Can Sox keep their arbitration-free streak intact?

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Can Sox keep their arbitration-free streak intact?

You probably know the Red Sox have not been to arbitration since 2002, when Dan Duquette was the general manager. Give yourself a couple of baseball IQ points if you knew the last player with whom the Sox went to arbitration was right-hander Rolando Arrojo, before his final season in the major leagues. Tack on a few more points if you knew that the Sox won that case, with a bid for a salary of 1.9 million to Arrojos bid for 2.8 million.Still, the Sox dont hold the record for avoiding arbitration. Cleveland last went in 1991, Toronto in 1997, and St. Louis in 1999. Some teams just prefer to avoid the process.
Tal Smith has been in baseball for over 50 years and was with the Astros for 35, most recently as president since 1994, until he was unceremoniously dismissed by new owner Jim Crane in November. Smith also runs his own company, Tal Smith Enterprises, which he began in 1981, that offers consulting services to major league teams.
With more than 150 arbitration cases on his resume, he is considered the arbitration guru.Some clubs dont like to go. They think it scars the player, Smith said of arbitration. I dont subscribe to that. Obviously it depends on whos presenting and how they approach it. Weve done over 150 cases and I can think of only about three where it really became a little bit testy and adversarial. Basically, its a continuation of the same kind of arguments that the club and the agent enter into during negotiations when theyre trying to negotiate why they want this or why theyre offering that. Obviously theres a reliance almost solely on numbers and comparable salaries. Nobody is demeaning a player. If you hit .230, you hit .230. It speaks for itself. If you hit .310, it speaks for itself. If you won 15 games, the same.
So its not all that testy. I think theres a lot of people out there, including media people, who think, Oh, you dont want to take this guy to arbitration. Hell never forgive you. I dont buy into that at all. Ive obviously been on the club side and Ive had players that I run into in later years in airports or something like that who come up and they dont hold any animosity, even Barry Bonds. We had Barry twice when he was with Pittsburgh and the club won both cases. And as cantankerous as Barry can be seen by some, when he was still playing with the Giants, hed come into Houston and hed see me and come over and wed laugh.
"Its not that dire a setting. Its just a continuation of the negotiation process being presented to a third party, to a panel of arbitrators. And theyre listening to the same kind of stuff that you were talking about before arbitration and theyre going to make the decision for you.Arbitration figures must be submitted by Tuesday. This year, the Sox have six players -- David Ortiz, Alfredo Aceves, Mike Aviles, Andrew Bailey, Daniel Bard and Jacoby Ellsbury -- eligible for arbitration. Andrew Miller, Matt Albers, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Franklin Morales have already agreed to deals, avoiding arbitration.
Arbitration hearings are scheduled to be conducted in St. Petersburg Feb. 1-21. In the hearings, which generally last several hours, each side will present its case to a panel of three arbitrators, with a chance for rebuttals following. Even if a player goes to arbitration, the sides have up until a decision is rendered by the panel to reach a deal.It used to be that about 85 percent of cases that filed would be settled before arbitration, but, Smith said, in recent years the number is even higher, with only about three or four cases going to arbitration. Last year 119 players filed, with just three Hunter Pence, then with the Astros, the Pirates Ross Ohlendorf, and the Angels Jered Weaver going through arbitration. Pence and Ohlendorf won their cases, with Weaver losing his.The reason for that is the stakes are greater, the dollars are greater, and there are greater risks for each party, Smith said. If you go and lose, youre leaving money on the table, so to speak. When I first started this process back in 1974, there were cases where the spread, the difference between the two numbers, was as low as 3,500. I did four Yankee cases in 1974 or 75 and the total of the four cases was about 20,000. Today you get spreads of individual cases weve done recently of 2 million, 3 million. So the stakes are greater and the objective of the whole exercise is to get meaningful numbers on the table for which the parties can continue to negotiate.

Celtics season comes to an end with Game 5 loss to Cavs

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Celtics season comes to an end with Game 5 loss to Cavs

BOSTON – The final horn sounded and for the second time in three years, the Celtics faithful saw their team’s season end at the TD Garden at the hands of the Cleveland Cavaliers.

But this was different.

Two years ago, the Celtics were just lucky to be on the floor with the Cavaliers who had no problem sweeping them out of the postseason.

This time, things were different.

Cleveland had their way with Boston, but had to work harder – much harder – than they did a couple years ago.

And that more than anything else, is clear and undeniable evidence that the Celtics are on the come-up even after their season ended with a 135-102 Game 5 drubbing.

