Suddenly, affordability is a factor for the Red Sox.
IF SUNDAY’S FINALE is the last thing Mookie Betts does in a Red Sox uniform, at least it was something special. Something VERY Mookie.
If you missed it, Betts was on first with nobody out in the bottom of the ninth when Rafael Devers bounced a hard single off the glove of Richie Martin into right field. The deflection made going to third easy. But when Stevie Wilkerson, who an inning earlier made one of the greatest catches anyone in the press box had ever seen, acted slowly with the ball and then lobbed it back into the infield, Betts took off for home.
He belly-flopped across home plate with the last run of a disappointing 84-win season.
Was it the last thing the talented Betts does in a Red Sox uniform? Sounds like it might be.
“I think everyone knows we don’t think they’re going to be able to afford Mookie,” J.D. Martinez, also the center of offseason drama, told NBCSports Boston’s John Tomase. “It’s one of those things. It’s kind of hard to have three guys making $30 million on your team. He deserves it. He’s earned it.”
Ownership wants to chop salary. Betts is due to make at least $30 million in 2020, his final year before potential free agency. Chris Sale and David Price will both be over $30 million.
Monday, Sox president Sam Kennedy said it’s difficult to imagine both Betts and Martinez on a 2020 roster that falls under the $208 million threshold. But it’s NOT impossible.
Does the new baseball chief trade him and try to start rebuilding the farm system? Does Martinez’ opt-out situation have its effect on what happens to Betts?
“That’s out of my hands. I have my representation to take care of that type of stuff, so I don’t worry about it,” Betts says.
If you believe in early indications, you might want to know that in August the Sox’ season ticket brochure had Betts on the cover with Devers and Xander Bogaerts. In September, Betts was gone and Eduardo Rodriguez was there in his place. Martinez was on neither.
After Sunday’s game, Martinez was … let’s say evasive when it came to HIS future.
“I can’t spill my beans just yet. We’ll see what happens,” he said. “This is a very fun team, very close team. It’s unfortunate how it happened this year, but it is what it is. If I’m not here, then it’s sad not to be playing with these guys, and if I am here, then I’ll be looking forward to it.”
Continuing with Tomase, Martinez makes it clear he’s ready for anything, saying, “I’ve been on too many teams where people come and go. For you guys (it’s hard), because you’ve seen him grow. I came into this situation. To me, everyone is expendable. That’s the business of it. I’ve seen it in Houston. I saw in Detroit. I saw it in Arizona. It’s the business of it. That’s why people want to blame the players, that they just want money. You’ve got to look at the big picture.”
Sunday’s dramatic win in a meaningless game capped a crazy series of events that included Rodriguez NOT getting his 20th win, even when he was oh so close.
Consider this: Bogaerts got the hit to put Rodriguez ahead in the bid for the No. 20 — and then made an error that led to the win flying out the window. Then, Wilkerson made the unreal grab, a catch Dwight Evans reportedly said was the greatest right field catch ever at Fenway, on Jackie Bradley’s apparent two-run homer, and then made the non-play that gave the Red Sox the game.
Jonathan Villar got the tying hit off Barnes, ending the right-hander’s recent dominance over lefty batters (0-for-their-last-15). It gave the Red Sox 31 blown saves in 64 official save chances for the season.
The win allowed the Red Sox to finish the season a dismal 38-41 at Fenway (38-43 in official home games counting the two games in London).
One of the interesting Fenway sights in the final weeks and right up until the end was Tony La Russa sitting in the front-office box he used to occupy with Dave Dombrowski. Many assumed La Russa was there FOR Dombrowski. Turns out the Sox are high on La Russa’s work and he continues to be employed.
It wasn’t pretty and easily could have come out the other way, but the Patriots survived in Orchard Park and will take a 4-0 record into next week’s game at the 0-4 Redskins.
Dallas losing Sunday night left the Pats and Chiefs at 4-0 and the 49ers at 3-0 — the only unbeatens left.
Tom Brady improved to 16-3 in Buffalo but didn’t have his usual game. The offense was out of whack. The defense won this game despite allowing its first touchdown of the season.
“Who wants to start after that riveting performance?” Brady said at his post-game media conference.
“I think we can do better than that,” said Brady, who had his lowest-ever passer rating in a victory.
Monday, during his weekly WEEI appearance, Brady said, “I am frustrated when we don’t play well. I am frustrated when we don’t score points. I am happy when we win. It’s a lot of mixed emotions.”
With 224 yards of total offense, it was the 20th time in the Bill Belichick Era the Patriots gained fewer than 225. They are now 7-13 when that happens, 3-10 on the road. So, it was the defense.
“Bad (butt). That (expletive) is fun,” linebacker Kyle Van Noy said. “That is kind of football, right? Any time you get that, it gives me chills thinking about it because that’s football at its core right there. You know, 1-on-1, they are trying to run the ball, we know they are running the ball and you have to stand up ... That (expletive) is fun.”
The defense came up with four turnovers and recorded five sacks.
The D also knocked Josh Allen from the game on a helmet to helmet hit delivered by Jonathan Jones. “There’s no room in football for that,” said Bills coach Sean McDermott. “It is a shame to see a player like Josh, or any player for that matter, go down on a hit like that.” He added, “I thought he should have been thrown out.”
Allen teammate Micah Hyde was stronger, saying, “If one us did that to (Brady), we wouldn’t have been in the game anymore.
Monday, Belichick defended his player, saying, “Allen’s a big runner, he’s a strong guy, he’s hard to tackle. He certainly broke several tackles against us. Jon turned when he hit him. He didn’t lead with his head. He didn’t have that posture. So, again, I think (NFL Senior Vice President of Officiating) Al Riveron talked about the play yesterday and that’s what we have to go by. So we’ll coach it based on what Al’s guidelines or commentary was on the play.”
By the way, driving to Fenway Sunday, I got stuck listening to some of the Pats radio play by play. I love Scott Zolak’s enthusiasm, but the man NEVER stops talking — even during Bob Socci’s more-than-competent play by play.
Finally, a tip of the cap to St. Louis Post-Dispatch colleague Derrick Goold, an Eagle Scout and long-time lifeguard who jumped in and used his CPR training to save the life of a 64-year-old cameraman in the dugout prior to Sunday’s game.