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Ben Cherington: Red Sox ‘still talking’ to Mike Napoli 01.10.13 at 7:23 pm ET
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Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington was a guest of WEEI’s Hot Stove Show Thursday night. Cherington was asked if there was any news regarding the status of free agent first baseman Mike Napoli, who agreed to terms on a three-year deal with the club in early December but has yet to sign the contract as concerns surfaced after the 31-year-old underwent the Red Sox’ physcial examination.

“No, there’s nothing to update,” Cherington said. “We’re, I think as everyone knows, one of our goals this offseason was to add offense at first base. We haven’t been able to really do that officially yet. We’re still talking and when you’re talking, there’s hope for a resolution. But nothing to report right now. … We have had dialogue [with Napoli]. It’s one of those situations, out of respect to Mike and the process, I’m not going to get into detail. Whenever we’re talking and there’s dialogue, it means we’re hopeful of being able to do something but we just don’t know yet. We’ll see how it plays out.”

Cherington was asked if the Red Sox have explored other options at first base. The club reportedly showed interest in Lance Berkman prior to his agreeing with Texas on a one-year, $10 million deal.

“Until something is done, you have to consider other options so we’ve had to do that and we’ve continued to consider other ways to improve the team, whether it’s at first base, or elsewhere,” Cherington said. “At this point, we just haven’t found anything that made sense to us in the sort of big picture. So that’s where we are. There’s no one particular player that’s available or not available that would have changed the course of our offseason. We’re just examining and evaluating things as they come. Certainly when you have a position you’re trying to improve on, until it’s improved upon, you have to continue to consider other options. It’s fair to say as you sort of get deeper into the winter, the free agents start to go off the board. You can look at trades and other ways to do things. It remains a focus. We’re still hoping we can do something to improve ourselves in that area before we get to Fort Myers.”

For more Red Sox news, visit the team page at weei.com/redsox.

Three Thoughts on Hall of Fame Results 01.09.13 at 4:09 pm ET
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Roger Clemens fell well short in his first year on the Hall of Fame ballot. (AP)

Three thoughts on the Hall of Fame results as a nation demands to know just one answer: Who voted for Aaron Sele?

1. The steroid guys … Roger Clemens (37.6%) and Barry Bonds (36.2%) had significantly stronger first years on the ballot than Mark McGwire (23.5% in 2007) and Rafael Palmeiro (11.0% in 2011), which is I suppose is not a stunner, given where they rank in baseball history and the presumption that both were Hall of Famers before the PED stuff, as difficult as that is to prove. To that end Sammy Sosa — fair or not, defined as a product of steroids — received 12.5 percent this year, his first year of eligibility. McGwire had his worst year of support, receiving 16.9 percent, and Palmeiro his worst year, just 8.8 percent (very likely he’ll get less than the five percent needed to stay on the ballot next year). This is where the logic of voters simply eludes me — McGwire admitted he took steroids before his first year on the ballot, right? So if you voted for him at that point, what exactly has changed and why has his support slipped? It’ll be interesting to track Clemens and Bonds over the next couple of years and see if voters remain loyal or if they follow McGwire and Palmeiro. My guess? They’ll continue to slowly move up. Voters (not all of them, which is why I don’t think either will ever get to 75%) are going to get more and more comfortable voting in Clemens and Bonds, it’ll just feel safer than McGwire, Sosa and Palmeiro. And there is the one-year protest element at work here (which is of course dopey and proves nothing, either vote for them or don’t), expect both to have a fairly healthy jump next year.

2. There is zero statistical proof — none — that would lead you to conclude that Jack Morris was a better pitcher than Curt Schilling. ERA, winning percentage, ERA+, WHIP, strikeouts, Black Ink, WAR, postseason numbers — all Schilling and all Schilling handily. Seasons with an ERA under 3.30: Schilling eight, Morris three. Seasons with a WHIP under 1.10: Schilling eight, Morris none (Morris never had a season with a WHIP as good as Schilling’s career number of 1.14.) Actually, Morris has one edge — career wins (Morris 254, Schilling 216). That’s it — 38 wins. And evidently that mattered a great deal to the voters, since Morris finished with 385 votes (67.7%) to 221 (38.8%) for Schilling. Morris is really close to the 75 percent needed but has to deal with Greg Maddux (and it’s amazing to think he won’t get 100 percent of the votes, but statements need to be made) Tom Glavine and Mike Mussina all debuting on the ballot in 2014, the 15th and final year for Morris. This was a solid first year for Schilling, better than Morris did in five of his first six seasons and Bert Blyleven in his first seven years on the ballot, two recent borderline guys. Schilling’s finish this year does nothing to dissuade my belief that he will eventually (and deservedly) be elected.

