Baseball is drowning, you guys


We all know baseball is circling the drain, ready to shuffle off the mortal coil at any moment. But I always assumed its inevitable demise would be the result of either be old age or blunt force trauma at the hands of football. But drowning? Didn’t see that one coming!

But apparently so, as Rob Bradford’s latest hand-wringing column about the Red Sox makes plain:

This organization will find itself at a crossroads this summer, trying to avoid the kind of ditch even a $200-plus million payroll or shock-and-awe transaction won’t eliminate. If the Red Sox can’t find a way to remain in contention for something — anything – they’ll be in danger of drowning in the kind of apathy their entire sport is desperately flailing to avoid.

Two swimmers sinking and I’m only one lifeguard, so I’ll make the hard choice to let baseball tread water a bit and talk about the Red Sox.

This structure of this column may look familiar to some of you. It’s the once-ubiquitous-but-now-rarely-seen “[team] must remain relevant!” column. You used to see them all the time in New York when people would make it clear that the Yankees can’t just be decent, they must be relevant. Whatever the hell that means. So too with the Red Sox, I guess:

But here’s the reality: the Red Sox organization is playing for something almost as pressing as titles. They’re playing for relevance.

To be clear, like Moe Greene said in The Godfather, we’re talking business. This isn’t about the baseball side of things, which is so broken, there’s no easy fix. Instead, let’s take a hard look at what the Red Sox truly have to lose.

What follows is not so much about wins or losses. It’s not even about revenues so much despite a citation to past financial concerns of Sox’ ownership cited in a nine-year-old book. It’s about those hard-to-quantify-but-easy-to-columnify concepts like the team’s “brand” or fan “apathy.” Concepts about which we should be deeply, deeply concerned despite the fact that the Red Sox have sold nearly 95% of their tickets this year — third behind only the Giants and Cardinals — and stand at fifth in average per-game attendance despite having the fourth smallest capacity in the bigs.

And, more importantly, despite the fact that the Red Sox’ “brand” in New England is, you know, damn strong. Despite the fact that, if anything, the Red Sox built their brand on futility for, oh, eight decades and still had passionate fan support and always will.

At any rate, this kind of quasi-“too big too fail” talk was tiresome when it was about the Yankees. It’s just as much if not more tiresome when it’s the Red Sox. Sports teams win. Sports teams lose. Attendance goes up and down some, but a city like Boston’s love for the Sox isn’t going to disappear. And I think their brand will be OK if it has a rough patch. Even if columnists fret otherwise.

Trevor Bauer pulls on No. 96 for Yokohama’s BayStars

Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images

YOKOHAMA, Japan – Trevor Bauer apparently was shunned by every major league team, so he’s signed a one-year deal with the Yokohama DeNA BayStars.

Before about 75 reporters in a Yokohama hotel, he slipped on the BayStars uniform – No. 96 – on Friday and said all the right things. Not a single Japanese reporter asked him about his suspension in the United States over domestic violence allegations or the reasons surrounding it.

The only question about it came from The Associated Press. Bauer disputed the fact the question suggested he was suspended from the major leagues.

“I don’t believe that’s accurate,” he said of the suspension. “But I’m excited to be here. I’m excited to pitch again. I’ve always wanted to play in Japan.”

He said the suspension dealt technically with matters of pay, and he said he had contacted major league teams about playing this year. He said he would have been eligible, but did not say if he had offers.

The 2020 NL Cy Young Award winner was released by the Los Angeles Dodgers on Jan. 12, three weeks after an arbitrator reduced his suspension imposed by Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred from 324 to 194 games.

The penalty followed an investigation into domestic violence, which the pitcher has denied.

Manfred suspended Bauer last April for violating the league’s domestic violence and sexual assault policy, after a San Diego woman said he beat and sexually abused her in 2021.

Bauer has maintained he did nothing wrong, saying everything that happened between him and the woman was consensual. He was never charged with a crime.

Bauer joined his hometown Dodgers before the 2021 season and was 8-5 with a 2.59 ERA in 17 starts before being placed on paid leave.

Bauer said his goal with the BayStars was to strike out 200 and keep his average fastball velocity at 96 mph – hence his uniform number. He said he is also working on a better change-up pitch.

He said he hoped to play by mid-April – about two weeks after the Japanese season begins – and said he has been training for the last 1 1/2 years.

“I’ve been doing a lot of strength training and throwing,” he said. “I didn’t really take any time off. So I’ve had a year and a half of development time. I’m stronger than ever. More powerful than ever.”

Yokohama has not won a title in 25 years, and Bauer said that was his goal in the one-year deal.

“First and foremost, I want to help the Stars win a championship,” he said. “That involves pitching well. That involves helping teammates and learning from them. If they have questions – you know – share my knowledge with them.”

He also repeated several times about his desire to play in Japan, dating from a collegiate tournament in 2009 at the Tokyo Dome. He said playing in Japan was on his mind even before winning the Cy Young – and also immediately after.

“The Tokyo Dome was sold out,” he said. “I’d never played in front of that many people – probably combined in my life. In the United States, college games aren’t very big, so seeing that amount of passion. How many people came to a college game in Japan. It really struck me.”

He said he’d been practicing with the Japanese ball, which he said was slightly softer with higher seams.

“But overall it just feels like a baseball and the pitches move the same. The velocity is similar. I don’t notice much of a difference.”

Other teams in Japan have made similar controversial signings before.

Former major league reliever Roberto Osuna – who received a 75-game suspension for violating MLB’s domestic violence policy – signed last season with the Chiba Lotte Marines.

He has signed for this season with the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks.

In 1987, Dodgers relief pitcher Steve Howe, who had a career plagued with drug problems, tried to sign with the Seibu Lions. But he did not play in the country after the Japanese baseball commissioner disqualified Howe because of his history of drug abuse.

Bauer was an All-Star in 2018 and went 83-69 with a 3.79 ERA in 10 seasons for Arizona (2012), Cleveland, (2013-19), Cincinnati (2019-20) and the Dodgers. He won the NL Cy Young Award with Cincinnati during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season.