First Pitch: Monday, September 12

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First Pitch: Monday, September 12

By ArtMartone
CSNNE.com

Welcome to First Pitch, aquick spin around the world of Major League Baseball . . . or at leastthe corner of it that most concerns the Red Sox. For a complete wrapupof Sunday's action, check out Craig Calcaterra's AndThatHappened(hardballtalk.nbcsports.com).

MATTER OF PERSPECTIVE: If you live in central Florida, well, these are glorious times. (St. Petersburg Times)

Up here? Not so much. (boston.com)

The Red Sox' lead in the wild-card race -- once so substantial that barely anyone knew just how big it was, since nobody was looking at it -- is down to three in the loss column after Sunday's embarrassing 9-1 loss to the Rays (csnne.com), their third straight at The Trop and fifth in a row overall. The Yankees had been keeping the Sox in the division hunt with a slump of their own, but that may have ended yesterday. (New York Daily News) Now the focus is solely holding off Tampa Bay, and the Rays have made it clear they're in this for the duration. "I think we're a good enough team to beat those guys," said James Shields, who led Tampa Bay to victory yesterday. (Tampa Tribune)

For their part, the Sox are speaking bravely, too. "We've overcome a lot worse than this," said Jon Lester (csnne.com), though he didn't say when . . . and nothing really leaps to mind. "At the end of the day, we're going to win the wild card or the division," Adrian Gonzalez said flatly (Boston Herald).

Truth be told, Gonzalez is probably right. The Sox are heading home for a 10-game homestand, they don't figure to stumble around like this for 2 12 more weeks -- though it would help if Lester, their lone healthy (good) starter, doesn't continue to come up small when the situation screams for something big (csnne.com) -- and the Rays now head out for 11 straight on the road. But it's not a fait accompli; the Sox are going to have to start playing better. The Boston Globe's Nick Cafardo thinks Terry Francona has to abandon his low-key approach and turn up the heat, which will certainly be the talk radio strategy of choice over the next few days.

Oh, and those of you bemoaning the lack of pennant races this September? Be careful what you wish for.
WHAT RACE? IT'S OVER! ESPN's David Schoenfield declares the Rays will win the wild card.

SOUND FAMILIAR? The Cardinals swept the Braves this weekend, cutting Atlanta's once-formidable N.L. wild-card lead to 4 12 games. But foxsports.com's Jon Paul Morosi thinks the Sox and Braves with both hold on . . . maybe.

SPEAKING OF TALK RADIO: This will certainly warm the hearts of the "He only won because he had Dan Duquette's players!He only wins because the Red Sox are rich!Renteria! Gagne! Lugo! Drew!" crowd. (Chicago Tribune)

On further reflection, maybe the "Fran-coma" people will be happy, too.

MORE BAD NEWS: An injury is going to force the Rays to take Kyle Farnsworth -- who had the potential to be an embedded weapon for the Sox -- out of the closer's role. (Tampa Tribune)

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT . . . The Pawtucket Red Sox' season is over. (Providence Journal)

OLD FRIENDS: Anthony Rizzo is in a 2-for-34 slump with the Padres (rotoworld.com) . . . Adrian Beltre, on the other hand, is on a tear (ESPN Dallas) . . . Coco Crisp is hurting. (oakland.athletics.mlb.com)

AND FINALLY . . . Can someone please explain this? At least in a way that doesn't make MLB look even worse than it looks right now? (New York Daily News)

Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines, Ivan Rodriguez elected to Hall of Fame

Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines, Ivan Rodriguez elected to Hall of Fame

NEW YORK - Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines and Ivan Rodriguez were elected to baseball's Hall of Fame on Wednesday, earning the honor as Trevor Hoffman and Vladimir Guerrero fell just short.

Steroids-tainted stars Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens were passed over for the fifth straight year by the Baseball Writers' Association of America. But they received significantly more votes this time and could be in position to gain election in coming years.