3. Worst ballot? My choice would be Jill Painter of the Los Angeles Daily News. She voted for Biggio and Edgar Martinez (both should be in, Biggio will get in next year or 2015 but Martinez will not, which is really a shame. If Jim Rice is in the Hall of Fame there has to be a spot for Martinez), Bernie Williams (not worthy, but not an embarrassment), Kenny Lofton (same as Williams) but somehow thought that Shawn Green earned a vote. Shawn Green. She did not vote for Tim Raines, Curt Schilling, Alan Trammell, Jeff Bagwell, Mike Piazza or Larry Walker but voted for Green. Oe of the reasons, she explained on Twitter, was that Green did a “ton for the Jewish community.” Also she pointed to his single-game total bases record, his one Gold Glove and the fact that he scored over 1,000 runs, which only 318 players in baseball history can claim (Green is only one run behind Gary Gaetti on the all-time list). How can you take her even semi-seriously after that? And I’m almost OK with the occasional token vote for a player someone might like personally, but can we at least make sure it’s only done if every eligible player clearly better is also on his/her ballot?

Read More: Craig Biggio, Curt Schilling Barry Bonds, hall of fame, Roger Clemens
Opinion: Time to shut down Daniel Bard 09.20.12 at 7:33 am ET
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Daniel Bard struggled again for Pawtucket on Tuesday. (AP)

Daniel Bard struggled again in Tampa on Wednesday. (AP)

Over the last year, has any player in this city been the subject of more questions than Daniel Bard?

After being so dominant for much of 2011 — zero runs allowed in June and July — why did he fall off a cliff in playing a lead role in the biggest collapse in baseball history last September?

With no Jonathan Papelbon, did Bard have the demeanor (whatever that means) to be a closer?

Starter or reliever?

Who made the decision to make Bard a starter? Was it Cherington, Lucchino, Valentine, Bob McClure (this is still all his fault, right?) or was it actually led by Bard?

What happened to his fastball? Why is it 92, 93 MPH when it used to be 98, 99 MPH?

When are the Sox going to yank him from the rotation and put him back in the eighth-inning role?

His final start of the season — and you have to think it’ll be the last start he ever makes — was a meltdown in Toronto (five runs, six walks, two batters hit in 1.2 IP against the Blue Jays on June 3) that sent him to Pawtucket and led many if not most to ask: Is Daniel Bard ever going to be the same?

Why was there zero improvement in Pawtucket (7.03 ERA, 1.88 WHIP in 32 IP, including an appearance in Charlotte that saw Bard face six batters, giving up a single, recorded a fly out, walked a batter, hit a batter and then walking the next two before being yanked. Twenty-six pitches, nine strikes.)?

Why, on August 20 — after a stretch that saw him walk 12 batters over his prior six appearances in Pawtucket– did Cherington tell us that Bard would definitely be promoted this season?

And now, after allowing three runs and three walks in a third of an inning in the sixth inning of Wednesday night’s 13-3 loss to the Rays, Bard has a 24.33 ERA since being recalled from Pawtucket. He spent three months in Triple-A to “work things out” and returned exactly the same pitcher we saw in Toronto on June 3.

Which leads, inevitably, to more questions.

Is Daniel Bard ruined? Can this career be salvaged? And how badly have the Sox bungled the entire process?

It’s uncomfortable at best to see Bard struggle like this. Even those who strongly advocated against moving Bard out of the bullpen and into the rotation (Full Disclosure: I was for the move, figured a potential No. 2 or No. 3 starter under club control was tougher to find than a top reliever, or at least more valuable) could never have imagined the worst-case scenario occuring, but here we are.

There’s still time to re-write the ending, of course, but if you somehow stumbled over to NESN on Wednesday and watched Bard throw 16 hopeless pitches (four strikes) you saw Steve Blass, you saw Rick Ankiel. That’s the reality of the situation with Bard, who was one of the half dozen best relief pitchers in baseball 13 months ago.

Probably everything seemed real easy when things were good. But now Bard is as lost as a pitcher can be, buried in the weeds with seemingly no way out. Each time he seems to hit bottom — Toronto, Charlotte, Wednesday night — there is another disaster looming, another confirmation that there is every reason to doubt if this will ever be a major-league pitcher again, forget an elite one.

I understand the Sox are in a tough spot with Bard here. They want his season to end on something that looks like progress, and Wednesday doesn’t exactly qualify. But it’s time to shut Bard down, let his miserable season finally end. There is zero benefit to dragging him out two or three times over the last 12 games. None. We’ve seen the evidence, we have a sample size. I have no idea if shutting him down will reap long-term benefits. It might not. But I know the solution isn’t pitching him again this season.

