Clemens vs. McNamara: The feud continues

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Clemens vs. McNamara: The feud continues

It's been 25 years, but Roger Clemens and John McNamara still tell conflicting stories about whether or not Clemens asked out of Game 6 of the 19865 World Series.

McNamara lifted Clemens for a pinch-hitter in the top of the eighth inning with Boston leading, 3-2, and later said Clemens asked out of the game. Clemens has always vehemently denied the charge. On Wednesday, Nov. 9, the MLB Network will televise a special -- '1986: A Postseason to Remember' -- it which it interviewed both men (along with other members of the Red Sox, Mets, Angels and Astros). And both continue to tell the same story:

McNamara on Clemens:"He came off the mound in the bottom of the seventh inning and we were waiting there at the steps to congratulate him you know, getting out of the seventh and he came down the steps and he said, 'Thats all I can pitch.' Quote unquote. And my answer to him was, 'You gotta be sting me.' And he said 'No,' and he showed us his finger . . . where he had the start of a paper tear on his middle finger and - well, correct this right here and now he had no blister whatsoever, and how that got started I dont know. But it spread rapidly and it continued over the next two years that the blister took him out of the ballgame. And that is not the case. As sure as Im sitting here."

Clemens: "I think I was getting ready to hit and if Im not mistaken, McNamara pinch-hit Mike Greenwell for me. Again, I dont know why McNamara would say something like that, if it was to deflect attention from the game. My recollection is I was at the bat rack putting my gloves on or getting my bat, my helmet or whatever and getting ready to go hit. I think I had only given up four hits. Ive pitched 100-pitch games, Ive pitched 150-pitch games, I think I threw a 164-pitch game at some point in my career, so I dont know where that came from."

Clemens on if he wanted to and could continue pitching in Game 6: "Yes, again, a little problem with my finger. If theyre saying they didnt see anything with my finger, I mean, there was blood on the baseballs and crazy things like that, but it wasnt going affect me to continue."

McNamara on Clemens claiming he could still stay in and pitch following the seventh inning:"That is not accurate. That is not the truth and I dont lie. Those words are indelibly imprinted in my mind."

Red Sox reliever Calvin Schiraldi on Clemens leaving after the seventh inning: "I played with Roger at the University of Texas and then again with the Red Sox and Ive never known him to come out of a game willingly."

McNamara also addressed his decision to leave Bill Buckner at first base in the bottom of the 10th inning with a 5-3 lead, when he'd lifted Buckner in favor of Dave Stapleton in every other postseason game that year in which Boston entered the last inning with a lead:

McNamara on Stapleton:
"The case is that Buckner was the best first baseman I had. And Dave Stapleton has taken enough shots at me since then that he didnt get in that ball game, but Dave Stapletons nickname was 'Shaky'. And you know what that implies. I didnt want him playing first base to end that game, and it was not any sentimental thing that I had for Billy Buck to leave him out there. He was the best first baseman I had."

Red Sox starter Bruce Hurst on McNamaras decision to leave Buckner in: "I think that Stapleton made a heck of a play in Game 1 to save that victory. Ill be honest, Ive never heard Dave Stapleton called 'Shaky'. Thats a newsflash for me. I liked Stape, I thought hes a heck of a player, he added to our team, came ready to play every day. He didnt get a lot of opportunities that year but, you know, he did what he was asked to do. Ive never heard that before."

Also, McNamara and pitching coach Bill Fischer addressed the rumor that Oil Can Boyd was unavailable to pitch in Game 7 because he was drunk.

McNamara:
"Well you said it . . . thats the exact reason."

Fischer:
"I came to the park and Al Nipper came up to me and said, 'You should check on your long man.' He was boxed up, under the weather from drinking, so we locked him in a room."

Dombrowski defends John Farrell after group strategy meeting on Monday

Dombrowski defends John Farrell after group strategy meeting on Monday

 

The Red Sox braintrust had a meeting on Monday's off-day to strategize with a 22-21 team that's underperforming and in third place.

President of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski told NESN's Tom Caron on the Sox pre-game show that he was part of a meeting with Farrell, assistant general managers Eddie Romero and Brian O'Halloran and vice president of baseball research and development Zack Scott.

"We sat down yesterday for over a couple hours," Dombrowski told Caron. "I [had] already talked to some of our scouts and just kind of [went] over our club to try to get it to fit together a little bit. Because some of those things, the injuries, and even the guys that are playing, like in Hanley [Ramirez's] case, it does affect what you’re trying to do. So normally at this time of year, I think you have a better pulse [of the team]. But I think we need a little bit more time. We just really haven’t flowed as a club. We haven’t played as well as I think we’re capable of and I think we need to give ourselves that opportunity."

Asked about Farrell's job security, Dombrowski defended a manager whose 2018 option was picked up over the winter.

"Well, we won a divisional crown last year," Dombrowski said. "He managed very well for us at the time. I think that John, as well as everybody else, is frustrated by our performance and that we haven’t taken off, but we’re not buried either. I mean, we’re four games out of first place and we really haven’t been in a flow. And when you look at it, it’s like, OK, last week Thursday we won two great games in St. Louis. I wasn’t with the team, I was in Salem. 

"Well I looked at the match-up on Thursday, and I’m thinking, well if [Sonny] Gray throws like he’s capable, I’m not sure what we’re going to get out of [Hector] Velazquez at that particular time. And of course, Velazquez didn’t have a very good outing. So you lose that ball game. Is that John’s fault? I can’t put that on John. 

