Valentine: If umpires can't make the right call, time for a change

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Valentine: If umpires can't make the right call, time for a change

MIAMI -- Bobby Valentine wasn't happy with the umpiring in the Red Sox series over the weekend at Fenway, and when the topic was re-introduced Monday at Marlins Park, Valentine picked up where he left off.

"I don't like barking at the umpires," said Valentine, who objected to ball and strike calls Sunday. "I'd like to see a ball called a ball and a strike called a strike. Just play the game. I don't like that idea (of yelling at umpires)."

Valentine went on to hint that it might be time for Major League Baseball to find other ways -- beyond umpires -- to call balls and strikes.

"From the time that people pay hundreds if not thousands of dollars to teach their kids to play this great game of ours," said Valentine, "the No. 1 thing they do is they teach their pitcher to throw it over the plate; they teach their hitter to swing at strikes and take balls.

"When I did the Little League World Series (for ESPN), I thought it was the most criminal thing I ever saw, I wanted to cry, when a kid, in the sixth inning with the bases loaded and his team down by one run, was called out on a strike three that was six inches outside. He couldn't reach it with his bat. I cried for him. And that kid is scarred for life, playing our game, by an injustice.

"And then someone says the most ridiculous words that I ever hear: 'But we like the human factor.' It was criminal that we allow our game to scar a young person like that. And then it continues on. I think, in 2012, it should not be part of the process. I don't think it should be."

When asked if he was advocating the use of cameras to call pitches, Valentine demurred: "I want a ball called a ball and a strike called a strike. Let the humans do it, somehow . . . Our game is not someone else's strike zone; our game is what the book says. And that's how it should be played, from Little League to Cooperstown. To make it fair, to make it right."

Reminded that humans are bound to make mistakes in whatever job, Valentine responded: "Don't make it their job, then. The rule book doesn't say that the game will be played and arbitrarily ruled."

Valentine said umpires are "well-trained and very good at what they do. But I think it's almost impossible to do what they do. So why do we ask them to do the impossible?

"If in fact you can't see the ball the last five feet and now pitchers are throwing pitches that are moving in that zone . . . if you can't see it, why are we asking them to call it? They can't see it. They're humans. We're asking humans to do a feat that a human can't do."

Are Red Sox entering spring training with fewer questions than ever?

Are Red Sox entering spring training with fewer questions than ever?

BOSTON -- Every year it seems like there are major issues or question marks to start spring training where the answers are up in the air.

In 2015, the Red Sox lacked an ace, had Hanley Ramirez moving to left field and Pablo Sandoval coming to town.

In 2016, Ramirez was moving back to the infield, but at a new position, and his bat was in question. Sandoval was coming off a year where he couldn’t hit his weight (he hit .245 and he last weighed in at 255 pounds). How would the starting rotation look after David Price?

This year, there seem to be three questions, but in a way, they’ve already been answered.

How will the Red Sox make up for David Ortiz’s absence?

Well, for one, the Red Sox have three Cy Young-caliber starting pitchers (Price, Chris Sale and Rick Porcello) in their rotation.

And two, Hanley Ramirez is coming off a career year with his highest career output in RBI (111) and second-highest home run total (30). And while Mitch Moreland isn’t the greatest hitter, he’s good for 20 or more home runs. Plus, it seems he’s holding a spot for a certain Red Sox prospect who’s bouncing back well from an injury.

 

Will Sandoval earn the starting third base job back?

The weight loss is a good sign, not only for the physical reasons, but it shows he’s mentally committed to being better.

However, that doesn’t guarantee he gets his job back.

“I’m not going to say [third base] resolved itself,” John Farrell told CSNNE.com, “but you know Panda’s done a very good job of committing to get himself in better shape and we’re looking forward to seeing that play to in spring training.”

Even if Panda can’t put it all together, Farrell told reporters before Thursday’s BBWAA dinner, both Brock Holt and Josh Rutledge would be competing for the job as well.

Holt as plan B -- in the infield? Who wouldn’t take that?

Who’s going to start at catcher?

Sandy Leon, Christian Vazquez and Blake Swihart each have their pros an cons.

Leon did it all last year, but went from hitting .383 in his first 39 games to .242 in his last 39.

Vazquez has Ivan Rodriguez-esque abilities behind the plate, but couldn’t keep the staff under control last year and cannot hit.

Swihart, who turns 25 April 3, is the youngest of the three, has the most potential at the plate, but is far and away the worst of the three defensively at the most important defensive position -- excluding pitcher -- on the field.

They all have their drawbacks, but they’ve all shown at some point why they can be the Red Sox starting catcher in the present and future.

Everywhere else, the Red Sox seem to be in a comfortable position as pitchers and catchers reporting to camp draws ever nearer.

“I think the fact that we’ve got veteran players that have done a great job in staying healthy [and] young players that are getting more establishing in their return, we’re in a pretty good place in terms of the overall status of our position player group,” Farrell told CSNNE.com.

And it seems some players are confident in the team’s options as they ready for camp.

“We’re looking good in a lot of areas,” shortstop Xander Bogaerts told CSNNE.com. “Especially the pitching staff, [since] we just got Chris Sale one of the best in the game.”

“Pablo’s definitely going to bounce back, especially with the weight he’s lost."

Francona, Epstein receive grand ovations at BBWAA dinner

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Francona, Epstein receive grand ovations at BBWAA dinner

BOSTON -- “I didn’t feel that love after I made a pitching change in the sixth inning,” Terry Francona said after a 45-second standing ovation from Boston fans upon receiving the MLB Manager of the Year award from the BBWAA Thursday.

It’s without question the love for Francona runs deep in the city. Why wouldn’t it? He was the leader in breaking the 86-year old curse, and wound up winning another World Series title for Boston three years later.

Actually, he was more of a co-leader, working alongside the same person who won the MLB Executive of the Year honors from the BBWAA for 2016.

Theo Epstein -- who received an ovation 17 seconds shorter than Francona, but who’s counting -- reminisced about the Red Sox ownership group that took a chance on a young kid who wasn’t necessarily the ideal candidate to take over as GM of a team, but now that’s helped him build the Chicago Cubs into a winning franchise and establish a great working environment.

This October marks 13 years since the ’04 championship, 10 years since ’07 and six years since the pair left Boston. Without question they’ve left their mark on the city and forever changed Red Sox baseball.

And while the fans showed their undying gratitude for Francona with an ovation almost as long as his acceptance speech, the Indians manager recognized the favor the current Red Sox brass has done for him.

“I’d like to thank Dave Dombrowski and the Red Sox for getting Chris Sale the hell out of the Central Division,” Francona said.