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Boston Red Sox: It’s Not Even Spring Training and J.D. Drew Has a Nagging Injury

As being reported on, J.D Drew’s hamstring (the one that nagged him all last season) is nagging him once again.

Drew is 35 and is entering the final year of his six-year $72 million contract, and it might just be time for him to call it quits after this season.

Drew has had a somewhat injury plagued career.  Since making his debut with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1998, he’s finished eight of his 12 Major League seasons on the the disabled list (DL).

This has lead to Drew being labeled by many in the media and fans as “soft.”

Soft or not Drew has had a good career and capped it off in 2007 with a World Series run with the Red Sox.

The career hitting .281 right fielder has said publicly after last season that when his contract expires at the end of 2011 he may hang it up for good.

I can’t say I blame him. 

This offseason, the Red Sox seemed to have had a World Series or bust mentality in free agency and this would probably be the 35-year-old’s best chance at another ring.

And with the depth the Sox currently have if Drew starts the season injured or on the DL he won’t have to rush back. 

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Boston Red Sox: Could Theo Epstein’s Formula for Success Sink the Sox?

Boston general manager Theo Epstein has had his own formula for success.  It’s a version of “money ball,” where he values things like on base percentage more than batting average and how a guy fits in with the Red Sox organization.

As well as not paying high dollars or giving a lot of years to older players.  It’s as if there is a sign on Yawkey Way that reads, “Anyone over 30 need not apply.”

His chief rival in New York, Brian Cashman (is there better last name for the GM of the Yankees), doesn’t really care how old you are or your on-base percentage.  If you can hit the ball far, then he’ll find a spot for you in the Bronx.

Since Theo came on board with the Red Sox in 2002, the two GMs (who have very different approaches) have yielded similar results.

The Sox have been to two World Series, winning both of them, and the Yanks have been to two and have won one of them.

However, since 2007 and the rise of the Tampa Bay Rays, the Red Sox have been on the short end of the American League East stick.

The Yankees have been on a bit of a spending spree to fill their holes and have worried little about anything other than stats.  Where this didn’t work out too well (as far as titles are concerned) in the early 2000s, it seem to be working out just fine right now.

The Red Sox, too, have been sticking to their ways, but now it seems that it may hinder them more than help.

There has been little to no talk of the Red Sox pursuing Yankee killer Cliff Lee because of his age and the number of dollars and years he wants, and now the once-foregone conclusion that the Sox would sign outfielder Carl Crawford is now in doubt.

It appears due to Crawford’s age and the number of years he wants (thank you, Nationals, with that ridiculous contract you gave Jason Werth), Theo and the Sox are balking.

This could allow for the free spending Yankees to swoop in and gain yet another weapon for their Galactic Empire.

If there was a salary cap in baseball or if the Sox weren’t in the same division as the Yankees, Theo’s approach would be ideal.

However, those two things aren’t reality.  There is no salary cap and we are in the same division as the Yankees.

And honestly, I understand Theo’s approach to not overpaying guys like the Yanks seem to do every offseason, but the balking at the number of years on a contract just boggles my mind.

Yes, I know contracts are guaranteed in baseball and paying a guy who doesn’t play for you doesn’t make much sense, but since there is not salary cap to affect you if you cut a player, then the number of years a player wants shouldn’t be the last hurdle to signing him.

Sure, if you cut him you still have to pay him, but when you’re the Red Sox and you make more money than the majority of the teams out there, you can afford to take a few risks every now and then.

Look at it this way.  As a fan, I’d rather see them sign a guy for six years, have him give us a good three years where we win the AL East (and maybe the pennant and the World Series), than sign a guy not quite as good to only a three-year deal and watch another October where the Yanks go deep and we’re at home.

Carl Crawford could really help bolster our outfield and our offensive production. If the money between the two sides is right, then a silly thing like the number of years shouldn’t matter.  At the very least, if he fizzles out in two to three years, we can try and trade him away.

I think the last two seasons have proven that Theo needs to be more flexible with his formula so the team doesn’t miss out on players that can get them back over the hump.

For more Red Sox chatter you can follow me on Twitter (@jomac006).

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Major League Baseball: ESPN Shakes Up Sunday Night Baseball

During the summer months, when Major League Baseball is in full swing, one of my personal pastimes was after Sunday dinner with the family, and my wife was putting our son to bed, was for me to turn on ESPN and listen to Jon Miller and Joe Morgan call Sunday Night Baseball as I cleared the table and did the dishes.

