Seeing Red

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Seeing Red

By Michael Felger

Whats next, the Red Sox forming a partnership with Peyton Manning?

What, A-Rod wasnt available?

Hey, Felger! This is wonderful. I couldn't be happier with the start of the "best team ever." Maybe some of those yahoos will finally shut up and logically, not hysterically, assess the Red Sox. I mean really, besides Gonzo their talent is no better than last year. Maybe worse. They picked up Crawford, who I believe will be a total bust. He will press big time and will never be able to handle it when the Red Sox Nation turns on him. And they will. Solid baseball teams are built up the middle. The best team ever should have a stud catcher, a stud shortstop and a stud center fielder. Saltalamacchia, Scutaro, Ellsbury. Doesn't strike fear in my heart. Pitching. Lester, he'll be good. Buchholz, I think he'll be good. Lackey, stiff. Beckett, bigger stiff. I honestly think Dice K might have the best year of them all. Bullpen? Yeah, right. I don't see Mo Rivera walking out of there. They lost two pretty good offensive players in Beltre and Martinez. I'm not so sure Gonzo and Crawford will even match their production. My prediction is a long, disappointing year for Pink Hat Nation. And management. Love it!SteveChester, NH

Red Sox backlash, anyone? I guess this is what happens when you sell membership cards to become a fan, endlessly promote Sox-themed dating and quiz shows during your broadcasts, over-sell Truck Day, cater to people who more interested in Sweet Caroline than the sport, make sure that 95 percent of the media that covers you is in the bag, subject your fans who do care to Jim Rice after games, and, last but not least, go into business with one of the most hated athletes in New England (LeBron). Did I miss anything?

Hey, FelgerWith all these lineup scenarios, having Ellsbury and Crawford 1-2 is ideal. No. 3 Gonzalez, No. 4 Youk, No. 5 Ortiz, No. 6 Pedroia and No. 7 Drew. I know it screws with his left\right thing, but that's the reality of having a left-handed heavy lineup. What is your best batting order? I'm curious.KenWhitman

1. Ellsbury. 2. Pedroia. 3. Gonzalez. 4. Youkilis. 5. Crawford. 6. Ortiz. 7. DrewCameron. 8. Saltalamacchia. 9. Scutaro.

All I know is that Pedroia is a perfect No. 2, Gonzalez is a prototypical No. 3 and Youkilis is most comfortable bating cleanup. Build everything else around that.

Hey, FelgerIf we only could get J.D. Drew into the game. When he connects, his body should be used for the MLB version of Jerry West, an instructional photo. This year let's try to PUMP-JD-UP instead of always pointing out his good 'ol boy persona.FaithWorcester

Youre right, Faith. I feel bad that weve been so hard on him. From now on, I wont point out plays like the ones from Tuesday, when he soft-footed it into home and was thrown out, and then later held up going after a ball in right field. From now on he gets nothing but support.

Felger,If Jethro misses his first three questions on the SATs, you might not panic because he has a lot more to go, but it's probably safe to say he's not going to the Ivy League. FrankBoston

Interesting analogy. So youre saying the Red Sox are headed to Northeastern?

Mike,Remember this one, "If the Celtics dont win, it wont be because they missed Perkins." Out of the group of Perkins, Kristic, Shaq and Jermaine ONeal, Perkins might be the healthiest -- and thats saying something. If they are using Big Baby and Kristic as centers come playoff time, I think we will need to get in the Delorean and rewrite Celtics media coverage history once again.How could Ainge know Shaq would get hurt again? Well, with J.D. Drew, dont we just assume 40 games off per year, so why would anyone have looked at the recent history and mileage on Shaq and Jermaine and stamped them injury resistant and playoff certified? Its a joke and Im still waiting for the punch line.Peace,JakeBoston

Keep it coming, Jake. And remember, Ainge has had lapses like this before. Ricky Davis. Rasheed. Stephan Marbury. He sometimes makes moves as if he were managing a fantasy team, with no thought with regard to the actual team. It really boils down to this: He traded Perkins because he was relying on Shaq. Im sorry, but thats just plain dumb.

