did some players frown upon it, but had no choice to go along with the plan due to pressure from their teammates/coaches (reports are that Hinch didn’t love what was going on and broke two monitors at some point.  But ultimately did nothing to stop it, so of course he is paying the price),

And above all, how can you suspend 25-40 players?

Perhaps heavy manager/GM penalties may discourage players from engaging in this practice going forward.  But can we count on that?

*And if they are going after General Managers, why not the owners?  I guess the draft picks and the 5 mil takes care of that part.

However, Marge Schott and George Steinbrenner faced some personal penalties years ago.  So who is to say the owners shouldn’t pay some sort of personal price here as well?

We know for these guys 5 mil is pocket change.

More questions than answers, I know.  But MLB is undoubtedly in the same spot.

And one thing is for sure, cheating is never going away…in any sport.

If it’s not video, it’s Apple watches, it’s performance enhancing drugs, it’s deflating footballs, or it’s something else.  And then something new will inevitably come along.

Sign stealing has been happening for years, in fact.  We all know that.  It’s just a little more high tech now.

So as the world becomes more complicated, busy and distracting…good luck to every sport for figuring all THAT out…

2019 MLB American League Awards

Major League Baseball will start handing out the hardware for the 2019 season next week.  The finalists for all the major awards have also been announced.  The Blowhard has his opinions, and the finalists in real life won’t necessarily be the finalists in this “vote”.  We will list out our picks like it was a real ballot.  Meaning, 10 choices for MVP, 5 for Cy Young, etc.  And let’s please remember, the postseason results don’t count.  Real life ballots are finalized once the regular season ends.  Let’s dive right in:

Most Valuable Player:

  1. Mike Trout, LA Angels
  2. Alex Bregman, Houston
  3. DJ LeMahieu, NY Yankees
  4. Xander Bogaerts, Boston
  5. Nelson Cruz, Minnesota
  6. George Springer, Houston
  7. Marcus Semien, Oakland
  8. Rafael Devers, Boston
  9. Carlos Santana, Cleveland
  10. Jorge Soler, Kansas City

This is what I wrote last year:  “There will be at least one person upset that I put Trout third.  Mikey may still yet be the best player in baseball.  But again, for those who don’t remember, I am an advocate for giving the MVP award to the “most valuable” instead of the “best player”.  You will see from the list above that there are no players from bad teams and only one (Trout) from a mediocre team.  I know, these guys are only one of nine on the field at the same time.  And it’s hard to “carry” a baseball team by yourself.  But look at the difference J.D. seemed to make in the Boston lineup and maybe one player can?”

Welp, I give up.  Trout is the best player in baseball.  He looked like he was on his way to his best season before being shut down in early September with a foot injury…and by “best season”, that is really saying something with the career he has had.  It may have been his best season anyway.  His team still sucked, that is nothing new.  It will always make one wonder how “valuable” he actually is to the team.  But that matters not anymore.

Alex Bregman would be the only other real option.  But how “valuable” was he to his team?  Well, he had some great numbers and showed his defensive versatility when he played a great deal of the season at shortstop.  But he also had guys like Jose Altuve, George Springer, Yuli Gurriel, Carlos Correa to go along with a top rookie and 2 Cy Young candidates that we will talk more about later.  So even though Houston won 107 games, Bregman had a lot of help.

So Trout is the choice.  Some people (Pete?) would say that is abundantly clear and always has been.  Perhaps that is true…but moving on…

Semien is the third finalist in real life.  Helluva a year for him for sure.  But 3rd seems to be a stretch.  LeMahieu is my choice.  DJ wasn’t even going to necessarily have a full-time job when he first started the season with the Yanks.  And, silly me, I thought once he left the cozy confines of Coors Field, his numbers would take a hit.  Wrong again.  With all of the Yankee injuries, DJ was out there every day and his numbers, specifically his power numbers, were the best of his career.

Maybe Xander is a little high at 4th, and if you switched him and Semien…I don’t know.  X was 5th in the AL in OPS and as a shortstop, I felt like that meant something.  We likely would have had Cruz and Springer higher than X, but they both missed about 40 games, so we pushed them back a bit.

