With money to spend, Sox sign Ross, target pitching

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With money to spend, Sox sign Ross, target pitching

Saturday's trade of Marco Scutaro to the Colorado Rockies in exchange for pitcher Clay Mortenson wasn't a trade at all. It was, pure and simple, a salary dump.

By shedding Scutaro's 6 million salary for 2012 -- which is actually valued at over 7 million for the purposes of the luxury tax -- the Red Sox did two things: 1) created some financial wiggle room for themselves to make other roster improvements and 2) opened a hole at the shortstop position.

A look at both issues:

1.) The Red Sox didn't wait long to re-allocate some of the money saved from dumping Scutaro's contract.

Source say the Sox reached agreement with outfielder Cody Ross Monday night on a one-year deal worth 3 million. Announcement of the deal will be made after Ross takes a physical.

The Colorado Rockies, New York Mets and Atlanta Braves were the other teams involved with Ross, but the Mets and Braves don't want to meet his asking price while the Rockies, ironically, may have been priced out of the race for him when they took on Scutaro's contract.

Ross gives the Red Sox a right-handed bat to pair with Ryan Sweeney in right field until Ryan Kalish is cleared to play and claim the position.

Over his career, Ross has compiled a .563 slugging percentage against lefties, making him the perfect platoon partner.

Ross could also see some playing time in left in the early part of the season as the team waits for Carl Crawford's surgically-repaired left wrist to fully heal.

That would leave the Sox with approximately 5 million of Scutaro's money to focus on upgrading the rotation.

Veteran Roy Oswalt is the best of the remaining free agents, and with February drawing closer, his asking price has come down considerably. It's thought that Oswalt is requesting something in the neighborhood of 8 million on a one-year deal.

However, multiple sources Monday indicated that an agreement with Oswalt -- even with the freed-up money -- is far from a done deal. The Sox continue to evaluate the market as the asking price for several pitchers drop. Other notable free agent pitchers include Edwin Jackson

Moreover, there are trades to consider. The Sox have been linked to both Matt Garza (Cubs) and Gavin Floyd (White Sox), each of whom will make significant money in 2012. Garza stands to get somewhere around 10 million either through arbitration or a settlement while Floyd is set to make 7 million with a 9.5 million club option for 2013.

One executive familiar with the Red Sox' thinking said Monday it was his impression that the Sox wouldn't be limited to spend only only what they saved on Scutaro, suggesting they could spend in excess of thatfigure.

"I think," said the executive, "Scutaro's money is more of a ballpark figure."

2.) When the offseason began, the Red Sox seemingly had a surplus of shortstops. Now, months later, they don't have enough.

Having included Jed Lowrie in the trade which brought them Mark Melancon, then shipping Scutaro to the Rockies, the Sox are left with three shortstops on the 40-man roster -- and that might be stretchingit.

Mike Aviles, who was obtained at last summer's trade deadline, has played shortstop in the big leagues, but hasn't done so in a while -- at least not on everyday basis.

If Scutaro was a fringe average shortstop defensively, Aviles is something less than that.

Aviles had, in fact, played the outfield in Puerto Rico this winter, hoping to get more comfortable in that spot. Now that Ross is on board, Aviles is freed from outfield duty and can concentrate on the infield.

Nick Punto, signed in the immediate aftermath of Lowrie's trade, was brought in to be the utility infielder. He's played short in the past, but not for extended periods of time and certainly not in an everyday capacity.

Over the last three seasons, Punto has played a total of 97 games at short and only once in his 10-year career has he played more than 60 games at short.

It's been suggested that the Sox could employ an Aviles-Punto platoon at short to at least start the season, but that would mean that Punto, with a career OPS of .652, would play about 70 percent of the games. Even for a lineup as powerful as that of the Red Sox, that would be an offensive sinkhole.

By now, of course, the Red Sox expected that they could turn the position over to Jose Iglesias, the Cuban defector who is a wizard with the glove. But while Iglesias could play the position in the big leagues right now, he's nowhere near ready offensively -- as his hitting struggles indicate at Triple A.

What's more, there's precious little left on the market unless you consider Ryan Theriot the answer.

For now, it appears the Red Sox are willing to patch the position together and hope that Iglesias can progress enough in the first few months of the season, but that seems like a huge gamble at such a critical position.