Bagwell, on the ballot for the seventh time after falling 15 votes short last year, received 381 of 442 votes for 86.2 percent. Players needed 75 percent, which came to 332 votes this year.

In his 10th and final year of eligibility, Raines was on 380 ballots (86 percent). Rodriguez received 336 votes (76 percent) to join Johnny Bench in 1989 as the only catchers elected on the first ballot.

Hoffman was five votes shy and Guerrero 15 short.

Edgar Martinez was next at 58.6 percent, followed by Clemens at 54.1 percent, Bonds at 53.8 percent, Mike Mussina at 51.8 percent, Curt Schilling at 45 percent, Lee Smith at 34.2 percent and Manny Ramirez at 23.8 percent.

Players will be inducted July 30 during ceremonies at Cooperstown along with former Commissioner Bud Selig and retired Kansas City and Atlanta Braves executive John Schuerholz, both elected last month by a veterans committee.

Bagwell was a four-time All-Star who spent his entire career with Houston, finishing with a .297 batting average, 401 homers and 1,401 RBIs.

Raines, fifth in career stolen bases, was a seven-time All-Star and the 1986 NL batting champion. He spent 13 of 23 big league seasons with the Montreal Expos, who left Canada to become the Washington Nationals for the 2005 season, and joins Andre Dawson and Gary Carter as the only players to enter the Hall representing the Expos.

Raines hit .294 with a .385 on-base percentage, playing during a time when Rickey Henderson was the sport's dominant speedster.

Rodriguez, a 14-time All-Star who hit .296 with 311 homers and 1,332 RBIs, was never disciplined for PEDs but former Texas teammate Jose Canseco alleged in a 2005 book that he injected the catcher with steroids. Asked whether he was on the list of players who allegedly tested positive for steroids during baseball's 2003 survey, Rodriguez said in 2009: "Only God knows."

Bonds, a seven-time MVP who holds the season and career home run records, received 36.2 percent in his initial appearance, in 2013, and jumped from 44.3 percent last year. Clemens, a seven-time Cy Young Award winner, rose from 45.2 percent last year.

Bonds was indicted on charges he lied to a grand jury in 2003 when he denied using PEDs, but a jury failed to reach a verdict on three counts he made false statements and convicted him on one obstruction of justice count, finding he gave an evasive answer. The conviction was overturned appeal in 2015.

Clemens was acquitted on one count of obstruction of Congress, three counts of making false statements to Congress and two counts of perjury, all stemming from his denials of drug use.

A 12-time All-Star on the ballot for the first time, Ramirez was twice suspended for violating baseball's drug agreement. He helped the Boston Red Sox win World Series titles in 2004 and `07, the first for the franchise since 1918, and hit .312 with 555 home runs and 1,831 RBIs in 19 big league seasons.

Several notable players will join them in the competition for votes in upcoming years: Chipper Jones in 2018, Mariano Rivera and Roy Halladay in 2019, and Derek Jeter in 2020.

Sam Travis among nine non-roster invitees added to Red Sox spring training roster

Sam Travis among nine non-roster invitees added to Red Sox spring training roster

The Red Sox have invited nine non-roster players to spring training, the team announced Wednesday. The team now has a total of 15 non-roster invitees. 

Added Wednesday to the spring training roster were outfielder/infielder Allen Craig, third baseman Rafael Devers, first baseman Sam Travis, catcher Jordan Procyshen, outfielders Brian Bogusevic and Rusney Castillo, and right-handed pitchers Kyle Kendrick, Chandler Shepherd and Ben Taylor.

In addition to 39 players on the 40-man roster, the Sox have the following breakdown of non-roster invitees: 

Pitchers: Kyle Kendrick, Edgar Olmos, Chandler Shepherd, Ben Taylor, Marcus Walden
 
Catchers: Dan Butler, Jake DePew, Jordan Procyshen
 
Infielders: Rafael Devers, Matt Dominguez, Sam Travis
 
Outfielders: Brian Bogusevic, Rusney Castillo, Allen Craig, Junior Lake