Felger, You DB!So I took my daughter to the Bs game against the Rangers last month. We both left pretty disappointed as the Bs looked unprepared, lazy and unmotivated until it was too late to salvage the game. Basically, the hockey equivalent of a Charlie Sheen concert. But after Monday nights debacle I asked myself what would have been better: To go to a game where the team collectively looked like it had been roofied during the pregame skate and thrilled they decided to actually try for the last eight minutes of the third period, or getting your hopes up as the Bs were on the verge of blowing out the Rangers, only to be let down yet again as you witness yet another lackadaisical collapse? Im still torn.What I am not confused about is what this team is. If its the same team that fell to pieces last May, why are Bruins fans still shocked and awestruck when this still happens? So is it exactly the same team? No. Lucic has morphed into a Gary Roberts-type impact forward. Horton is absolutely an improvement. Marchand is not only more than what we expected him to be this year, hes also that irritant that we hoped Begin was going to be last year. But the coach is the same, the captain is the same. And the GM is the same. Oh, and they score more and fight more now. But ultimately, it still adds up to a team culture where failure is accepted as the cost for getting better. On other teams, the price for failure is losing your job. But those responsible for the failures of the Bruins have been allowed to skip out on the tab so far. If Mike Vrabel worked for the Bruins he could wheel kegs of High Life into North Station after every game and bring back the empties for a deposit. Thats how bad it is. Failure, choking and games like Monday nights loss should never be thought of as more of the same, expected or acceptable. Forget the results themselves, just that perception is a major problem that needs to be dealt with immediately. But the only person holding people accountable on Causeway Street right now is the freaking Bear in their promos. You know what I want? Chiarelli gone. Remove the safety net for everyone. Everyone will be on notice that results matter. No more deals that look like state jobs. No more pat-on-the-back pressers after chokes. Think it wouldnt work? Calgary gave their GM, Darryl Sutter, the gate after limping to a 16-18-3 record. After that, the Flames went 24-11-8 because they knew that once the GM was axed any one of them could be next. They dont want to get dealt to Long Island or sent to Abbotsford. With one move, everyone employed by that team became motivated by self preservation at the very least. I say give it a try here. This team is long overdue for a major shake up. The best-case scenario is this team and coach get a Jenks-sized fire lit under them and do some major damage in the postseason. The worst that can happen will never be as bad as last season, and at least Cam wont have to take out a restraining order to keep PC from talking to Ryders agent about an extension.MikeAttleboro

Well see, Mikey. I sense that Neely has brought at least some accountability there, but not enough. And I also agree that Chiarelli would be the place to start. Hes the one who picks the coach and picks the players. Just axing Claude wouldnt be enough.

Then again, the Bruins could go all the way and quiet all the skeptics.

Just kidding!

Mikey,Now you're talking right up my alley. My gosh. Between Claude him and Chris Kelly Ive had enough. Mike, why on earth in a "meaningless" game does Seguin only play eight minutes, eight freaking minutes? Really!!! All I hear from the B's media is that Claude is disappointed in the third-line production. No kidding, CLAUDE! Kelly sucks (Wheeler offsides = Kelly trying to shoot). He's Dan Paille, except he's a center. I hope the call comes from CamPeter to have Seguin on the playoff roster. Get him the experience in the playoffs. Its our future cup on the line. You want production on the third line? Move Kelly to the fourth and have a RyderPeverlySeguin or even PeverlyCampbellSeguin combination on the third line. I know this past game was soooo important . . . did I see Chara play 25 minutes? Good job, Claude. You have screwed up this team all year (i.e., the goalie situation). He's an okaygood coach, but I truly believe he is holding this team back. At this point Claude needs to go. I have had enough and yet I am destined to see this team disappoint in the playoffs again! My bet is he wins enough to keep his job, just to drive me crazy for at least another year. DaveWoburn

Ive said it a million times. Claude is a very good coach for a bad team. But I have seen nothing that would lead me to believe he is the right guy for a great team. Too regimented. Too system-oriented. Afraid to turn his players loose. I hope he proves me wrong in the postseason, but Im not holding my breath.