Let it end, at least for now. Hope he can figure it out in the offseason, hope something clicks, even hope there is some injury that surfaces that explains the staggering loss of velocity and control. At least it would help solve the biggest mystery of 2012 for the Red Sox, no small feat with this bunch.

What has happened to Daniel Bard?

Opinion: Jason Varitek would be wrong choice to replace Bobby Valentine 08.18.12 at 10:00 am ET
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Jason Varitek was a three-time All-Star with the Sox.

Jason Varitek was a three-time All-Star with the Sox.

Is there any chance Bobby Valentine is back next season as manager of the Red Sox?

Don’t focus on whether or not he deserves to be back, or if he was given a fair shot, or which players despise him and tried to get him fired at that meeting in New York and just ask yourself this: Can you envision a scenario — short of a miracle run to the playoffs, which really isn’t going to happen — which has Bobby Valentine in Fort Myers next February ready to begin his second year with the Sox?

Impossible. It’s not going to happen. One and done. Too much baggage and not nearly enough success. It’s a shame that these mutinous, underachieving and enabled players will get what they want, but that’s life in professional sports in 2012.

And, ultimately, Valentine was toast when he criticized Kevin Youkilis in April. Dustin Pedroia ripped him and Ben Cherington (think he’ll get to pick the next guy?) backed the player, not his manager. And instead of being the Bobby Valentine we were being sold by Larry Lucchino when he was hired — the anti-Francona, not afraid to make comfortable guys uncomfortable — he apologized, surrendered without a fight. From that point on it was over, he was managerially castrated. That was his chance to show that this was his team and he blew it.

So now the obvious question is beginning to kick around — who’s next? Who will be the third Sox manager in three seasons?

Well, Joel Sherman of the New York Post weighed in on the topic Friday and made the case for Jason Varitek (as have others in recent days):

“We can say the Red Sox players need to look in the mirror and not the manager’s office for the problem,” Sherman writes. “But the reality is this core is coming back again next season and, if that is the case, the Red Sox are going to need to find someone who commands instant respect and who can begin to re-establish sanctity and sanity within what has become a Wild West baseball setting. Varitek should have that immediately with this group because it is so familiar with his preparation, professionalism and sturdiness as a teammate. … Varitek fits the mold of someone you believe could blend leadership, seriousness of purpose and the ability to communicate with today’s players. He also has institutional memory of when the Red Sox were a model franchise and not a group ready to turn each manager into “Shark Week” chum.”

Makes some sense, right? Varitek absolutely has “future manager” written all over him, should he decide to pursue that position in the future. Don’t know if he’ll be any good at it, impossible to predict, but it wouldn’t shock me at all if he’s the manager of the Red Sox one day.

But it would make no sense — none — for that to be in 2013.

The climate needs to change. We all agree on this. An outsider — the right outsider, not one brought in because he’s cheap and will create a buzz — is a must. And one season removed does not make Jason Varitek an outsider. He’s the ultimate insider, tied into this team as much as any figure over the last decade. Varitek debuted with the Sox in September of 1997 and played his last game on September 25, 2011. He’s part of the culture of this team, good and bad.In fact, it’s not hard to argue that Varitek created part of this culture.

Clearly, Varitek was a terrific leader for most of his career. But let’s be fair, there are often things edited when the former captain is lavished with praise. It seems to me that people — Sherman included — forget that Varitek was in the clubhouse all of September last year. The collapse — and all that was happening behind the scenes — was going on under his captaincy, under his watch.

And the idea that all is wrong with Beckett and Lester and Lackey will suddenly be cured if Varitek takes over Valentine’s office is absurd, of course. Beckett had lousy seasons (and good ones, to be fair) with Varitek on the roster. John Lackey was the worst pitcher in baseball last year, and Varitek caught some of those hideous starts. The solution isn’t that simple.

Plus there’s this: It’s just too soon. You want to put him on the staff, make him a bench coach, get his post-playing career started? Sure. I get that. But  Sherman brings up the success of Robin Ventura and Mike Matheny, first-year managers in cities where they played, when advocating a possible Varitek hire, which doesn’t work. Ventura retired in 2004 and last played for the White Sox in 1998 and Matheny played his last game for the Cardinals in 2004. If Varitek managed the Sox in 2018 — when almost all of these guys will be gone — that could work. But almost every player in that current locker room would look at Varitek as a teammate, not a manager. And Varitek has made his affection for Beckett and Lester and Lackey plenty clear.