"Friday night, you have Chris Sale, he threw the ball very well. Well the play that Trevor Plouffe made on Hanley Ramirez, I don’t know if he’s made a play like that all year long. Mookie Betts, in the ninth inning gets a line drive right at the third baseman. Well you have a chance to score five or six runs, didn’t happen. No excuses, but it’s one of those where I think to pin those things on John Farrell are just not fair. I think we’re in a position where he’s managed well, he’s managed divisional champions. I think we’re in a position, we have a good club. We just need to get in a better flow of things."

Dombrowski felt the Sox were harder to evaluate a quarter into the season than most teams would be.

"Because the reality is when you look at our ballclub, it really hasn’t been together at all at any point during the year for me," he said. "So I think when you look at it, you say OK, well, we need to improve our fourth and fifth starters. Well, David Price comes back next week — we think he’ll be back next week. So that’s a pretty big addition, that’s like making a major trade. 

"I still think Drew Pomeranz, although he has scuffled at times, should be a fourth-, fifth-type starter on a good club. … We need to straighten him out. I think he’s capable of doing that. When you talk about bullpen, our bullpen’s been good but I still think we’re going to get Carson Smith in a short time period, so that’s another addition that we have.

"Third base, you know has been a hole for us where Pablo Sandoval could be back very soon. I’m not sure where Brock Holt fits into that whole equation. So we’re really on our fifth third baseman right now when you look at it. Pablo is there, and then Brock Holt was there. Marco Hernandez is going to have surgery, we’re going to miss him for the rest of the year. Josh Rutledge has been over there."

Holt, out with vertigo, and the Red Sox are regrouping. Holt's exhausted the 20 days permitted for a minor league rehab stint, and is heading to Pittsburgh to meet concussion expert Micky Collins. Another rehab stint figures to follow eventually, barring a change in diagnosis.

Hernandez is to have surgery on his left shoulder Friday, which likely ends his season.

Hanley Ramirez can still be the DH, but his sore shoulders have relegated him to only that position, not first base. That's part of the reason Sam Travis was added to the roster Tuesday.

"There’s a couple reasons behind it," Dombrowski said of Travis' call-up.  "We’re in a position where we have a roster spot for a positional player. Secondly, we’ve talked about giving Mitch [Moreland] a little bit of a blow on his feet at times, to not play too many games. And we faced a left hand pitcher tomorrow [in the Rangers' Martin Perez]. He’s been hitting the ball well, Sam has. 

"We’re trying to sit [Moreland] a little bit vs. the left-handed pitching. Even though he’s done OK, we just don’t want him to get too tired as the year goes on. And the reality is, originally that was going to be Hanley [playing first base vs. lefties]. Well, Hanley’s not available to do that now, so we needed to make an adjustment ourself on how to do that. And with the extra roster spot, Pawtucket right down the road, we figure it’s a good chance to give him that opportunity. 

"In Hanley’s case, not playing first base, people don’t realize at times how much that changes the mix of your club. Because at some time, we are going to have Chris Young get at-bats and DH at that point."

Napoli: Red Sox and his agent only had 'small talk' about reunion

Napoli: Red Sox and his agent only had 'small talk' about reunion

BOSTON -- Of course, the Rangers' Mike Napoli didn't mind the idea of replacing David Ortiz. He loved playing in Boston.

There just was never much chatter that way last offseason, when Napoli was a free agent after his Indians took the Cubs to seven games in the World Series.

"I think my agent had maybe a small talk or something [with the Red Sox], but I don't think it ever would have happened," Napoli said Tuesday afternoon as he returned to Fenway Park with Texas. "I mean, don't get me wrong, I would have loved to come back. But, I mean, it all worked out. I'm glad to be where I'm at now. Because I knew everybody here [with the Rangers]. I didn't have to start over again."

Napoli played with the Rangers in 2011 and '12, and was traded by the Sox to Texas for the last few months of the 2015 season.

He was hopeful the Sox -- his team from 2013 to midseason 2015 -- would be among the clubs to come calling last winter.

"Oh, yeah," he said.

But he wasn't optimistic it was going to happen. And it didn't.

"To be honest with you . . . Cleveland was my first priority," he said. "I just had a World Series run [with the Indians] and we didn't win it. And then Texas was there [in the bidding, along with] Minnesota."

The Rangers wound up giving Napoli, 35, a one-year deal for 8.5 million with an $11 million club option for next season or a $2.5 million buyout. He's hitting just .188 entering Tuesday, a subpar figure, but has 10 home runs.

"We started off pretty slow, but winning 10 straight will help," Napoli said of the Rangers' recent tear. "[Winning] 11 of 12, we've been playing better. I think we kind of lost track of who we are. We got some guys struggling, still trying to find themselves and kind of got away from doing it together as a team, but we got back to doing that. It's been going pretty well."

Part of the World Series championship team of four years ago, Napoli loved being in Boston in 2013, and he enjoys being back now.

"What we were able to do in 2013, obviously, it's something I'l never forget and something I cherish," Napoli said. "I love coming back here to play."

When it was noted there's been so much turmoil since Napoli left -- the talk of Tuesday was manager John Farrell's job security -- he was unsurprised.

"You got to have thick skin to play here," Napoli said. "You're expected to win a championship every single year. But that's what I loved about playing here, is that people were on you. For me, I loved it. A lot of people probably couldn't do it.

"I knew it in my heart that I went out there and I played as hard as I possibly could every single time . . . I know you're not going to be perfect and live up to everyone."