I also now believe this: Whoever the next coach is, that persons top priority should be developing Seguin into a top 10 player. If Claudes not the right guy for that job, then ax him. Unless Seguin turns into a star, the Bs are destined to be playoff fodder.

Felger,After blowing a 3-0 lead by giving up five unanswered goals to the Rangers, it's time for Neely to pull a Lamoriello and fire Julian before the playoffs. It has to happen.Mark Melrose

Not a prayer. Im obviously not a fan, but even I believe thats nuts. Too late. If the Bs go down early in the playoffs again, Mark, youll get your wish. If the Bs fall in the first or second round, I dont see how he keeps his job. A conference final berth would probably be enough for him to survive, but depending on how it ended might still draw some consideration. If the Bs make the Cup Finals, were stuck with him another year at least.

Felger,Don't forget to mention Marchand's Seventh Player Award. He was definitely more than I expected.JamesManchester

Duly mentioned. Now lets see if the little guy can do it when it counts.

Hey, FelgerAs of now the Bruins would be the No. 3 seed in the East and have to play the Canadiens. I think that this would be the worst possible opponent for the Bruins. After all that has happened between the two teams this year I think there would be too many off-ice distractions that the Bruins dont need in their first-round series. I mean, sure, it would be a very entertaining series from a fan's perspective, but for the sake of the team and the goal of a Stanley Cup, is this who the Bruins want to play in the first round?Ryan

Nope. Its a bad matchup, both on the ice (Montreal has won 9-of-12 meetings over the last two years; Tim Thomas has worse numbers against the Canadiens than any other team) and off the ice. The Chara investigation is still on-going, and Pacioretty may return during the series. The fans are going to be worse than usual and thats saying something. Even in victory that series is going to take a lot out of the Bs.

But you know what? Im done complaining about it. Its happening. The standings havent really moved in two months and theyre not going to move in the next three days. Im resigned to it. Rest up. Its going to be a doozy.

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Yo, Felger,I don't have a lot of time to really delve into explaining my point, but here's the top-line topic: Parents are the reason their kids aren't playing baseball anymore. Baseball is a game that takes time, energy and intelligence to enjoy on all levels. Basketball and soccer is your "weeeeee" thing. There are kids running everywhere, its disorderly . . . and, frankly, fun to watch for 60 minutes. But give me a wall, a tennis ball and my mitt as a kid and I was set for hours, Hell, I'd be set for hours now and I'm a 34-year-old dad.Jeff

A: Jeff is responding to our discussion of this Wall Street Journal article that detailed how participation in youth baseball has gone way down in the past decade. Its my belief that part of the reason is that too many important Major League Baseball games start too late and kids arent able to watch them. I think more day baseball in MLB would help the cause.

But after watching the Sox this week I think MLB should be thankful they've played mostly at night. The last thing you want to do is subject the youth of America to that team right now.

Read Felgers weekly column on Mondays. E-mail him HERE and read the mailbag every Thursday. Listen to him on the radio weekdays, 2-6 p.m. on 98.5 the Sports Hub.

MLB players' union agrees to pitchless intentional walks

MLB players' union agrees to pitchless intentional walks

NEW YORK - There won't be any wild pitches on intentional walks this season.

The players' association has agreed to Major League Baseball's proposal to have intentional walks without pitches this year.

"It doesn't seem like that big of a deal. I know they're trying to cut out some of the fat. I'm OK with that," Cleveland manager Terry Francona said.

While the union has resisted many of MLB's proposed innovations, such as raising the bottom of the strike zone, installing pitch clocks and limiting trips to the mound, players are willing to accept the intentional walk change.

"As part of a broader discussion with other moving pieces, the answer is yes," union head Tony Clark wrote Wednesday in an email to The Associated Press. "There are details, as part of that discussion, that are still being worked through, however."

The union's decision was first reported by ESPN .

"I'm OK with it. You signal. I don't think that's a big deal," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "For the most part, it's not changing the strategy, it's just kind of speeding things up. I'm good with it."

There were 932 intentional walks last year, including 600 in the National League, where batters are walked to bring the pitcher's slot to the plate.

