Boston Red Sox

Rangers are next team dealing with aftermath of the disaster

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Rangers are next team dealing with aftermath of the disaster

As we all learned last year with the Red Sox, late-season collapse doesnt always bring out the best in people. In fact, you can be pretty much guarantee it will bring out the very worst.

In the aftermath of baseball disaster, youll see people lie, gossip, scapegoat and cram the entire world under a bus. Youll see them leak rumors about pill-popping and marital unrest. Youll see owners slip and fall on their yachts. Youll see Armageddon-like chaos that makes you question the shelf life of society. Like, holy crap, if a baseball team can make people this crazy, what happens when theres a real problem?

Then again, Bostons most definitely the extreme. And thats a massive understatement. Like saying that Olivia Munns cute, or Steve Jobs was bright. They say that everythings bigger in Texas, but even native-son Josh Beckett will admit that when it comes to celebrating baseball disaster nobody does it bigger than Boston. Im not sure thats something were proud of, but its something that we can never deny.

However, in 2012, the Red Sox werent quite good enough to collapse. Sure, they were just as pathetic in September, but falling from 15 games to 24 games back in the Wild Card doesnt leave the same sting as going from first place in the AL East to six straight weeks of everyone screaming about beer and fried chicken. So, with the Sox out of commission, the rights to this years biggest collapse were up for grabs

And the Texas Rangers not without some competition from the White Sox and Dodgers grabbed the torch.

Ron Washingtons crew came about as close as you can to going to wire-to-wire in the AL West this season. They led the division by 5.5 games on May 1, by 4.5 on June 1, by 5.5 on July 1, by four on August 1 and three games on September 1. But none of that matters as much as the fact that on September 24, the Rangers led the West by FIVE games with NINE to play. Thats a magic number of five.

They finished 2-7; the As finished 8-1.

With the division lost, Texas was relegated to the new-and-improved one-game-playoff, where they hosted Baltimore and were shut down by Joe Saunders. Just like that, the collapse was complete, the season was over commence total meltdown!

Or something like that.

Its no surprise that the good people of Texas have been slightly more laid back in the aftermath of their own disaster. Sure, people are angry. The fans want change! But in terms of honest to goodness scandal, the Rangers have been no match for the mighty Sox.

Although yesterday morning, things finally started to pick up, after Rangers president Nolan Ryan was asked a question (on ESPN Dallas radio) about Josh Hamilton.

As you know, Hamilton was the best player in baseball over the first two months of this season, before falling off a cliff. He hit .259 after the All-Star Break (while striking out once every 3.05 at bats) and was a major source of the Rangers struggles.

Hamilton has attributed the slump (at least in some part) to a side effect of trying to kick an addiction to smokeless tobacco. "Professionally, it's been plate discipline," he said in August. "Personally, it's been being obedient to the Lord in quitting chewing tobacco."

Anyway, heres Ryan:

(Hamiltons) timing on quitting smokeless tobacco couldnt have been worse. You wouldve liked to have thought that if he was going to do that that he wouldve done it in the offseason or waited until this offseason to do it. So the drastic effect that it had on him and the year that he was having up to that point in time that he did quit, youd have liked that he wouldve taken a different approach to that. So those issues caused unrest, and its unfortunate that it happened and the timing was such as it was.

As you can imagine, the medias reaction to Ryans comments has been predictably scathing. Hes been accused of being insensitive, of caring more about wins and loss than a players well being, of not understanding the consequences of tobacco use and of undermining Major League Baseball initiative to remove dipping from the game altogether.

My take?

First, as someone who recently quit "dip" after more than 10 years in the game, let me just say that I 100 percent believe that quitting had a negative effect on Hamiltons performance. I was a wreck after I quit, especially when I was forced to do something that I previously associated with dipping. Driving, writing, playing golf. It was impossible without a dip in my mouth. It's all I could think about. And I'm sure that Hamilton had this kind of connection with dip and baseball. It definitely affected him. Every time he jogged to the outfield, and every time he stepped in the batter's box.