Well, it looks like my Sunday night summer past might have to change, because after 21 seasons of calling the Sunday night games for ESPN, both Joe Morgan and Jon Miller are out.

As being reported by USA Today Joe Morgan’s contract has now expired and ESPN does not plan to renew it, and where Jon Miller is still employed by ESPN, he will no longer do the play-by-play on television, but has been relegated to radio.

To be completely honest with you, I’m not a fan of change.  Where I haven’t been watching Sunday Night Baseball for all 21 seasons, I have been watching it for the eight or nine, and for my money there isn’t a better duo to call any sport (let alone baseball) than Miller and Morgan.

The two have a great chemistry (as you would expect for working together for so long), and the way Miller calls a game and then the analysis by Morgan just completely sucks you in.

For me, it didn’t matter if my team wasn’t playing I was watching for two reasons: One, I love baseball, and two, I love watching Morgan and Miller.

Honestly, the move by ESPN baffles me, unlike what happened with Pat Summeral at Fox Sports, I didn’t notice any slip by the pair that would suggest they’ve gotten too old to do the games or anything like that.

I guess for ESPN it was time for a change, which is surprising since they still have the tired Chris Berman doing the NFL pre-game show.

One thing is clear though: ESPN (as far as baseball is concerned) has been passed over by the MLB network.

I was once a stark viewer of ESPN’s Baseball Tonight, but have since switched over to MLB Network’s MLB Tonight, which, if you haven’t seen it, has a unique feature where they take you to live games to show key at bats, and unlike Baseball Tonight, MLB Tonight runs for about three to four hours, constantly giving updates and highlights of games in progress.

Maybe it’s MLB Network’s encroachment on ESPN’s dominance that prompted the move.  

However, I am certain that we’ll never know the real reason behind the change, but my hopes are that Morgan joins the MLB network (like the ESPN ousted Harold Reynolds) as a color commentator and then hopefully when Miller’s contract expires with the four letter network he’ll join his old partner and we the fans will once again hear baseball’s dynamic duo calling games again.

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Boston Red Sox: What They Should Do at the Corners if Adrain Beltre Leaves

It is expected this offseason that Red Sox third baseman Adrian Beltre will turn down his $10 million player option and opt for free agency.

If he does this, the Red Sox will be without a third baseman.

The team could attempt to re-sign him through free agency, but will have to compete with other teams to do so.

And if Beltre decides to decline a one-year, $10 million option, he might be looking at more money than Boston is willing to deal out.

There is no doubt that last season, Beltre was consistently one of the best players on the Red Sox roster, one that was plagued with injury.

But if the price on Beltre goes too high the Red Sox do have other options.

The one that makes a lot of sense to me would be to sign Adam Dunn and move Kevin Youkilis over to third.

Sure, you lose a little bit on the defensive end of the spectrum, but Dunn brings Manny-type power to the plate that could help protect DH David Ortiz (another player the Sox need to re-sign).

Of course, the corners are just one area the Sox need to address this offseason. There were several games in which the bullpen let the team down, and those games they let slip away could have amounted to a playoff berth.

Expect this hot stove season to be a busy one for Boston. Whether the Red Sox are addressing needs or simply trying to block the Yankees, we should see the most action since 2003-2004.

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Washington Nationals: Adam Dunn Files For Free Agency

In maybe the saddest day since the Montreal Expos became the Washington Nationals, first basemen Adam Dunn has filed for free agency.

The franchise’s (only counting the years in D.C.) best-ever hitter wanted to stay with the team.  The powers that be with the Nationals, however, didn’t want to spend the money to keep him.

For a moment let me address ownership.

You are the No. 4 team here in D.C.  The Redskins rank way above all else, then come the Capitals (for now), the lowly Wizards and then you.  The last part might be generous, the D.C. United might draw more attention (I doubt it though).

If you want to move up that latter, and with the Wizards’ struggles it is possible, but you’re going to have to win first.  Stephen Strasburg is out until the very earliest next September so, there go the ticket sales there. 

Bryce Harper is at least two-to-three years away from being able to come up to the MLB level and make a difference.

So what else have you got for the public?