He’s lousy casting as the guy to come in fix things, if only because he was around and did nothing when it started to go wrong.

A different look at Johnny Pesky 08.13.12 at 9:11 pm ET
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“Are athletes special people? In general, no, but occasionally, yes. Johnny Pesky at 75 was trim, youthful, optimistic, and practically exploding with energy.”

– Bill James

Johnny Pesky was a lot of things.

In no order — manager, announcer, Navy veteran, husband, Halberstam subject, baseball lifer, father, storyteller and part of the Greatest Generation.

There are other people who knew Johnny Pesky far better than I did who will no doubt write wonderful stories about his life and times over the next couple of days, filled with anecdotes from Sox players over the last 60 years. I suggest you find those stories and read them — and here’s hoping Pesky will be the subject of the first column of Bob Ryan’s next chapter with the Globe.

Instead I wanted to take a look at Johnny Pesky the player. Look, the Pink Hats looked at Pesky as a mascot, or the lovable grandfather of Wally the Green Monster, and I get why. The man retired in 1954, the same year Dennis Eckersley was born. For some, it’s hard to imagine, I suppose, that when John Michael Paveskovich (changed his name legally in 1947) would shuffle out for a standing ovation or throw out a first pitch over the last decade or two that this was once a great baseball player.

But he was. Talk to his teammates — and look at the numbers — and this becomes clear in a hurry.

“He could really put that ball in play — his first three years he had over 200 hits,” said former pitcher Boo Ferriss, who played with Pesky from 1946-50, from his Mississippi home on Monday night. “That’s an incredible record, to do that before and after the Navy. He usually hit second, Ted [Williams] hitting third in the lineup. He was an on-base guy for Ted. He didn’t steal a while lot of bases, because that would leave first base open for Ted. But he could really just spray that ball around, went with the pitch.”

As a 22-year-old rookie in 1942, Pesky led the American League with 205 hits, was sixth in runs scored with 105 — he scored at least 100 runs in each of his first six seasons — was second to Williams with a .331 batting average and was third in MVP voting, behind Joe Gordon and Williams (who got absolutely screwed — Gordon had a perfectly representable season but Williams had 18 more homers, 34 more RBI, hit 34 points higher, slugged 157 points higher and scored 53 more runs) for a team that won 92 games. His one screaming flaw that season? Strikeouts. Pesky set a career high that year with 36.

That’s right, 36 times in 686 plate appearances. That’s a month for Jarrod Saltalamacchia (more on Pesky’s absurd K/BB numbers later).

The Rookie of the Year Award wasn’t introduced until 1947 (when just one was given out, the AL and NL each got winners in 1949) but Pesky almost certainly would have been a blowout winner in 1942. It stands as one of the great debut seasons in major-league history, right next to Fred Lynn and Ichiro and Dwight Gooden and Albert Pujols and Mike Trout. This was looking an awful lot like the start of a Hall of Fame career.

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Opinion: Sox fans right to boo Josh Beckett 08.01.12 at 11:09 am ET
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Josh Beckett has a 4.54 ERA this season. (AP)

Josh Beckett has a 4.54 ERA this season. (AP)

This time, the fans got it right.

As a rule, you shouldn’t boo an injured player. You know that, I know that, and the (alleged) sellout crowd at Fenway Park knows that.

But this is different.

The fans weren’t really booing Josh Beckett for leaving Tuesday night’s game with back spasms. It was a terrific excuse at the perfect time. They were booing Josh Beckett for last September, booing Josh Beckett for coming back this season and never acknowledging that he was a significant player in the collapse and all that followed, booing Josh Beckett for being a mediocre pitcher this season, a season that has defined Beckett every bit as much as 2007, booing Josh Beckett for playing golf after missing a start with an injury, booing Josh Beckett for being out of shape last season and looking out of shape this season, booing Josh Beckett for “We get 18 off days a year,” booing Josh Beckett for making $15 million (though to be fair, I’m pretty sure he didn’t go into Theo Epstein‘s office with a gun and a $68 million contract) and booing Josh Beckett for still being in Boston after the trade deadline, which also gave them a chance to boo Ben Cherington and Larry Lucchino.

Beckett was the face (or chins) of the collapse last year, and he’s still the face of a team that — even with a four-game winning streak — is a whopping two games over .500 on Aug. 1. The underachiever on a hugely underachieving team. Maybe this team will keep winning and winning and prove all of us wrong. Who knows? But if it doesn’t, and Beckett continues his individual duel of lousy starts vs. DL stints, nothing will change.