And for that reason, I understand why Ryan's pissed. After all, this is more than just a game. This is a business. When the Rangers fall short like they did this year, people lose jobs; players get traded and entire families get uprooted; a ton of money goes by the wayside. And when your former MVP and third-highest paid player suddenly falls apart because he can't wait two months to quit dipping or worse, didn't quit a few months earlier you have every right to be angry. Especially when, morality aside, most players in Hamilton's position would have held off on the tobacco rehab in favor of stepping it up down the stretch. Right or wrong, they just would have.

But here's where we remember what, in the heat of this Rangers collapse, Nolan Ryan most definitely forgot Josh Hamilton is not most players.

I know we live in a world when no one is supposed to be considered different, but Hamilton is different. He's experienced things that 99 of the league couldn't fathom. He looks at things and deals with issues in a very particular way. After Ryan's comments, most criticisms were directed toward his perceived ignorance about the long term effects of tobacco use, and that's fine. But if you ask me, I'd guess that Hamilton's devotion to overcoming his addiction had very little to do with cancer. I mean, I'm sure it played a role, but with Hamilton it's about more than that. It's about keeping clean, and basically, staying alive.

And that's where Ryan missed. Hamilton's been so spectacular since making it to the big leagues, that I think it's sometimes easier to forget everything he went through before that. What a ridiculous struggle it must be to keep himself falling back into that hole. That Josh Hamilton is great story, but the story isn't over.

And it will be interesting to see what happens next for Hamilton. With the way last season ended, it's seems unlikely that he'll re-sign in Texas. That makes him 31-years-old, and coming off a three season stretch where he's averaged 33 homers and 107 RBI a year. This is when former MVPs like him make a killing. But honestly, who's ready to break the bank on Josh Hamilton?

I think we can rule out the Red Sox.

After all, while the Rangers may have claimed the 2012 award for "Baseball's biggest collapse," the Sox are still reeling from their 2011 title. They need to invest in a high-priced risk like I need to start dipping again; this is no time for them to take chances. But someone out there will. Whether it's in Chicago, Atlanta, Milwaukee or wherever, Hamilton will get another chance in another city, and keep fighting to ensure that this story has a happy ending.

And regardless of where he's playing, we all hope it does.

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

Drellich: Pomeranz, league's second-best lefty, knows how to be even better

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Drellich: Pomeranz, league's second-best lefty, knows how to be even better

BOSTON — Drew Pomeranz may not actually be the No. 2 starter for the Red Sox in this year’s presumed American League Division Series. Maybe the Sox will mix in a right-hander between Pomeranz and Chris Sale.

Still, everyone knows which pitcher, in spirit, has been the second-most reliable for the Red Sox. A day after Chris Sale notched his 300th strikeout and on the final off-day of the regular season, it’s worth considering the importance of the other excellent lefty on the Sox, and how much he’s meant to a team that’s needed surprise performances because of the lineup’s drop-off.

Per FanGraphs’ wins above replacement, Pomeranz is the second-most valuable lefthanded starter among those qualified in the American League (you know who's No. 1). He's one of the 10 best starters in the AL overall.

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Pomeranz, 28, was a first-round pick seven years ago. But he didn’t exactly blossom until the last two years. He has a 3.15 ERA in 165 2/3 innings. His next start, if decent, should give him a career-high in innings after he threw 170 2/3 last year.

Pomeranz is a 16-game winner, just one win behind Sale. The value of wins and losses is known to be nil, but there’s still a picture of reliability that can be gleaned.

Is this the year Pomeranz became the pitcher he always envisioned he would be?

“I don’t know, I mean, I had a pretty dang good year last year,” Pomeranz said, referring to a 3.32 ERA between the Padres and Sox, and an All-Star selection. “I think these last two years have been kind of you know, more what I wanted to be like. But I still, I don’t think I’m done yet, you know what I mean?”

Most pro athletes say there’s always room to improve. Pomeranz, however, was able to specify what he wants. The focus is on his third and fourth pitches: his cutter and his change-up. 

“My changeup’s been really good this year,” Pomeranz said. “That’s something that still can go a lot further. And same with my cutter too. I still use it sparingly. I don’t think me just being a six-inning guy is the end of it for me either.

“You set personal goals. You want to throw more innings, cover more innings so the bullpen doesn’t have to cover those. Helps save them for right now during the year.”