They lost the series four games to one, most of which were played without their most dynamic player, Isaiah Thomas (hip) who came into the postseason as the top scorer in the Eastern Conference.

Boston did lots of good things in this series, but it served as a reminder that the Celtics aren’t quite ready for the bright lights and big-game performances needed consistently this time of the year to win.

LeBron James’ reign in the NBA is far from over, but it’s clear as day that the Celtics are positioning themselves to be one of the favorites to eventually unseat the Cavs.

Boston’s regular season record (53-29) was the best in Brad Stevens’ four years on the job, good enough to go into the postseason with the top overall seed.

But as we saw time after time after time, regular season records mean little if it comes void of the superstars most of the elite teams have in waves.

The Cleveland Cavaliers did as expected in eliminating the Boston Celtics and in doing so, move on to the NBA Finals for the third straight season where they will face a well-rested Golden State Warriors club.

Celtics Nation serenaded the players as they walked off the floor who were disappointed but should have walked off with heads held high.

Why?

Because in the end, they gave the fans exactly what they wanted – everything they had to offer.

And for most of this season, it was good enough to not just compete but win a lot of games that few outside of the Celtics’ payroll anticipated would result in a victory.

In Cleveland, the Celtics ran into the ultimate buzzsaw.

Not only were the defending champions playing their best basketball in the playoffs, but they were healthy both mentally and physically – something they could not lay claim to during several stretches during the regular season.

Meanwhile, the Celtics dealt with injuries throughout the season.

There were the usual bumps and bruises.

And then there was Isaiah Thomas’ right hip injury which he played through after re-aggravating it at the end of Boston’s second-round series with Washington.

But it proved to be too much for him to deal with which led to the Celtics shutting him down for the playoffs at halftime of Game 2.

Boston managed to win Game 3 and had opportunities galore to get Game 4 only to come up short in large part because they didn’t have an offensive closer – a player who could fill the void left by Thomas’ absence.

In Game 5, the Cavaliers managed to find areas to exploit most of the first half as they pulled ahead to dominate the action.

And the Celtics, a team that without Thomas relies heavily on ball movement, timely cuts to the basket and the need to knock down open shots, simply failed to once again take advantage of the opportunities – and there weren’t many – the Cavs afforded them.

Game 5 had the look and feel of Games 1 and 2, when Cleveland came into the TD Garden and had their way with the Celtics with a pair of wins by a combined 57 points.

Cleveland began Thursday night’s game with a 28-12 run, capped off by an emphatic dunk by LeBron James who blew past Terry Rozier.

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens called his second time-out of the quarter, a clear sign of his concern – and justifiably so – that the game could quickly get out of hand as was the case in the first two games.

And with more than two minutes to play, the Cavaliers had a commanding 36-26 lead after a Kyrie Irving lay-up in which he was fouled by Rozier.

Cleveland continued to pull away in the second and third quarters as Boston’s defense showed little resistance.

And when they did, the Cavs just went around and over them, resulting in an overwhelming performance that Boston had no answer for, home court or not.

It was another beatdown at the hands of the Cavs, but there was a different vibe following this one.

Two years ago, there was no telling what the loss meant to a Celtics team that at the time, was lucky to be in the playoffs.

This season, there was no luck at all in Boston being one of the last four teams with games on the docket.

They deserved to have this opportunity, one that’s likely to come around a few more times in the near future as Boston continues to strengthen a young core with more talent and experiences like what they went through during this Conference Finals against Cleveland.

Dustin Pedroia leaves Thursday's game with left knee pain

Dustin Pedroia leaves Thursday's game with left knee pain

A sloppy, cold night at Fenway Park led to an early exit for Dustin Pedroia, who was pulled because of left knee pain.

The Red Sox said the move was precautionary and that Pedroia is day to day. The press-box announcement included the note that manager John Farrell removed Pedroia, which is not typically information provided in-game, but was perhaps an attempt to reinforce that Pedroia did not want to exit the game.

Pedroia had surgery on that knee in October. It's the same leg that was hurt when Manny Machado slid into Pedroia at second base in April, the slide that sparked the plunking war between the Orioles and Red Sox.

Pedroia led off the third inning Thursday night against the Rangers' Nick Martinez with a walk and scored when the next batter, Xander Bogaerts, homered. Pedroia grounded out to end the bottom of the fourth. 

He did not field a ball in the top of the fifth and was replaced by Josh Rutledge ahead of the top of the sixth.