Red Sox advance to ALCS with 3-1 defeat of Rays

23 Comments

Boston will play for the American League pennant.

Jake Peavy yielded just one run over 5 2/3 innings and the Red Sox offense managed a couple of key hits to dismiss the Rays from the 2013 postseason mix with a 3-1 defeat in Game 4 of the ALDS on Tuesday night at Tampa Bay’s Tropicana Field.

Peavy had a 12.10 career postseason ERA entering his Game 4 start and had the look of a man wanting redemption. He walked none, struck out three and surrendered only five hits before being lifted in the bottom of the sixth. The veteran righty was outwardly confused and frustrated by that early hook — he had thrown only 74 pitches — but lefty Craig Breslow entered the game and fanned the first four batters he faced in dominant fashion. Red Sox relievers Junichi Tazawa and Koji Uehara were also excellent in the eighth and ninth innings to preserve Boston’s big win.

The Red Sox drove Rays starter Jeremy Hellickson from the game in the second inning after loading the bases with no outs but came away with no runs. It wasn’t until the seventh inning — on a Joel Peralta wild pitch — that the Sox finally scored. A second run in that seventh frame on a Shane Victorino infield single pushed the American League East champions ahead of the AL Wild Card-winning Rays for good.

Dustin Pedroia added some insurance when he drove in Xander Bogaerts on a sac fly in the ninth.

The Red Sox get to play spectator for Thursday’s decisive Game 5 between the Tigers and Athletics in Oakland. The winner of that Tigers vs. A’s game will face Boston in the ALCS for a trip to the World Series.

Mark Lerner says Nationals can’t afford both Anthony Rendon and Stephen Strasburg

Rob Tringali/MLB Photos via Getty Images
1 Comment

The defending champion Washington Nationals may have to replace two star players in third baseman Anthony Rendon and starter Stephen Strasburg as both are free agents. Both are represented by agent Scott Boras and both are expected to command lucrative contracts. As a result, Nationals managing principal owner Mark Lerner said the club can’t afford to bring back both players, Todd Dybas of NBC Sports Washington reports.

Lerner told Donald Dell in an interview, “We really can only afford to have one of those two guys. They’re huge numbers. We already have a really large payroll to begin with.”

As Dybas notes, there are myriad reasons why Lerner would say this publicly. If Lerner had instead said, “Yeah, we’re filthy stinking rich, especially coming off of a World Series win. We could afford to get every free agent if we wanted to,” then the Nationals would have no leverage in negotiations. Creating artificial scarcity increases the Nationals’ leverage when negotiating with Boras and his clients. And as Dybas also points out, Lerner’s statement also prepares fans for an unsatisfactory outcome not unlike when the club took itself out of the running to bring back outfielder Bryce Harper earlier this year. This not to say Lerner’s statement is justified; it’s just how things work in the current system.

Lerner also defended the Nationals’ approach to free agency. He said, “They think you’re really back there printing money and it’s whoever goes to the highest bidder. It’s not that way at all. You give these fellas — there’s a negotiation that goes on, but…We’ve been pretty successful in free agency over time. You’re not going to get everybody. Certain players may want to go home, closer to where their home is. You never know the reason why people move on. But, we’ve been very successful. Probably one of the most successful teams in free agency the last 10 years. We’re very proud of our record. But, again, I think people have to realize, it’s not all up to us.”

It is true that the Nationals have been one of the most active teams in free agency in recent years. In a league that has otherwise done the opposite, they deserve some credit for that. But the Nationals are also keenly aware of the competitive balance tax threshold, which teams use as a de facto salary cap. They don’t have to, but they choose to because it’s a convenient structure that allows them to limit expenditures.

At the end of the day, it’s baseball’s financial structure that is rotten. It forces constant misinformation out of everyone’s mouths so as to protect their financial interests and leverage, and incentivizes teams to value profits above all. In a perfect world, MLB team owners wouldn’t need to cry poor every offseason, but we don’t live in such a world.