Exactly. If you want to compete with the Phillies and the Mets, you’re going to have to spend money.  You’re in a large market that will sell-out your stadium if you are winning. 

The Capitals are a perfect example of that.  I used to go to Caps games, buy a cheap ticket and walk up to the glass.  Now I’m lucky to even get a ticket, and they’ve added seats this year.

So, Nationals, I’m pleading with you, please rethink letting Dunn walk and sign him, and while you’re at it, kick the tires on Cliff Lee and any other free agent that can help you now and in the future.  Take a page out of the Yankees‘ play book.  There is a reason why they have 27 championships.

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Washington Nationals to Re-Sign Adam Dunn?

In Major League Baseball there is an unwritten rule that you don’t upstage the World Series by announcing trades or free agent signings (a rule ignored by Alex Rodriguez and his agent Scott Boras in 2007).

However, this afternoon I received a quirky email from the Washington Nationals.

It was in regards to their Halloween Pumpkin carving contest. 

The team has already selected three finalists and are asking fans to vote.  The motivation for voting (because honestly you need one when comes to selecting the best carved pumpkin) is a game-worn Adam Dunn Jersey.

To be honest it would be in bad taste to offer a prize from a fan favorite player that you have no intentions of re-signing (but at the same time this is the same franchise that sold millions of Stephen Strasburg jerseys last season and are now switching to new style of jerseys so everyone can repurchase one).

So this prize gives me hope that the Nats will open up their wallets and re-sign the slugger, who, if the price is right, wants to stay aboard this sinking ship of a team (note, I wouldn’t have typed that last line had Strasburg not gotten hurt).

So this may be an unintentional sign from the franchise that they are going to put forth an effort to keep Adam Dunn a National, or they’re just cleaning house on all things Dunn to make room for the bargain basement player they sign to replace him.

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Barry Bonds and the Steroid Era: Revisited With Fresh Eyes

Last night, after I put my son to bed I sat down on my couch with a beer and my dog and began watching The Tenth Inning, the sequel to Ken Burns’s Baseball.

A quick review is that the documentary is fantastic, and if you haven’t seen it yet, find out what channel you’re local PBS is on and check it out.

There was a lovely segment on my Red Sox finally winning the World Series (after 88 years) in 2004, but the segment that really caught my attention was on Barry Bonds‘  chase of Hammerin’ Hank Aaron’s career home run record.

We all now know about baseball’s dirty little secret, the Steroid Era, and we know who most of the culprits were.

But of course, during the early days of the witch hunt, there was really only one name in baseball synonymous with steroids, and that was Barry Bonds.

Like I’ve said, we now know it went much deeper than just Bonds, but it was Bonds who reached for the sun.

Bonds was very much like Icarus, and flew too close, so of course he got burned.

During this era of baseball (which some people like to label a dark time), I was very much on the fence of performance enhancing drugs (PEDs).

Being a former high school ball player, I knew just how difficult it was to hit a baseball.  No matter how big and strong you were, if you didn’t have the hand-eye coordination or the right swing, you weren’t going to hit the ball out of the infield.

Of course that argument falls on deaf ears when it comes to baseball purists. 

You know the type, whether they’re at the game or at home they’re keeping score on their own score card.  You can mention any obscure player or statistic, and they’ll tell you the history of it.

To these folk, PEDs are the ultimate sin.

These were the sports writers who were at Bonds’ locker after every game asking the same question, “Did you use steroids?”

And as soon as the Balco story broke, they were like bloodhounds after a fox in the English country side.

With each home run Bonds drew one more step closer to the immortal Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron, and everyone (except Giants fans) seem to hate him for it.

He would receive racist and threatening mail on a daily basis, as well as the most venomous slanders while playing the field at visiting stadiums.

He even commented on Dodger Stadium, claiming to love playing there, and that one must be really good for 56,000 people to shout “you suck.”

Barry laughed as he said all this, but you could see it in his eyes that he didn’t like any of it.

From his early days with the Pittsburgh Pirates, all the way to the end of his career in 2007 with the Giants, he was always a quiet player, that some labeled as surly and unfriendly with the media, and often he was.

But even when he would go on tangents and claim he didn’t care what people thought of him, you could hear in his voice that he did.  You could tell that he wanted to be liked much like his godfather Willie Mays, but didn’t know how to do it.

