First pitch: Red Sox look to make their misery contagious

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First pitch: Red Sox look to make their misery contagious

In his now-infamous radio interview last week, Bobby Valentine labeled the 2012 Red Sox season miserable, a characterization with which few would quibble.

The Sox are on a crash course with a losing record for the first time in 15 years and are in eminent danger of finishing in the basement of the American League East.

But with exactly three weeks remaining in the season, the Sox have the capacity to make things miserable for others, too. Their 4-3 walkoff win over the Yankees Tuesday night was a step in that direction.

A win here or there in September won't change what this season became months ago. The Sox have still underachieved to a great degree and wasted an opportunity to wipe out their embarrassing fold from last September.

If you're going to be miserable, however, you might as well do your best to spread the condition around a little. And if the target just so happens to be your arch-rivals, the New York Yankees, then so much the better.

The Sox aren't accustomed to the roll of spoilers. Even with last year's fade, the Sox managed to win 90 games and weren't eliminated until after the final out in the final inning of their final game.

The previous year, in which they missed out on the post-season, they also reached the 90-win plateau, so they weren't really playing meaningless games in the final weeks of the season.

This year, it's different. It's been painfully obvious since mid-August that the Sox' unofficial theme song had become "You Ain't Going Nowhere.'' The mega-trade with the Dodgers may have cleansed the clubhouse and straightened out the payroll ledger, but it was tantamount to waving the white flag for 2012.

And when they stumbled and bumbled up and down the West Coast recently, dropping eight of nine, then returned home and were swept by Toronto, it looked like someone had opened the trap door and the Sox were going to free-fall their way to the finish line.

But something -- pride? schadenfreude? -- got flashed at Fenway. If the Sox are miserable, then they were going to drag everybody else down with them.

That the opponent was the Yankees, who have tormented them throughout history, only made the wakeup call more timely.

"They have a lot of pride,'' said Derek Jeter. "They've got a lot of guys on the team that have pride in how they play the game. I'm sure they would like to (be spoilers). When you compete, you want to win -- I don't care where you are in the standings.

"Especially when it's Red Sox-Yankees, guys want to play well.''

The bullpen -- especially Junichi Tazawa -- was brilliant in relief of Jon Lester on Tuesday. And three straight Red Sox hitters attempted to bunt in the seventh inning, surely some kind of franchise record.

But the Sox were scrappy, a word that has seldom been used to describe them in the last calendar year.

Lester, who got past some early wildness -- five walks to the first 13 hitters -- and some wandering focus, denied that the Yankees served as extra motivation. But he hinted that the Sox are ready to take their frustration out on whoever crosses their path between now and Oct. 3.

"I think right now we're just trying to win games,'' said Lester. "We're trying to win as many games as we can, finish up strong this year, try to have something positive heading into next year. If we end up being spoiler that's grreat. That's kind of where we're at right now.''

Valentine addressed the team before the game and reminded the Sox that they had an obligation to continue playing hard until the end.

"I told the guys before the game that the fans are still pulling for us and they want to see us play well,'' said Valentine. "The season's now over and we owe it to them and the organization to give it everything we have. And I think we did tonight.''

Cold comfort for a team 14 games under .500? Sure. But it's all the Sox have for now. The best they can do over the final three weeks is ensure that their misery is contagious.

Need a reminder all prospects don’t hit? Happy anniversary, Andy Marte trade

Need a reminder all prospects don’t hit? Happy anniversary, Andy Marte trade

In a week that has seen the Red Sox trade arguably the best prospect in baseball, Thursday can serve as a reminder that not all prospects -- even the great ones -- end up hitting. 

Eleven years ago today, the Red Sox traded Edgar Renteria to the Braves, and in eating some of the veteran shortstop’s contract, got Atlanta to give them third baseman Andy Marte. 

Andy freaking Marte. Those stupid, stupid Braves.