8-10 could have been anyone.  Per usual.  I thought the three here should be recognized for their awesome seasons.  Mookie Betts, J.D. Martinez, Austin Meadows, Yoan Moncada, Jose Altuve, Matt Olson, a couple of pitchers…if you put any of those guys at the back of the top 10, I would not argue with you.

Cy Young:

  1. Justin Verlander, Houston
  2. Gerrit Cole, Houston
  3. Charlie Morton, Tampa Bay
  4. Shane Bieber, Cleveland
  5. Lance Lynn, Texas

It’s really Verlander 1A and Cole 1B.  It was THAT close.  I guess the tiebreakers included Verlanders’ lower WHIP and more consistent year.  Cole started a little slow and then dominated from June on in.  But if you gave the award to either you wouldn’t be wrong.  Morton is a distant 3rd.  Bieber could have made that spot as well.  I can’t believe I am writing Lynn into the last spot.  But who else would it be?  Mike Minor?  Lucas Giolito?  Eduardo Rodriguez?  A closer like Roberto Osuna?  I don’t know.  Does it matter?

Rookie of the Year:

  1. Yordan Alvarez, Houston
  2. Eloy Jimenez, Chi White Sox
  3. John Means, Baltimore

Alvarez only played 87 games.  But his numbers were so off the charts, he wins in a landslide.  Eloy had a better year than people think.  And Means actually made the All-Star team.  Though, yeah, someone had to go from the Orioles.

There were some other exciting rookies in the league this year.  But they either didn’t do as well as expected (Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Cavan Biggio, Oscar Mercado) or didn’t play enough (Bo Bichette).  Brandon Lowe was an All-Star and is up for the real award, but he missed the majority of the second half.  And didn’t have the numbers Alvarez had anyway.  Michael Chavis also contributed as a rookie then he himself missed the last several weeks.  Solid group here going forward though.

Manager of the Year:

  1. Rocco Baldelli, Minnesota
  2. Aaron Boone, NY Yankees
  3. Kevin Cash, Tampa Bay

I was tempted to give this to Boone with the way he had to navigate all the injuries the team had this year.  But they are the Yankees.  And have enough resources to combat injuries in the first place.  It’s also impossible to ignore a 23 win improvement in your first year as manager, as the Twins did under Baldelli.  Cash could win this every year.  His team doesn’t spend and he has to have “bullpen games” like 3 days a week.  Not to mention, his best starter, Blake Snell, missed significant time this year.  But Cash always seems to keep the Rays in the mix.  Bob Melvin deserves consideration for the job he did with the A’s as well.  AJ Hinch gets penalized for his team being too good in the first place, unfortunately.

Next:  The National League

Chaim Bloom??!!

Been about six weeks since we last wrote about the Boston Red Sox.  But why would we?  The season ended with a whimper, so there was nothing really worth talking about, to be honest.

What went wrong?  Whether it was the babying of pitchers during the spring, no closer, awful bullpen, expensive and mediocre (bad?) starters, bringing back basically the whole team from last season, therefore being complacent (though they will never admit it), questionable managing at times, a noncommital President of Baseball Operations at the trading deadline, etc…well, we’ve been through all of this before.  MANY times.

There was no joy in following this team last season.  We never felt good about the squad, right from the beginning.  So there is really no need to rehash it at this point.  In my opinion anyway.

Time to move on.

So where does the team go from here?

By the way, it feels like a good time to talk about next season, what with it being about the one year anniversary of their 2018 World Series win…and with the 2019 World Series just wrapping up the other night.  Nationals…wow!  But good for them.  Also, any year the Yankees don’t win makes it a good year for the Sox anyway.

But no need to talk about the Nats.  Or the Yanks.  As Bill would say, we are on to 2020!!  And a year after winning the World Series, now we are possibly talking about tearing the Red Sox team apart.

Seriously?

Well, that’s not my call.  Ownership has already said that they want to (read:  WILL) be under the luxury tax number of 208 million next season.

Being north of 240 mil last year will make that a pretty good challenge.  And tells me we could be looking at significant turnover.