And once the Balco scandal broke, he had no chance of ever becoming that type of player.

The scrutiny of Bonds became so great that once he was approaching Hank Aaron’s record, Hammerin’ Hank said he wouldn’t attend the possible record-breaking games, and commissioner Bud Selig said he wasn’t sure if he’d be there—and he wasn’t.

Regardless of what baseball and its purist wanted, it was going to happen.

And unlike Mark McGwire’s and Sammy Sosa’s chase for Roger Maris’ single-season record, which is also now held by Bonds, there was almost no fanfare. 

Unless you lived in San Fransisco, you didn’t care.

Fathers weren’t waking their sons out of bed to witness history, and unlike other memorable sports moments, most people can’t tell you where they were when it happened.  I know I can’t.  Much like Arbor Day, it came and went and no one really noticed.

As I continued watching this account, three years removed, I couldn’t help but feel sympathy for Bonds.

Every question from every reporter seemed like an attack on the man.  Maybe he deserved it for using PEDs, but at the same time I can’t help but wonder if Bonds was just some middle infielder not chasing Ruth and Aaron would he be getting this treatment?

Or, if he were a more lovable player with the attitude of say a Cal Ripken Jr. or Ken Griffey Jr., even with the Balco scandal, would he still be getting such flack?

Honestly, I think no.

Bonds was the perfect personification of what people didn’t like about the steroid era of baseball.

Bonds kept to himself and would often become testy with reporters, especially after a loss, and he just made it easy to root against him.  I dare think had he not been such a talented baseball player, he could have made a great career as a heel in pro wrestling.

Now that we seem to be on the upswing from the steroid era (only Jose Bautista has hit more that 50 home runs this season) I look on that era with a fresh view.

Baseball, more so than any other American sport, is forever changing.

Since Babe Ruth has played there has been several increases in the number of games played per season, there are West Coast teams now, night games, black, Latino, and Japanese players are now in the game, there have been advances in the way players train, and advances in equipment.

Every single one of those things listed have enhanced the game, and have made it more entertaining to watch.

And isn’t that what baseball, and all sports for that matter, are?  Entertainment?

Until all of the grand juries and Congressional hearings, I didn’t hear Bud Selig complain about attendance or all the revenue made by all of the juiced home runs being hit.

In fact, the fans weren’t even complaining.

There are those of us out there who are entertained by a pitching duel, but the vast majority of people out there want to see the long ball.

They want to see players like McGwire and Bonds hit the ball impossibly high and far, they want to see guys hit 50-60 home runs a year and they might pretend they care about steroids, but they honestly don’t.

So what is it that I’m saying?

Are steroids good for baseball?

If you want to talk from a monetary and entertainment stand point, then probably.  The more excitement and the more home runs people see, the more the casual observer is likely to come out to the ballpark.

But if you want to keep the game pure (as if it ever was once money got involved), then probably not.

But then again was baseball ever really pure?

Even in the Golden Era, you had gambling scandals like the Black Sox, one of the all-time greatest hitters, Ty Cobb, was a foul-mouthed racist who purposely sharpened his spikes and cleated players.

You had a league that purposely kept black players out, and Saint Ruth was also a womanizing, beer-swilling buffoon, that was more like Kenny Powers, than the lovable big man we make him out to be in all those black and white reels.

So, the steroid era seems like a black-eye in baseball now, but like all other eras when we’re so many years removed from it, we’ll forget about all that bad stuff and romanticize about good stuff that happened.

Like the 2004 Red Sox’s unbelievable comeback over the Yankees, the amazing run by the Colorado Rookies to the 2007 World Series, the farewell of maybe baseball’s greatest player Ken Griffey Jr.

Those are the things that will be remembered 20 years down the road, not the scandals.

Take steroids for what they are.  You either care or you don’t, me I’ll admit I loved seeing all those balls fly out of the park, tradition or no tradition, it was fun to watch.

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Rob Dibble Bounced from Calling Washington Nationals Games

After Rob Dibble made these comments (on his XM Radio show) about Washington Nationals rookie phenom Stephen Strasburg—”Okay, you throw a pitch, it bothers your arm, and you immediately call out the manager and the trainer? Suck it up, kid”—it was conveniently announced that he was on vacation.

Most in the D.C. media, most notably Dan Steinberg of The Washington Post (who seemed to have a weekly article about Dibble), speculated that was the beginning of the end of his color commentary days with the Nats.