"You don't want to get your pitcher out of a rhythm, and when you do the intentional walk, I think you can take a pitcher out of his rhythm," Girardi said. "I've often wondered why you don't bring in your shortstop and the pitcher stand at short. Let the shortstop walk him. They're used to playing catch more like that than a pitcher is."

Agreement with the union is required for playing rules changes unless MLB gives one year advance notice, in which case it can unilaterally make alterations. Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred expressed hope Tuesday that ongoing talks would lead to an agreement on other changes but also said clubs would reserve the right to act unilaterally, consistent with the rule-change provision of the sport's labor contract.

Some changes with video review can be made unilaterally, such as shortening the time to make a challenge.

"I know they were thinking about putting in a 30-second (limit) for managers to make a decision," Francona said. "I actually wish they would. I think it would hustle it up and if we can't tell in 30 seconds, maybe we shouldn't be doing it anyway."

Bean: There's no way to spin a potential Ortiz return as a bad idea

Bean: There's no way to spin a potential Ortiz return as a bad idea

As if there weren’t enough storylines with the 2017 Red Sox, there figures to be the lingering possibility that, at any point, one of the franchise’s greatest hitters will return to make a push for his fourth World Series title.

As Pedro Martinez keeps saying, he won’t believe David Ortiz is retired until season’s end.

And with that possibility comes a good ol’ fashioned sports debate: You’re maybe the biggest lunatic in the whole wide world if you’re hoping for the latter.

There are exactly two potential downsides to Ortiz coming back. One is that the team would be worse defensively if it puts Hanley Ramirez in the field, a tradeoff that seemingly anyone would take if it meant adding Ortiz’ offense to the middle of the order. The other is that we would probably have to see Kenan Thompson’s Ortiz impression again . . . which, come to think of it, would be the worst. Actually, I might kill myself if that happens.  

All the other drawbacks are varying degrees of noise. It basically boils down to the “what if he isn’t good?” fear. Which may be valid, but it shouldn’t be reason enough to not want him to attempt a comeback.

Ortiz is coming off a 38-homer, 127-RBI 2016 in which he hit .315 with a league-best 1.021 OPS. It's probably the best final season of any hitter over the last 50 years.

We also know Ortiz is 41 and dealt with ankle and heel injuries so vast in recent years that he was “playing on stumps,” according to Red Sox coordinator of sports medicine services Dan Dyrek. There is the possibility that he was almost literally on his last legs in 2016 and that he doesn’t have another great season in him.

Unless Ortiz is medically incapable and/or not interested in returning, what would the harm be in rolling the dice? Is it a money thing? It really depends on just how intent the Sox are on staying under the luxury-tax threshold, but it’s hard to imagine that holding them up given that they’ve bobbed over and under the line throughout the years.

The one unacceptable argument is the legacy stuff, which expresses concern that Ortiz would tarnish his overall body of work if he came back for one last season and was relatively ineffective.  

If you think that five years after Ortiz is done playing, a single person will say, “Yeah, he’s a Hall of Famer; it’s just a shame he came back that for one last season,” you’re absolutely crazy. The fact that one could dwell that much on a legacy shows how much they romanticize the player, meaning that in however many years it's the 40-homer seasons, and not the potentially underwhelming few months in 2017, that will stand the test of time.

But he’ll have thrown away having one of the best final seasons ever for a hitter.

Oh man. That’s a life-ruiner right there. A 10-time All-Star and three-time World Series champion totally becomes just another guy if you take that away.

Plus, the fact that he’s a DH limits how bad it could really be. You won’t get the sight of an over-the-hill Willie Mays misplaying fly balls in the 1973 World Series after hitting .211 in the regular season. Ortiz will either be able to hit or he won’t, and if it’s the latter they’ll chalk it up to age and injuries and sit him down. Any potential decision to put him on the field in a World Series would likely mean his bat was worth it enough to get them to that point.

The Red Sox, on paper at least, have a real shot at another title. Teams in such a position should always go for broke. Ortiz has absolutely nothing left to prove, but if he thinks he has anything left to give, nobody but the fans who dropped 30-something bucks on T-shirts commemorating his retirement should have a problem with that.