Sure, contracts such as Rick Porcello’s 21+ mil, Steve Pearce’s 6.25, Mitch Moreland’s 6.5, Eduardo Nunez’ 5, Brock Holts’ 3.6 and Pablo Sandovals’ 18+ (??!!) are coming off the books.  Maybe even J.D. Martinez’ 23+, which by the way is not necessarily a good thing.  Wait, Panda will still be on the books for 5 million next year…SMH…

But then you factor in Xander Bogaerts going from 12 mil to 20.  Chris Sale going from 15 to 30 mil.  Certain significant arbitration raises for Mookie Betts (if he is still here), Jackie Bradley Jr. (ditto), Eduardo Rodriguez, Andrew Benintendi and perhaps even Brandon Workman.

Ssssssoooo…there is some work to be done.

Which brings us to…Chaim Bloom!

Bloom is the Red Sox’ new “Chief Baseball Officer”.  A nice new title…whatever that means.  The degree in classics I particularly love.  I know, Yale.  But still an interesting nugget.

Bloom comes from the Tampa Bay Rays.  So he has experience with shaving significant payroll…or not having any payroll in the first place, more accurately.  Let’s hope John Henry doesn’t plan on matching that Ray budget of like 50 million or whatever minuscule figure that may be.  Red Sox Nation would not stand for that.

But no, I don’t believe Bloom will slash that much.  But there will be significant changes.  How can there not be?

Senior advisor Bill James is gone.  Is that good?  Perhaps.  But I am sure Bloom will continue to carry his torch.  You know, the “nerd” torch.  Which is not a good thing, again, my opinion.  But this is the era we live in…

In any event, what will the team look like next year?

Not sure.  But here’s what I think they will do…with the current roster anyway.  I’ll, of course, be adding some colorful commentary on whether I think what they will do is something I would do.  In typical fashion, let’s take a look by positional group.

40 men on the 40-man roster at the end of the year (go figure!).  Plus 4 on the 60 day injured list (sigh…I will finally cave on calling it this instead of “disabled list”, as Major League Baseball did to start the 2018 season).  So we will look at 44 players.  Invariably, the Sox will have to add some players to the 40-man roster to protect them from the Rule V draft this winter.  But we don’t know who those guys are at this point, so we will leave them out for now.  And I am not anticipating any of them, or any other minor leaguers, making an impact with the major league club next season.  And yup, that includes outfielder Rusney Castillo, who will likely be buried in AAA again next year.  There has already been some roster movement as well.

So let’s get to it:

Catcher:  Christian Vazquez, Sandy Leon, Juan Centeno

Free Agents:  None

Already Gone:  None

Comments:  Vazquez is the unquestioned starter.  Had a great offensive year (for a catcher anyway), including a career high (by far) 23 homers.  His salary bumps up about 3 mil.  Speaking of 3 mil, Leon could get that in arbitration, amazingly enough.  Centeno had 15 at bats as the third guy in September.  He really doesn’t count.

The pitchers love throwing to Leon.  But when the team panicked early and got rid of Blake Swihart in order to bring Leon back up from the minors, Sandy sure as heck didn’t help the staff ERA.  And he can’t hit.  You can pay a guy like that the league minimum.  And I suspect that they will.

By the way, Arizona dumped Swihart too, after playing him like once every ten days…and maybe that once was a pinch hit at bat.  So maybe I was wrong about him too.  But it’s not like anyone has exactly given him a chance though.  And that ship may have sailed.  That is too bad.  I always thought he could at least hit.  But who knows?

It would not shock me at all if the Sox tried to capitalize on Vasky’s career year and tried to move him.  This position could be completely different next season.  And…would it matter?  But I am going to assume that Vazquez will be back with another random backup.

Infield:  Bogaerts (SS), Rafael Devers (3B), Michael Chavis (INF), Dustin Pedroia (2B), Marco Hernandez (INF), Sam Travis (1B/LF), Tzu-Wei Lin (INF).

Free Agents:  Holt (INF/OF), Pearce (1B/OF), Moreland (1B)

Already Gone:  Chris Owings (INF)

Comments:  This one may be easier than we think.  Bogey and Raffy will man the left side of the infield.  Chavis will probably play first, with Pearce and Moreland likely gone…unless Mitch comes back on some sort of really discounted deal.  Then Chavis would presumably play 2nd.  But…

…are we ready for another spring of Pedroia nonsense?  Sigh…

I really think that Pedey had that late season surgery to be able to play next season.  As silly as that sounds.  So I am expecting him to report to Spring Training to try to play.  Ugh.