Well, yesterday it became official. With one year and one month left on his three-year contract, Dibble was relieved of his commentary duties for MASN.

The former Cincinnati Reds pitcher had a mixed bag of fans and critics while with the Nationals.

Me personally, I was a huge fan. He made watching games fun, especially last year.

When the Nats were getting drummed for 10 runs before the fifth, the only reason to tune in (if you were rooting for the Nats) was to hear what Dibble was going to say.

He simply spoke his mind. Where most of us have a little inner voice that warns us that what we’re going to say might not be bright, Dibble does not or has simply learned to ignore it.

That is the kind of color commentator the Nationals need—well, at least until next September, when Strasburg returns from Tommy John surgery.

Much like the second half of this season, the Nats probably aren’t going to be watchable. They are going to have some good games here and there, but I’m predicting a lot of blowouts.

As a fan I’ll still catch a couple of games at the stadium, but with the firing of Dibble I might just protest MASN’s coverage of the team.

All kidding aside, the guy was fired for expressing an opinion, which given the severity of Strasburg’s injury was wrong, but an opinion nonetheless that wasn’t even on a Nats broadcast.

He’s a former pitcher who many times pitched through pain. Now granted, what happened to Strasburg was more than just a pull or a cramp, but at the time of Dibble’s comments he didn’t know that.

I’ve heard former players (of all sports) say things on nationally broadcasted television that were worse than what Dibble said, and they didn’t even get a public warning.

The way the Nats are coddling Strasburg is getting kind of ridiculous. Yes, he’s the face of the franchise, and yes, (if healthy) he has the talent to help lead this ball club to the postseason, but as the face of the franchise he’s going to be criticized, and most of it will come from the local media.

My warning to Nats management is don’t become like Dan Snyder. He’s a pariah among many members of the D.C. media because of his sensitiveness to comments about him or the team.

If you keep firing people or reprimanding them for criticizing Strasburg (or in the future Bryce Harper), you’ll replace Snyder as the most despised person in D.C. sports.

Loyal reader, I’ll close with this: Dibble is right; Strasburg needs to man up. While recovering from surgery, learn to pitch with your left arm…pansy!

Just kidding—get well soon kid, and we’ll miss you Dibble (at least I will). 

Wait! One last thing: How awesome would it have been to have Dibble calling that brawl last night between the Nats and the Marlins? I’m just saying is all.

For more of this, follow me on Twitter @jomac006.

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Stephen Strasburg May Need Tommy John Surgery

Just when things were beginning to look up for the Washington Nationals it is being reported (via twitter) on ESPN 980 in Washington D.C. that Stephen Strasburg has a significant ligament tear in his right elbow and may need Tommy John surgery.

Tommy John surgery or ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) reconstruction is where a ligament in the elbow is replaced by a tendon from the patient’s forearm.

In the past this would almost spell the end of a pitching career or hamper it.

However, the full recovery rate from this surgery is now between 85 and 92 percent.

That is indeed good news for Strasburg and the Nationals, but the bad news is that full recovery takes about one year.  So any hopes of a Strasburg-lead run at the postseason might have to be put off until 2012.

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Stephen Strasburg Needs To Be Shut Down for the Season

Here we are in late August and it is to no one’s surprise that the Washington Nationals are once again cellar dwellers with no shot at the post season.

However, unlike last year they’ve played a lot better, have gotten several big time wins against strong opponents and with the pitching of rookie phenom Stephen Strasburg and the signing of Bryce Harper there is hope that by this time next year the team will be competing for a play off spot.

With that said Strasburg’s pitching arm is once again causing him pain.  A month ago it was his shoulder that landed him on the disabled list (DL) and now his forearm may cause him to miss his schedule start on Thursday.

Instead of him missing a start or another trip to the DL the Nats should just shut him down for the rest of the season.

Sure when he pitches he packs the house, but there is way too much invested in him to blow out his arm in his rookie season.  The team isn’t playing for anything so why risk the future?

I can’t think of one plausible answer the Nats or their coaching staff could give that would warrant sending him out to the mound one more time this season.

Simply just pat him on the back and say “Nice job kid,” and that’s that.

The franchise finally has more up side than down and shouldn’t gamble that just for ticket receipts.

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