Trump says NFL should fire players who kneel during anthem

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Trump says NFL should fire players who kneel during anthem

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — President Donald Trump says National Football League owners should fire players who kneel during the national anthem. And he’s encouraging spectators to walk out in protest.

In an extended riff during a freewheeling rally speech in Alabama Friday night, Trump also bemoaned that football games have become less violent.

“They’re ruining the game,” he complained.

Several athletes, including NFL players, have refused to stand during “The Star-Spangled Banner” to protest of the treatment of blacks by police.

Trump says those players are disrespecting the flag and deserve to lose their jobs.

“That’s a total disrespect of our heritage. That’s a total disrespect of everything that we stand for,” he said, encouraging owners to act.

“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, you’d say, ’Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out! He’s fired,” Trump said to loud applause.

Trump also predicted that any owner who went through with his encouragement would become “the most popular person in this country” — at least for a week.

Trump, who was in Alabama campaigning for Sen. Luther Strange, also blamed a decline in NFL ratings on the nation’s interest in “yours truly” as well as what he described as a decline in violence in the game.

He said players are being thrown out for aggressive tackles, and it’s “not the same game.”

The NFL has made several efforts to reduce violence in the sport, particularly hits that may cause damage to the head. A July report on 202 former football players found evidence of a debilitating brain disease linked to repeated head blows in nearly all of them. The league has agreed to pay $1 billion to retired players who claimed it misled them about the concussion dangers of playing football.

During his campaign, Trump often expressed nostalgia for the “old days” — claiming, for example, that protesters at his rallies would have been carried out on stretchers back then. He recently suggested police officers should be rougher with criminals and shouldn’t protect their heads when pushing them into quad cars.

It’s also not the first time he’s raised the kneeling issue. Earlier this year he took credit for the fact that former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who started the trend of kneeling during the anthem, hadn’t been signed by an NFL team.

Trump said the protest was the top reason NFL viewership had waned this season.

“You know what’s hurting the game more than that? When people like yourselves turn on television and you see those people taking the knee when they’re playing our great national anthem,” he said.

Trump encouraged his supporters to pick up and leave the stadium next time they spot a player failing to stand.

“I guarantee things will stop,” he said.

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Marchand stepping up his twitter game to hilarious effect

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Marchand stepping up his twitter game to hilarious effect

BOSTON – It was probably only a matter of time before it happened, but it looks like Boston’s favorite Little Ball of Hate is stepping up his game on social media.

Brad Marchand is known as much for his rabble-rousing and trash-talking on the ice as he is for massive offensive production while serving as Boston’s top scorer in each of the last few seasons. So Marchand has the perfect mixture of good humor and clout as a star NHL player, and that usually combines for a pretty powerful voice on Twitter.

Marchand has been noticeably more active on Twitter in recent days with a wide-ranging group of tweets, and the big winner is the hockey fan that gets a little more exposure to some classic Nose Face Killah wit. Some of the tweets have been as a Bruins team leader where he’s praising the talented young crop of B’s prospects that he’s watching during training camp:

Some have been about chirping the NHL for their decision to skip the Olympics this winter where Marchand most certainly would have been primed for a chance at a Gold Medal:

Some have been engaging with “fans” and dropping classic pop culture references from children’s books while showing the nasty edge that routinely drives opponents up a wall:

The Charlotte’s Web reference is a devastating classic from Marchand, a noted longtime fan of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Sometimes it’s just telling a quick story in a tweet that gives you an inside look at the kind of chirping that goes on when Marchand is on the ice:

A social media platform like Twitter was made for a personality like Marchand, and a stepped-up presence is good for him and good for hockey fans. So why all of a sudden is No. 63 tweeting with greater frequency over the last few days?

It sounds like it’s a combination of training camp boredom and a genuine interest in amplifying his voice on all manner of subjects.

“I’ve just been kind of lying around with nothing to do and I jumped on [twitter]…thought it was kind of funny,” said Marchand. “I thought I’d get a little more involved. I don’t know if I’m going to have enough time to do it every day, but it’s fun.”

As fun as it’s been for Marchand, it’s no doubt even more fun for the fans that might get a chance to interact with him even if it’s as the unwitting foil for one of his well-placed chirps. 

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