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Mike Shalin's Working Press: Silence is not golden for Red Sox and Betts

By MIKE SHALIN
January 14. 2018 2:14AM
Boston's Mookie Betts hits a three-run double against the Cincinnati Reds during the eighth inning of a game Sept. 24, 2017, at Great American Ball Park. (David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports)



It's cold outside, so let's talk a little baseball.

The Red Sox made an announcement Friday, avoiding salary arbitration with some important players - Xander Bogaerts getting $7.05 million, Jackie Bradley Jr. clocking in at $6.1 million and Drew Pomeranz $8.5 million - heading the list.

Notably absent from the list was their best player.

Mookie Betts and the Sox have exchanged arbitration figures, the club asking $7.5 and the player seeking $10.5 million. An arbitration panel, if it comes to that, must decide if Betts is worth a dollar more than the midway point between the two.

He is.

This will likely get settled. But it's the second year in a row there's been a mini issue with Betts, who has blossomed into a true star both offensively and defensively.

Ian Browne of MLB.com tweeted this week: "Thinking out loud. Is it a concern long term that the @RedSox have been unable to agree to a contract with Mookie Betts two straight years before a deadline?"

Interesting. It's also interesting that there has been no talk of trying to lock Betts up with one of those young-star deals that winds up buying out both arbitration and free agent years.

Nothing. Silence.

Scott Lauber of ESPN brought up a Betts quote from last year, when the right fielder was renewed by the club for $950,000. Renewal means a contract could not be worked out and the player has to accept the figure because he has no recourse at the time.

"It's a business side, and there's no animosity, there's nothing going on," Betts said. "They didn't let my hopes down or anything. Now we're just focused on baseball, and we'll go from there."

Betts is a classy kid. He personifies everything you'd want in your best player. He's a great bowler, plays basketball with the Boston College assistant coaches, smiles and always says the right thing. None of that matters, though, when it's contract time, and you wonder if a player files this stuff in the back of his mind when it comes time down the road to makes tons of money?

Obviously, we won't have to hold tag sales for Betts if he loses in arbitration and has to settle for the lower figure. That's not what this is about. This is about the future of your franchise. Betts is a major building block.

The arbitration hearings can be contentious, even though some say they're not as bitter as people might think. But basically, the club argues your negatives, and in Betts' case the argument is likely to be his downturn last season. The fact is he didn't have as good a 2017 as his 2016.

Two seasons ago, Betts finished second in the MVP race, batting .318 with 31 homers, 113 RBIs, 122 runs scored, an .897 OPS, 26 stolen bases and a league-best 359 total bases.

Last year, with David Ortiz no longer providing protection in the lineup (which is the main reason why the Sox are so desperate for a slugger), Betts dropped to .264, 24 homers, 102 RBIs, 101 runs, the same 26 steals and an .803 OPS.

You would like to think this will be worked out.

The other figures agreed to on Friday: Joe Kelly, $3.825 million, Eduardo Rodriguez, $2.375, Brock Holt, $2.25, Sandy Leon, $1.95, Christian Vazquez, $1.45 and Brandon Workman, $835,000.

Work in progress

Jon Heyman of Fanrag Sports ran a piece on the holes that have to be filled by the top 10 teams in baseball. His take on the Red Sox:

"The one obvious need is the big bat, and the one obvious player to solve that need would be J.D. Martinez - that is, if they can ever solve the never-ending stare-down/stalemate. There appears to be no end in sight, however - though they remain the most logical landing spot, if only because it's hard (though not impossible) to see them being outbid by the Diamondbacks, who appear for now to be their main competitor for the top free-agent hitter.

"There aren't a lot of choices left, but if Martinez should return to the D-Backs or go elsewhere (Toronto?), it's possible they could take another look at top free-agent first baseman Eric Hosmer; though he doesn't seem like the perfect replacement for Martinez, it's not impossible they could have Mitch Moreland and Hanley Ramirez as part-time DHs.

"They have tried, too, for Manny Machado, but their prospect deficit could be a hindrance there. They really haven't replaced free agent (Addison) Reed at the back end, and with star closer Craig Kimbrel a free agent after the year (the first $100 million closer coming?), it might not be a bad idea to consider a reliever, too."