If you were a baseball fan at the time, you were flummoxed at the notion that the Braves, who were a factory for developing good, young players, would trade the No. 9 prospect in all of baseball from 2005, according to Baseball America. At 22 years old, he was coming off seasons that saw him hit 23 homers in Double-A and 20 in Triple-A. 

“There’s nothing not to like about Andy Marte. He’s and outstanding defender with a chance to be an impact player offensively,” an opposing Double-A manager said of him, per Baseball America. 

Some of the other guys in the top 10 that year? Joe Mauer, Felix Hernandez and Scott Kazmir. Sitting one spot behind Marte on the list? Hanley Ramirez. 

And when the Red Sox got Marte, he immediately shot up to No. 1 on the Baseball America’s list of Boston’s prospects. Look at the rest of this list. Hell, there’s a combined 10 All-Star nods between Nos. 2 and 3 alone, and that’s not to mention the American League MVP sitting at No. 5. 

So what did Marte do for the Red Sox? Well, he got them Coco Crisp. After Theo Epstein returned from his hiatus, he shipped Marte, the recently acquired Guillermo Mota (dude got traded three times in six months), Kelly Shoppach, a player to be named later and cash for Crisp, Josh Bard and David Riske. 

Crisp didn’t exactly rip it up in Boston, but Epstein’s (and then-Braves general manager John Schuerholz’) foresight to trade Marte proved wise. Marte spent six seasons in Cleveland, seemingly given every chance to break out, but never played more than 81 games. He was designated for assignment in 2009 and cleared waivers, allowing him to stay with the organization as a Triple-A player. The next season was his final one in Cleveland, and he left a six-season stint in with the organization having averaged just 50 games, three homers and 16 RBI at the Major League level. 

Marte would bounce around a bit in the Pittsburgh and Angels organizations, but he didn’t make it back up to the bigs until 2014 on a July 31 callup with the Diamondbacks. He’s now playing in Korea. 

Great prospects often become great players, and the Red Sox’ roster is proof of that. Strikeout concerns aside, there’s not much to suggest Yoan Moncada won’t be an absolute stud. Fans looking for silver lining to losing a top-tier prospect (other than the fact that you could Chris Sale for the guy), can look back 11 years and hope for the best. A lot of people were wrong about Andy Marte.

Report: Chapman, Yanks reach agreement on five-year, $86 million deal

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Report: Chapman, Yanks reach agreement on five-year, $86 million deal

OXON HILL, Md. - Aroldis Chapman found a spot in a most familiar bullpen - a very rich spot, too.

The hard-throwing closer reached agreement to return to the New York Yankees on Wednesday night with the highest-priced contract ever for a relief pitcher, an $86 million deal for five years.

A person familiar with the negotiations told The Associated Press that the contract was pending a physical. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the deal was not yet complete.

Once it's done, the 28-year-old lefty whose fastballs routinely top 100 mph would shatter the previous richest contract for a reliever - that was the $62 million, four-year deal Mark Melancon signed with San Francisco just a couple days ago during the winter meetings.

Chapman was acquired by New York from the Cincinnati Reds last offseason, then missed the first 29 games of the season due to a domestic violence suspension from Major League Baseball. The Cuban was traded to the Chicago Cubs in late July and helped them win the World Series, becoming a free agent when it was over.

Chapman went 4-1 with 36 saves and a 1.55 ERA in a combined 59 games for the Yankees and Cubs. He struggled some in the postseason as the Cubs beat Cleveland for their first championship since 1908.

With the Yankees this season, Chapman teamed with Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances in one of the most dominant bullpens in baseball history. Miller was later traded to Cleveland, but Betances is still with New York.

Earlier this week, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said the team was interested in both Chapman and fellow free agent closer Kenley Jansen. The Yankees had already made one deal at these meetings, signing slugger Matt Holliday, before paying a lot more to bring Chapman back to the Bronx.

Fox Sports first reported the agreement.