Early in the year, Pomeranz wasn’t using his cutter much. He threw just nine in April, per BrooksBaseball.net. That led to talk that he wasn’t throwing the pitch to take it easy on his arm. He did start the year on the disabled list, after all, and cutters and sliders can be more stressful on the elbow and forearm.

That wasn’t the case.

“The reason I didn’t throw it in the beginning of the year was because half the times I threw it went the other way,” Pomeranz said. “It backed up. Instead of cutting, it was like sinking or running back. I mean, I pitched [in Baltimore] and gave up a home run to [Manny] Machado, we were trying to throw one in and it went back. So I didn’t trust it.

“Mechanical thing. I was still trying to clean my mechanics up, and once I cleaned ‘em up and got my arm slot right, then everything started moving the way it was supposed to and then I started throwing it more.”

Pomeranz’s cutter usage, and how he developed the pitch heading into 2016, has been well documented.

The change-up is more of an X-factor. He threw five in each of his last two starts, per Brooks, and it’s a pitch he wants to use more.

“It’s been good,” Pomeranz said. “I think I could throw it a lot more and a lot more effectively, and ... tweaking of pitch selection probably could help me get into some of those later innings too.”

Well, then why not just throw the change more often? Easier said than done when you’re talking about your fourth pitch in a key moment.

“I throw a few a game,” Pomeranz said. “Sometimes you feel like you don’t want too throw it in situations where you get beat with your third or fourth best pitch. I mean it’s felt — every time I’ve thrown it it’s been consistent. It’s just a matter of, it’s something me and Vazqy [Christian Vazquez] talk about, too." 

(When you hear these kind of issues, which most pitchers deal with, it makes you appreciate Sale’s ability to throw any pitch at any time even more.)

Speaking on Wednesday, the day after Pomeranz’s most recent outing, Sox pitching coach Carl Willis said he thinks the change-up’s already starting to have a greater presence.

“He’s kind of always had a changeup, and he hadn’t had any trust or conviction in that pitch,” Willis said. “I was really excited last night that he used the changeup more. He threw it. He doubled up with it on occasion. Something that’s not in the scouting report.

"It’s his fourth pitch and he seldom threw it in a game and he’s in a situation where, OK, the change-up’s the right pitch, but location of whatever I throw is going to outweigh [selection]. Now he’s starting to gain that confidence [that he can locate it]. 

“I think that’s going to make him an extremely better pitcher. I thought it was a huge factor in his outing last night. Because he didn’t have his best velocity. He really did a good job of changing speeds with the changeup, and obviously with the curveball and being able to give different shapes of the pitches.”

The Sox already have the best left-hander in the AL, if not anywhere. The AL's second-best southpaw happens to pitch on the same team, and has tangible plans to be even better.

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Werner criticizes Price for Eck incident; says Sox' relationship with Yanks is 'frosty'

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Werner criticizes Price for Eck incident; says Sox' relationship with Yanks is 'frosty'

BOSTON — Red Sox chairman Tom Werner doesn’t seem to be the biggest fan of the the Yankees, MLB disciplinarian Joe Torre, and players who can’t take criticism from broadcasters.

In a spot Thursday with WEEI, Werner made clear David Price’s handling of Dennis Eckersley was unprofessional.

“Boston is a tough place to play,” Werner said on WEEI’s Ordway, Merlonia and Fauria. “Some players thrive here, and some players don’t. Get a thicker skin. My feeling is, let the broadcasts be honest, be personable, informative, and get over it if you think a certain announcer took a shot at you.”

“I thought there was a way of handling that. It wasn’t handled appropriately. If I’ve got a problem with Lou [Merloni], and I hear something he says on the radio, I’ll say to Lou, ‘That wasn’t fair.’ ”

Werner also called the team’s relationship with the Yankees “frosty” following the public sign-stealing saga that resulted in fines for both clubs.

“The fact is, I do think this was a minor technical violation,” Werner said. “I start with the fact that this was unfortunately raised to a level it never should have been raised to.”

Werner also insinuated he did not approve of how MLB and Torre handled the disciplining of Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez, who receieved a four-game suspension for his part in a fight against the Tigers (reduced on appeal to three games).

“Do you think Gary Sanchez got an appropriate punishment?” Werner asked.