(Reed signed a two-year deal with the Twins on Saturday.)

Yankee voice Michael Kay reported the Yanks made a seven-year-$160 million offer to Yu Darvish. If that's the case, they dodged a huge mistake when it wasn't accepted.

Stay warm, folks, spring training is right around the corner.

Coaching tree

Column pal John Molori offered the following earlier this week:

"If anyone still doubts the lasting influence of Bill Parcells on the NFL, look no further than this coming weekend's Divisional games. Three of the head coaches, NE's Bill Belichick, NO's Sean Payton and Minnesota's Mike Zimmer, were Tuna assistants, as was Jags' president Tom Coughlin and Steeler OC Todd Haley. Falcons' assistant GM Scott Pioli was Parcells' pro personnel director with the Jets and is also his son-in-law, and if you want to stretch it, Eagles' DC Jim Schwartz worked for Belichick in Cleveland and Titans running backs coach Sylvester Croom coached with Ray Perkins, whom Parcells coached with for the Giants. Every team playing this weekend has at least a hint of Tuna flavoring. Clearly the reach of Parcells is as impactful as ever. The NFL continues to reap the benefits of his legacy."

A Saturday report had Josh McDaniels and Mike Vrabel as the two finalists for the Indianapolis Colts head job. Remember, no coach still involved in the postseason can officially be hired.

And this tweet from the NY Daily News: "Happy Friday, Giants fans: Our @garymyersNYDN breaks down why bearded back page star Matt Patricia will be the guy for Big Blue."

Disturbing

If you were - and still are - sickened by the entire Aaron Hernandez story, it turns out you don't KNOW the entire Aaron Hernandez story.

A new book, "All-American Murder," by James Patterson and two co-authors, chronicles the late tight end's horrific stay in prison, where he was a major headache for guards, officials and other inmates. The irrational examples of his behavior will make you sick - even more so because you realize this murderer was a special talent as a football player.

One example, and this is a mild one:

"Hernandez once punched an inmate in the face for the transgression of staring too long at Hernandez in his cell. The inmate's reason: He was a Patriots fan. The inmate was in the custody of a guard, and Hernandez's assault set off a "Code Blue" that required the assistance of several officers and landed him in solitary confinement for two weeks."

Hello, Claude

It's hard to believe it's already been over 11 months since Claude Julien was fired by the Bruins. It's also hard to believe Saturday night marked the first time the B's faced their old coach - the first of two games with the Canadiens in five nights.

"It's a big week," Patrice Bergeron said Friday. "We don't need to talk about it too much. We know what's at stake and we all know that Montreal's trying to climb back in, so we gotta find a way to push them back down. It's always big games against them, we like the rivalry and the way those games are usually played."

And now, Julien is behind the other bench.

"It's going to be special," Bergeron said. "Obviously when you're on the ice you have to go out there and play your game and not really worry about it. Worry about what you can control, but at the same time it's special. Like I've said before, he's been great for my career and for the organization, so it's going to be a special moment."

Struggling

Are the powerful Cavaliers a team of the past? Clearly, Celtics fans have to hope so, and what happened to the Cavs in their last two games is not a great sign for LeBron James and Co.

First, they get blown out by the Raptors in Toronto, losing 133-99. Coach Tyronn Lue then addressed the media before the game in Indiana the next night, talking about players having their own "agendas" - and they blow a 22-point lead and lose to the Pacers.

The Cavs have lost three in a row and the Warriors are coming to town Monday.

Isaiah Thomas, who rested against Indiana, is 5-for-23 in his last two games and 0-of-17 in the first half.

As far as the "agenda," J.R. Smith said, "If the coach sees that, that's what he sees, I don't think that's the case. We're too talented to play for agendas."

The Cavs gave up 260 points in the losses at Minnesota and Toronto before losing 97-95 Friday night.

Finally, first Dick Enberg and now we've lost Keith Jackson. RIP to another great voice.

Mike Shalin covers Boston pro sports for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. His email address is shalinmike@yahoo.com.


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