Hernandez would be the utility guy in this scenario.  If Pedey truly is done, Marco will be given a chance to win the 2B job.  At a salary of less than 1 mil, it would fit with the plan.

Believe it or not, I honestly expect someone to give Holt decent dough.  And therefore not be back.  Travis and Lin aren’t really worth spending any time here…or real life playing time on.  Same is true for Owings, who was a waste of time last year already.

Outfield:  Mookie Betts (RF), Andrew Benintendi (LF), Jackie Bradley Jr. (CF), J.D. Martinez (DH)

Free Agents:  None

Already Gone:  Gorkys Hernandez

Comments:  Quite the opposite of the infield.  We could be looking at three of these four being gone.  Well, not counting Gorkys here.  Along with Owings, he was a complete waste of time in September.

Mookie.  What’s going to happen?  Your guess is as good as mine.  Well actually, I think he is gone this offseason.  He wants to test free agency after next season.  Has no interest in re-signing here beforehand.  We have no idea if he even would WANT to re-sign here when he goes through the free agency process.  Even if the Sox back up the Isaiah Thomas Brinks truck.

If that is the case, don’t you HAVE to deal him this offseason?  And get some sort of decent return?  I think it’s a no-brainer.

Some may argue that the team should keep Betts and trade him at the trading deadline next season.  But what if the Sox are in the race?  They are going to give up their best player at that point in the year?  Doubtful.

Dealing him with one year of arbitration left you would think would get the best package from another team.  Without dealing with a sticky situation at the trading deadline.  And also without losing him for nothing at the end of the season.

Again, hate to say it, but I think Betts is gone.  And I think that was one of the reasons the Sox moved on from Dave Dombrowski.  Get someone in here that SHOULD be a better fit for planning for the future that includes rebuilding the farm system.  DD did what he had to do here.  But he was probably not the right guy to move the team to the next stage.

As for J.D., I feel like the team wants him to opt out and move on.  Reports indicate that the Sox have not approached him about anything.  J.D. didn’t have as good a year in 2019 as he did in 2018, but he still had a damn good year.

But as pretty much a DH only and having assorted minor injuries throughout the year and at 32 years of age…you wonder if they hope he leaves.

They would miss his bat, but you’d have to imagine that there will be some other options available for cheaper dough on the free agent market?  I have not studied any prospective free agent lists.  But that line of thinking would not surprise me.  Oh wait, Edwin Encarnacion’s 2020 option was just declined by the Yanks.  So he may fit in nicely on a shorter deal…at smaller dollars.

Bradley?  You all know how I feel about him.  I HOPE he is gone.  His salary will reach 8 figures next season.  No thanks.  But what is the market for him?

I think they will try to move him.  But unfortunately for me, I am thinking he will be back after all the other salary is cleared and then his new salary all of a sudden looks “reasonable” and fits in the budget.

Benny ain’t going nowhere.  He will get a nice raise in his first year of arbitration, despite his very average year.  They’d be presumably selling low on him.  Hopefully, he can bounce back at least a little next year.

Starting pitchers:  Chris Sale, David Price, Nathan Eovaldi, Eduardo Rodriguez

Free Agents:  Rick Porcello

Already Gone:  None

Comments:  Welp, everyone wanted to blame the bullpen last year.  No doubt about it, they played a huge role in the teams’ struggles.  But we may want to point the fingers squarely at the starters instead.  Sale, Price and Eovaldi gave them 59 starts.  And a mere 322 1/3 innings.  Oh…and a 15-17 record.  Awesome return for 63 million…roughly a quarter of the payroll.  Porcello did give them his usual 32 starts.  And actually was 14-12…I didn’t remember that.  What I did remember was a bunch of those starts being horrendous, leading to his 5.52 ERA.  E-Rod was the saving grace here.  200 plus innings and 200 plus strikeouts to go with his 19-6 record…which would have been 20-6 if Matt Barnes didn’t blow the lead in the 162nd game of the season.  But we will get to him.