And we’re told that Beckett doesn’t care what we think, that, to paraphrase the late and very great Gore Vidal, beneath Beckett’s cold exterior, once you break the ice, you find cold water. OK. He’s not going to apologize for who he is and why he does (or doesn’t do) what he does. Stubborn, prideful, all that. Got it. And I think, for the most part, Beckett has been given a free pass around here. His managers (with Bobby Valentine every bit as guilty as Terry Francona), pitching coaches, front office, fellow pitchers (and doesn’t it just seem so wrong to see John Lackey in the dugout every night?) and, yes, the media all have played a role in enabling Beckett. And the fans are done with it. That’s what you heard Tuesday night.

And spare me the idea that fans in Boston should know better than to boo an injured player. No kidding. But this is an outlier. If Felix Doubront or Clay Buchholz or Alfredo Aceves or any other pitcher on the roster — Jon Lester included — left the game with a back injury, no one would boo. And if Josh Beckett had blown out his knee or broke an ankle and was carried off the field, no one would have booed.

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Read More: Bobby Valentine, Josh Beckett,
Opinion: Time for Terry Francona to move on 07.30.12 at 11:54 am ET
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Terry Francona managed the Sox for eight years. (AP)

Terry Francona managed the Sox for eight years. (AP)

Terry Francona is better than this, isn’t he?

Look, we all get it. We really do. Francona is still Level 5 pissed about all that happened last year — the failure of ownership to pick up his options during the season, agreeing to play along with the idea that his exit was a mutual decision and not a firing, and of course the natural suspicion that Someone Upstairs was one of the leaks to Bob Hohler. He was embarrassed, his reputation was injured, and no one in ownership (particularly the now-reclusive John Henry) jumped, walked or even raised a finger at the chance to publicly defend the character of the most successful manager in franchise history.

Yup, no checks were bounced, no contracts were violated. Understood. The Red Sox paid Terry Francona millions and millions of dollars to manage a baseball team until they didn’t want him to manage anymore. It happens all the time. But let’s be fair: Lots of times we don’t know who is right and who is wrong but not on this one. Ownership v. Francona is a battle the Sox will never win. And, at 51-51 with chaos rife in the organization — you can’t handle things worse than the Sox did with Carl Crawford on Saturday, total amateur hour — Francona looks better every single day. I had no problem with Francona losing his job last year for all the reasons that have been laid out a million times, but I think we all, on July 30, now know that last September wasn’t really Francona’s fault.

And that’s why I was stunned to read about Francona walking into the Sox locker room at Yankee Stadium on Saturday afternoon, pulling up a chair and holding court with a dozen or so players as if the last nine months had never happened. Bizarre at best, calculated and fueled by revenge at its worst.

Listen, obviously there are occasionally familiar faces in the clubhouse before games. But this isn’t Kevin Millar or Sean Casey or Nomar Garciaparra. Francona is hugely popular with a significant voting block on that team, many if not most of whom aren’t thrilled with the guy who took Francona’s job. Also, there’s the very public matter of serious acrimony between ownership and Francona, and that’s not in the past tense. There have been recent tales of more phone calls unanswered and disrespect and confusion and promises broken and all the drama that has made for thousands of hours of hideous country music over the years.

Francona is clearly affected by this, understandably. He’s hurt. But it’s time to stop, to stop talking about his feelings to the media, to stop making a case that has already been judged and rendered many times over. We get it, there’s no new ground to cover. You’ve won and it’s not even close. No one thinks the owners are right on this. Quit while you’re ahead.

But it seems he can’t do that. Don’t be confused, what Francona did on Saturday was done only to symbolically give ownership the middle finger. He put Valentine in a terrible position, made him look weak (he sent Valentine a text message to apologize the next day) in front of players who don’t mind Valentine looking weak. It was a power play that was completely unnecessary, a bully move made out of frustration for allowing himself to be bullied. When you get divorced, you lose the right to go back into your old house, put your feet up and have control of the remote.

Terry Francona needs to move on. He’s not going to get an apology from John Henry or Larry Lucchino or Tom Werner. If that was going to happen it would have happened already. If he really doesn’t know who the leak (or leaks) are in the Hohler story, he’s not going to find out from those guys. Fool me once and all of that. Nothing is going to change, and he has to accept it. It’s still OK, I guess, the wounds are still fresh, but how much longer until Francona’s semi-regular pity parties become pathetic?

The moral high ground is a wonderful thing (I’m told). Francona, in the  public eye at least, owns it against Sox ownership. In a perfect world that should be enough, right?

Guess not.

Read More: John Henry, Terry Francona,
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