Ben Cherington and the Red Sox are in a tough spot

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If you stink, you sell. If you’re doing great, you buy. But Ben Cherington and the Red Sox are sort of screwed at the moment when it comes to trying to figure out what to do at the deadline:

“When we look at where we are in the standings, I guess particularly the teams that are right ahead of us in the wild card chase, we don’t believe that any of those teams are better than us, or necessarily more talented than us … We’re 49-50. We feel this is as good a team as the other teams that are sort of clustered right ahead of us. We also have to be mindful that you have two months left and we’ve dug ourselves a little bit of a hole, and we’ve got to be smart about giving up too many long-term assets to try to get a little better the next two months.”

That comes from an interview he gave to WEEI this morning, which contains a ton of stuff about the conversations the Red Sox have had and haven’t had leading up to the deadline.

I get what Cherington is saying about the talent of the team. But I guess I can’t help but focus on that “cluster” he refers to. There are seven teams ahead of them in the wild card standings. It’s a close cluster — 4.5 games separating them all — but it’s the case that not only do the Sox have to improve, but a lot of teams have to stumble.  It’s hard to count on that.

 

Cardinals encourage players not to hide injuries

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In Major League Baseball, players are routinely pressured to play through injury and pain. Sometimes it’s just a minor ache, and sometimes it’s a very serious injury. The pressure comes from everywhere: the players themselves, their peers, coaches, front offices, media, and fans. Players who develop a reputation for landing on the disabled list are described as “soft” and “fragile.” Players who battle through the pain get talked about as “gritty” and “dedicated.”

Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that the Cardinals are trying to encourage their players to be more honest about their health. The culture surrounding this is tough to change, but manager Mike Matheny wants his players to come to him if “anything that is off.” As Goold notes, Alex Reyes and Matt Bowman revealed they were, in Bowman’s words, not “entirely forthcoming.” Carlos Martinez said he pitched tentatively because he was “scared” of re-injuring himself. Matheny also called pitcher Michael Wacha “a great liar” when talking about his arm health.

Matt Carpenter has also played through injury and takes pride in it. He’s an example of the old mentality the club is trying to pierce through. Caarpenter said, “I’m a believer in if you’re getting paid to do a job and you’re capable of doing the job — even if it’s 85 percent of your best — I feel you have the obligation to be out there. That is the mentality I’ve always used. I could have very easily, at times last year, sat on the [disabled list], but I felt like I could still go out and do my job.”

Goold points out that players approach dealing with health issues differently depending on where they’re at in their careers. A young player who just got called up has pressure to stay in the big leagues and appear in games, so he may not want to address a health issue. A player who has already secured a multi-year contract may have less pressure on him and thus may be more willing to come to the trainer’s room.

I’ve long believed that player health will be the next arena in which front offices will separate themselves from the pack. Analytics had been that battleground for a while, but with every club now having an analytics department in some capacity, front offices will have to find value in new ways. Limiting the amount of time that players miss due to injury would be a significant boost for a team and it will start with players being forthcoming about what’s bothering them rather than trying to fight through pain.