Victor Martinez bails out Terry Francona

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What might get lost in the aftermath of a wild 9th inning rally for the Red Sox is a puzzling decision by Terry Francona. The Boston manager can thank Victor Martinez that he’s not getting hammered in the press today.

To recap, the Sox entered the top of the 9th trailing Texas 4-2. David Ortiz led off with a double and then Jason Varitek followed with an infield single up the middle. Now, watching Varitek run is pretty painful at this point, and had it been anyone else, the second baseman probably would’ve eaten the ball. But he hustled and beat the throw. First and third, no out, down two.
This is where Francona did something strange: he kept Varitek in the game, even though he represented the tying run. Sometimes you see managers wait until a slow runner gets to second base before pinch-running, but that’s in a tie game where the team isn’t staring a loss in the face. Varitek represented a run the Red Sox desperately needed.
Naturally, the next hitter, Jacoby Ellsbury hit a ground ball single up the middle to score Ortiz. But Varitek had no chance of going first-to-third on the play. Would a faster runner have been able to make it to third on the hit? Not definitely, but most likely. After a strikeout, Francona finally pinch-ran for Varitek, but with pitcher Clay Buchholz, a guy who probably hasn’t run the bases since high school.
The next batter, Dustin Pedroia, hit a deep drive to left. Rangers left fielder David Murphy jumped against the wall but couldn’t make the catch. But he got to it quickly and fired it back in, and the relay throw actually nailed Buchholz at home. How is that possible, you ask? Watching Buchholz on the bases, he went halfway when the ball was in the air, then danced back and forth, waiting to see if the ball was caught. When he rounded third, he slipped, and inexplicably adjusted his helmet as it appeared to be falling off. A great throw got him at the plate, and the Sox still trailed by one with two and outs and runners on second and third.
Luckily for Boston, Martinez is an animal, as he ripped a two-strike double to give the Sox the lead. A hit for Jason Bay and a cherry-on-the-top homer from JD Drew put the game away and caused Rangers volatile closer Frank Francisco to tell reporters to “beat it” after the game. At least he didn’t fling a chair at them.
On one hand, the Red Sox won the game, so maybe Francona’s decision-making isn’t worth dissecting. And Pedroia’s hit was a tough play to read, so you can’t get on Buchholz too hard. But we’d love to hear an explanation for waiting to pinch-run for Varitek, and why there wasn’t a more experienced base runner used.

Doesn’t anyone want to sign Edwin Encarnacion?

TORONTO, ON - OCTOBER 19:  Edwin Encarnacion #10 of the Toronto Blue Jays reacts in the fifth inning against the Cleveland Indians during game five of the American League Championship Series at Rogers Centre on October 19, 2016 in Toronto, Canada.  (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
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OXON HILL, MD — Edwin Encarnacion began the offseason as, arguably, the second most desirable free agent on the market. As the Winter Meetings approach their end, however, he is a man without a team. And may not have a team any time soon.

Many teams have been rumored to be checking in on Encarnacion, but the defining trait of his free agency thus far has been clubs taking a pass. The most recent one being the Rangers, who are reported to simply not have the money to sign him, despite him filling a clear offensive need in Texas. Maybe the Rangers would be more competitive on the free agent market if they had a new stadium. Who knows?

The Blue Jays, for whom he most recently played, offered him a four-year, $80 million deal that most figured was a lowball, and when he rejected it, they moved on to Kendrys Morales. The Red Sox acquired Mitch Moreland. The Yankees are reported to be passing. The most recent team linked to Encarnacion is the Indians, who are reported to have an offer out to him, but at this point it’s likely far lower than what most free agent watchers thought he might get a few weeks ago. A four-year, $90 million deal did not seem crazy for him in October. In December, there is speculation that he could be had for $60 million over that same term which, frankly, would be a bargain. That’s less than Mark Melancon, the third best closer on the market, got from the Giants.

There have been a lot of remarkable things that have happened in the past few weeks, but one of the most unexpected things would be one of the top bats in the game getting second-tier closer money.

Late Athletics broadcaster Bill King wins the Ford C. Frick Award

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CSN Bay Area
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OXON HILL, MD — Bill King has been selected as the 2017 recipient of the Ford C. Frick Award, presented annually for excellence in broadcasting by the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

King, one of the iconic voices of Bay Area sports, was known for his handlebar mustache and his signature “Holy Toledo!” exclamation. King broadcast A’s games for 25 seasons, from 1981 through 2005. He likewise broadcast Oakland Raiders and Golden State Warriors games and got his start as an announcer for the Giants in the late 1950s after they moved to San Francisco.

King passed away in October 2005. With the Frick Award, however, he has now been immortalized among baseball broadcasters.