McAdam: Sox in a hole without DH in N.L. parks


McAdam: Sox in a hole without DH in N.L. parks

By Sean McAdam Red Sox Insider Follow @sean_mcadam
BOSTON -- The Red Sox are among a handful of American League teams unhappy over the prospect of losing the use of their designated hitter in interleague road games, maintaining that it puts them at a competitive disadvantage.

Their complaints, however, seem to have fallen on deaf ears. In conversations with several high-ranking baseball officials, it's clear that interleague play and the divide between the leagues on the DH are both here to stay.

Beginning Friday in Pittsburgh, the Sox will play three straight series -- for a total of nine games -- in N.L. parks, meaning that there is not an obvious spot in the lineup for David Ortiz, who leads the team in homers and is third in RBI.

In recent years, Terry Francona has had other options, with corner infielders Mike Lowell and Kevin Youkilis, along with Ortiz, being used in two of every three games in N.L. parks. It worked because Youkilis, the starting first baseman at the time, was also able to play third. But now, with Adrian Gonzalez the starter at first and unable to play third, that's no longer an option. So the Sox face the prosect of playing Gonzalez out of position in the outfield or not using Ortiz at all.

"That's not right,'' Francona has said on more than one occasion.

But there's not much the Red Sox can do about it, either.

"We don't like it,'' said Red Sox CEO and president Larry Lucchino. "It's an undeserible arrangement, obviously. Playing nine straight interleague road games has happened to us before and there's only so much we can do. Every American League team experiences this at one time or another.''

There would seem to be only two solutions going forward: league uniformity on the DH issue, or allowing the use of the DH in all interleague games, regardless of site.

The former, at least, would need to be collectively bargained. The current collective bargaining agreement expires this December and low-level negotiations betweeen the owners and Players Association have already begun.

But according to one high-ranking baseball official with knowledge of the situation, no American League team has ever proposed uniformity between the leagues, a statement confirmed by multiple sources.

"The issue,'' said Lucchino, "has been largely treated as a fait accompli . . . There hasn't been any concerted effort to mount a challenge to the DH discrepency.''

Introduced in the American Leauge in 1973, the separate-but-equal aspect of the DH rule took on a new dimension when interleague play was introduced in 1997.

Teams like the Red Sox argue that they're being penalized by fielding the team they've contructed only 153 times, while having to adjust in the other nine.

There exist some hard-liners in the National League who are dead-set against expansion of the DH -- to any degree.

One industry official said some owners actually enjoy the controversy set off by the DH debate, since it highlights the N.L.'s heritage and purity after a period in which the lines of distinction between the leagues has been blurred by the elimination of league offices, the introduction of interleague play and the uniformity of umpiring crews.

The one body intent on preserving -- and perhaps expanding -- the DH is the Players Association, which has fought any hint of elimination of the spot, largely on economic reasons. The PA doesn't want to see the DH aboloished because it has historically provided high-paying salaries for veteran sluggers such as David Ortiz, Vladimir Guerrero and Jim Thome.

One club official speculated that the PA could push the issue in the current CBA talks, but would have to be prepared to give the N.L. owners something in return.

Ortiz, who faces the prospect of limited playing time in the coming weeks, said he expects the DH rule to eventually expand, but not for aesthetic or competitive reasons.

"There's a lot of pitchers getting injured while hitting or running the bases,'' he said, "and a lot of uncomfortable situations. We had Clay Buchholz getting injured on the basepaths in San Francisco last season. You don't want to have your pitchers getting hurt like that.

"So I think, in time, they're going to have a real hitter performing in the pitcher's spot. They started doing it in the All-Star Game, which I think is a good idea. I think they're watching it pretty close and not too far away from now, I think teams are going to ask for a change. They don't want their pitchers going down with injuries related to hitting.''

Sean McAdam can be reached at Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

Francona, Epstein receive grand ovations at BBWAA dinner


Francona, Epstein receive grand ovations at BBWAA dinner

BOSTON -- “I didn’t feel that love after I made a pitching change in the sixth inning,” Terry Francona said after a 45-second standing ovation from Boston fans upon receiving the MLB Manager of the Year award from the BBWAA Thursday.

It’s without question the love for Francona runs deep in the city. Why wouldn’t it? He was the leader in breaking the 86-year old curse, and wound up winning another World Series title for Boston three years later.

Actually, he was more of a co-leader, working alongside the same person who won the MLB Executive of the Year honors from the BBWAA for 2016.

Theo Epstein -- who received an ovation 17 seconds shorter than Francona, but who’s counting -- reminisced about the Red Sox ownership group that took a chance on a young kid who wasn’t necessarily the ideal candidate to take over as GM of a team, but now that’s helped him build the Chicago Cubs into a winning franchise and establish a great working environment.

This October marks 13 years since the ’04 championship, 10 years since ’07 and six years since the pair left Boston. Without question they’ve left their mark on the city and forever changed Red Sox baseball.

And while the fans showed their undying gratitude for Francona with an ovation almost as long as his acceptance speech, the Indians manager recognized the favor the current Red Sox brass has done for him.

“I’d like to thank Dave Dombrowski and the Red Sox for getting Chris Sale the hell out of the Central Division,” Francona said.

Offseason just like any other for Bogaerts

Offseason just like any other for Bogaerts

BOSTON -- At first, 2016 seemed like the “Year of Xander.” It turned out to be the “Year of Mookie,” with Bogaerts dropping off a little as the season progressed.

The Red Sox shortstop saw his average peak at .359 on June 12. At that point he’d played in 61 games, hit eight home runs, 20 doubles and knocked in 44 runs. Although Mookie Betts had six more home runs and three more RBI in that same span, Bogaerts had six more doubles and was hitting 69 points higher.

The two were already locks for the All-Star Game and Bogaerts still had the edge in early MVP talk.

Then things took a turn after the very day Bogaerts saw his average peak.

Over the next 61 games, Bogaerts still managed seven homers, but only had six doubles and 27 RBI, watching his average drop to .307 by the end of that stretch. At first glance, .307 doesn’t seem like an issue, but he dropped 52 points after hitting .253 in that span.

And in his remaining 35 games, Bogaerts only hit .248 -- although he did have six homers.

But throughout it all, Bogaerts never seemed fazed by it. With pitchers and catchers reporting in less than a month, Bogaerts still isn’t worried about the peaks and valleys.

“You go through it as a player, the only one’s who don’t go through that are the ones not playing,” Bogaerts told before the Boston baseball writers' dinner Thursday. “I just gotta know you’re going to be playing good for sometime, you’re going to be playing bad for sometime.

“Just try to a lot more better times than bad times. It’s just a matter of trusting yourself, trusting your abilities and never doubting yourself. Obviously, you get a lot of doubts when you’re playing bad, but you just be even keeled with whatever situation is presented.”

Bogaerts level head is something often noted by coaches and his teammates, carrying through the days he finds himself lunging left and right for pitches. That’s also carried him through the offseason while maintaining the same preparation from past seasons -- along with putting on some weight.

“I don’t know how much I put on, but I feel strong,” Bogaerts said to “I mean, I look strong in the mirror.

“Hopefully, I’m in a good position when the season comes because I know I’ll lose [the weight].”