Bobby V's back up plan

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Bobby V's back up plan

Now that the Sox are winning, and the insanity surrounding just about everything has finally simmered, Bobby Valentine has been a little more forthcoming about some of the team's early struggles.

For instance, here's what he told reporters before yesterday's win against the A's.

To tell you the truth, I didn't have a what-if at the beginning of the season. Im kicking myself for it," he said. The outfield and the bullpen, I didn't have a major plan for not having Jacoby Ellsbury. My fault. I should have. And two-deep in the bullpen. The two guys we traded for during the wintertime Andrew Bailey and Melancon, you figure one of them pitching the ninth inning come April 13.

"Im kicking myself a little. I think I didn't have a great plan. But its coming together now.

Now, I can't tell if Valentine's being serious or subtly sarcastic here. Or maybe he's just trying to show some humility in the face of everyone who won't shut up about his ego. But whatever the reason, there's no need to beat himself up over that ugly opening stretch. Not about that stuff, at least.

Seriously, is there a manager in baseball who has a plan for losing his closer a few days before the season, watching his set up man turn to mush and then having his superstar lead-off hitter and center fielder disappear for six-eight weeks? No way.

You don't plan for that. If so, then where do you stop? "OK, guys. So what happens if the team bus gets sideswiped on the way to a road game and we lose half our line-up for a month, what do we do? Come, we need a plan!" At some point, you have to stop preparing for worst case scenarios and focus on the present.

Which is what I assume Valentine was doing as the Sox drudged through an awfully unlucky start to the season. But to his credit, Valentine (with a lot of help from the players, obviously) has persevered. He's found the right guys to put in the right spots and, as a result, the Sox are winning.

Now all Valentine has to do is learn the rest of his player's names, take a little more time with the opposing scouting reports (example: ALWAYS check to see if pitcher is a righty or lefty) and he'll be golden.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

New photo surfaces of noticeably thinner Pablo Sandoval

New photo surfaces of noticeably thinner Pablo Sandoval

When it comes to Pablo Sandoval and his weight, a picture is worth a thousand words.

During spring training it wasn’t a good thing. Sandoval made headlines when a number of photos revealed significant weight gain for the Red Sox third baseman.

But the last two images have been more positive for Sandoval.

In October, a noticeably thinner Sandoval was photographed at an FC Barcelona game.

On Monday, Dan Roche of WBZ tweeted a more recent picture of the new-look Sandoval.

Sandoval, 30, is entering the third season of a five-year, $95 million contract. In his lone full season in Boston, 2015, Sandoval hit .245/.292/.366 with 10 homers and 47 RBI.

Red Sox taking stricter luxury tax penalties into consideration this offseason

Red Sox taking stricter luxury tax penalties into consideration this offseason

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- The newly agreed upon Major League Baseball collective bargaining agreement features higher taxes and additional penalties for exceeding the competitive balance threshold -- and don't think the Red Sox haven't noticed.

The Red Sox went over the threshold in both 2015 and 2016, and should they do so again in 2017, they would face their highest tax rate yet at 50 percent. Additionally, there are provisions that could cost a team in such a situation to forfeit draft picks as well as a reduced pool of money to sign its picks.

None of which means that the Red Sox won't definitively stay under the $195 million threshold for the upcoming season. At the same time, however, it remains a consideration, acknowledged Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski.

"You would always like to be under the CBT (competitive balance tax) if you could,'' offered Dombrowski. "And the reason why is that are penalties attached for going over, so nobody likes to (pay) penalties.

"However, the Red Sox, if you follow history, have been up-and-down, right around that number. We were over it last year and the year before that. So I would prefer (to be under in 2017). However, a little bit more driving force in that regard is that there are stricter penalties now attached to going over. And some of them involve, for the first time, differences in draft choices and sacrificing money to sign players and that type of thing. So there's a little bit more drive (to stay under).

"But I can't tell you where we're going to end up. Eventually, does it factor (in)? Yeah. But until we really get into the winter time and see where we are, will I make an unequivocal (statement about staying under the CBT)? Maybe we won't. But there are penalties that I would rather not be in position to incur.''

Dombrowski stressed that he's not under a "mandate'' from ownership to stay under the CBT.

"But I am under an awareness of the penalties,'' he said. "Last year, I would have preferred to be under, too, but it just worked for us to be above it, because we thought that would be the best way to win a championship at the time.''

He added: "I think we're going to have a good club either way.''

But it's clear that the CBT is part of the reason the Red Sox aren't being more aggressive toward some premium free agents such as first baseman/DH Edwin Encarnacion, who is said to be looking for at least a four-year deal at an annual average value of more than $20 million.

Currently, the Red Sox have nearly $150 million in guaranteed contracts for 2017, plus a handful of arbitration-eligible players, some of whom (Drew Pomeranz, Jackie Bradley Jr.) will see significant raises.

Together, with insurance premiums and others costs tallied, the Sox stand at nearly $180 million, just $15 million under the 2017 tax.

"I've said all along I've wanted to stay away from long-term contracts for hitters at this point,'' Dombrowski said of the current free agent class, "(especially) with some of the guys we have in our organization coming. I just haven't felt that that's a wise thing to do.''

The Sox saw two potential DHs come off the board over the weekend, with Carlos Beltran signing a one-year $16 million deal with Houston and Matt Holliday getting $13 million from the Yankees. Either could have filled the vacancy left by David Ortiz's retirement, but Dombrowski would also be taking on another another eight-figure salary, pushing the Sox well past the CBT.

"I figured we would wait to see what ends up taking place later on,'' said Dombrowski, "and see who's out there.''