So between giving the likes of Hector Velasquez, Brian Johnson, Ryan Weber, etc 37 starts and having the bullpen have to regularly pitch 4-6 innings a night…it’s no surprise the bullpen struggled.

So what do we do here?  Sale’s ridiculous 5 year, 145 million dollar extension kicks in next year, with what appears to be a no-trade clause.  Combine that with the uncertainty of his elbow, he ain’t going anywhere.  (Editor’s note: please remember, we had no problem with AN extension for Sale, despite his fragility.  BUT the one he GOT was silly.  3/80-90 would have worked for us.  But 5 years?).

Would not be shocked if the team tried to deal Price or Eovaldi.  Perhaps both.  They will have to eat some salary.  But it still wouldn’t surprise me.  3/96 left for Price, 3/51 for Nate.  If they could unload that colossal baby Price, I think Sox fans would rejoice.  All the goodwill earned by Price after the 2018 World Series, where he should have been MVP, was lost during the 2019 season.  He reverted to his previous Red Sox form in so many ways.  It’s exhausting to even think about it.  Too bad he opted in, but you knew he would.  You would have to for that dough.  I hope he’s gone, but I honestly don’t expect it.

Porcello will undoubtedly be gone.  He actually wants to stay.  And I’ll be honest.  If they can get rid of Price, I would take Rick back.  Something like 1 year, 10 mil or less would be a no-brainer in my opinion.  But no more than that.  I don’t know what other options will be out there.  And there will no question be better ones.  But at least we know Porcello can handle the environment.  And usually can give you 200 innings.  Worth considering anyway.

In any event, there will have to be some additions here.  Innings guys for sure.  I know Bloom comes from Tampa.  Birthplace of the “bullpen game”.  But for these to take a regular turn in the rotation in this market?  I can’t see how that would go over well.

Bullpen:  Brandon Workman, Matt Barnes, Heath Hembree, Josh Taylor, Marcus Walden, Ryan Brasier, Colton Brewer, Travis Lakins, Darwinzon Hernandez, Bobby Poyner, Brian Johnson, Hector Velasquez, Ryan Weber, Jhoulys Chacin, Trevor Kelley, Mike Shawaryn, Denyi Reyes

Free Agents: Andrew Cashner (Not a free agent yet, but he has a 10 mil club option, so he will be one soon)

Already Gone:  Steven Wright, Josh A. Smith

Comments:  Just a colossal bag of garbage.  There needs to be some huge turnover here in the offseason.

Workman had an excellent year, ending it as the closer.  But I’m not sure anyone wants to see him close games next year.  Barnes and Hembree are major league pitchers, but likely more suited for the 6th & 7th innings.  Barnes maybe the 8th, but I’ve honestly seen enough of him there.  Walden had a pretty good year, but like Brasier in 2018, can we depend on him in 2020?  There’s a reason guys are in the minors for over 10 years.  You can’t count on relievers from year to year in a general sense.  Less so for guys of Walden’s and Brasier’s ilk.

Darwinzon flashed some stuff at the end of the year.  But walked way too many dudes.  He’s 22 years old though, so let’s get him back in the rotation next year in the minors and continue to develop him.  Reyes will be 23 tomorrow and he hasn’t been up yet, but let’s see about him in the minors too.

Taylor is lefty and throws high 90’s.  So he’s worth keeping around.  I don’t know if Lakins will be any good.  But he got some hype at the end of 2018.  I’d like to see more.  Kelley was unhittable in the minors.  But sidewinders that make it are few and far between.  Poyner?  Whatever.

Pretty much no use for the rest of the lot.  But the reality is, some of those dudes will be back.  Some will take the shuttle between Pawtucket and Boston regularly.  There will be a handful of more arms with similar talent that will be added.

But I think we all hope they add a couple of quality arms over the winter.  Quality bullpen arms will cost money…but when they shave all that money we talked about above, there should be some room.

Whew…that was quite a bit of words there.  Sorry about that.  But I think we covered everything?

It’ll be an interesting offseason, any way you slice it.  Can’t wait!!

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