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Dave Long




Sports Glossary

Cleveland’s Last Pro Title: It happened in December 1964 when the Browns crushed the Colts 27-0. The obvious stars were wide receiver/punter Gary Collins, who burned All-Pro DB Bobby Boyd for three TD passes, and a Browns defensive held that held the high-scoring Colts offense to just 95 passing yards, despite the presence of Johnny Unitas and Lenny Moore, who set a league record by scoring 20 TDs in ’64. The great Jim Brown ran for 114 yards and it was the first of four title game losses to just two wins for the Colts’ 32-year-old coach, Don Shula.  
 
Roger Clemens: All-time Red Sox all-timer now in Hall of Fame purgatory after being named in baseball’s infamous Mitchell Report as a PED user. He says he didn’t do it and forced his way into Congress to say so. They pushed back and said he lied and tried him in court for perjury, where he beat the rap. Since his vote total is going down, that apparently didn’t hold much sway with the voters, leaving him a likely Veterans Committee selection when the steroid glare is gone in about 15 years. 
 
Mo Vaughn: The hit dog who told Sox GM Dan Duquette after he said prove it in his walk year that “the price is going up every day.” And it did by the time he bolted to the Angels, where after two solid years it fizzled, rendering the ROI on the big contract not as good as they wanted. 
 




Decisions loom for Red Sox brass


07/17/14
By Dave Long dlong@hippopress.com



 A year ago the Red Sox were on their way to winning the World Series with a team that didn’t seem nearly talented enough to pull that off. But to their credit they somehow did, after things just seemed to go right at the most crucial moments. Often times things were done by guys whose career stats suggested they couldn’t. But they did, and that’s the magic of sports. 

However, that was then and now the chickens are coming home to roost. Now it’s just the opposite, where the Navas, Carps, Gomes et al. are out of miracles and the team has sunk accordingly. It’s left them 43-52 at the All-Star break and eight games back of Seattle for the final wild card spot, with eight teams to climb over to claim it, so things don’t look good. But since we all remember it took them just one month to blow an 8.5-game wild card lead in 2011, the brass knows it’s not impossible to make up eight games with 2½ months left. And the picture was further complicated by Clay Buchholz pitching great in the final game before the break, showing he may now be  ready to be a factor after being no help in the first half. So what are they to do at the trading deadline that arrives in two weeks — buy or sell? 
Here are some of the factors under consideration as they ponder which it will be when July 31 arrives.
Can They Get What They Need in a Deal? They need not one, but two hitters. And with so many teams still in the wild card race and unwilling to part with good players, it seems unlikely. 
Why Sell? It gives on-the-job training for the likes of Mookie Betts, Christian Vazquez, Brandon Workman, Rubby De La Rosa and others who’ve been coming up from the minors in recent weeks. That lets the brass know who will and won’t be ready to contribute in 2015. It also showcases other young players who could go in off-season trades to get the hitters needed to invigorate the offense in 2015.   
Can You Play With Youngsters And Compete? I look at it this way: They’re not getting it done with the vets, so what do they have to lose? They might catch lightning in a bottle, and if they don’t they’re not any worse off than now. 
How Do You Decide Who Goes? Free agents and guys who won’t be part of the mix next year like Stephen Drew, Jonny Gomes, Jake Peavy, Mike Carp and Edward Mujica are obvious candidates. They either get moved in a deal or get designated for assignment to clear space for those mentioned above. Tougher choices are free agents to be who you want to be part of the 2015 nucleus, like Koji Uehara and Andrew Miller, who would bring something back of value. I’d personally hang on to both and try to sign them. Although another option is to trade them and try to bring them back as free agents. Many say Felix Doubront should go too, but I’d hold on to him for the larger deals that will come in the off-season for hitting, where a lefty starter will have value. So he stays in the bullpen. 
Xander Bogaerts: He’s been the biggest disappointment of the year and more so offensively than defensively. But some of that has been helped by the team screwing with his head by moving him out of shortstop. So, with Stephen Drew’s return a total disaster, they need to put him back at shortstop for the rest of the season to see if he’s the shortstop of the future or not. 
Young Guys Already Here: Will Jackie Bradley Jr. hit enough to benefit from his stellar defense? He seems to be improving offensively, and playing every day against all kinds of pitching will help that. As for Will Middlebrooks, it’s now or never. He either returns from the minors to hit around .270 with 10-plus homers and 35-40 RBI or he’s out of chances. In the unlikely event that happens, he could be moving anyway if Bogaerts doesn’t cut it at short.
Who Plays and Where: That’s what they have to find for Brock Holt and Mookie Betts, who’s a second baseman but with Dustin Pedroia there he’s headed to the outfield. As for Holt, I love him as guy who could get 300 at-bats by filling in all over the field. That gives the bench depth and flexibility. If Middlebrooks does hit, they can see how he can handle first base as well. 
John Lester: He is the biggest question by far, because if the brass is sticking to their unrealistic offer of four years for $80 million, he’s gone to free agency. And don’t for a second believe they can sign him after the year. Has any player who’s gotten that far — Roger Clemens, Mo Vaughn, Johnny Damon, Jacoby Ellsbury — ever re-signed? The answer is no,  so if that’s their stance, Lester should be traded for as much as they can get. 
Contract Flexibility: While the contract flexibility thing worked last year, it can’t be an absolute. You can diddle around with that four-year offer, but you’ll lose the majority of the time because the reality is that true No. 1 starters like Lester command $20 million per year and get seven or eight years on the open market. I don’t like that, because it carries gigantic risk (see CC in NYC), but a No. 1 starter is as important as a quality quarterback is to an NFL contender. So unless you have someone to step in for him, as Andrew Luck did for Peyton Manning in Indy, which they don’t, you have to bite the bullet and count the last two less effective years at the back end as the cost of doing business. Thus they need to get the Lester deal done NOW.
Decision No. 1 is Lester, and all others fall in line after that. 
Email Dave Long at dlong@hippopress.com.
 
As seen in the July 17, 2014 issue of the Hippo.





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