Boston police say they've apprehended a Red Sox employee who absconded earlier with the costume of the team's beloved mascot, Wally the Green Monster.
Five Cuts from a Father's Day edition of interleague play:
The surprises began with the very first pick of the 2012 MLB draft -- when the Astros selected Puerto Rican shortstop Carlos Correa instead of the widely expected choice, Stanford righthanded pitcher Mark Appel -- and didn't stop there. Here's a quick look at the winners and losers from the first round and the compensation round.
BOSTON (AP) -- Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine called out the Tampa Bay Rays' coaching staff a day after the teams were involved in a benches-clearing scrum.
There aren't a lot of accessories in Flyover Country. No beaches, no mountains, few really tall buildings. In Cincinnati, there isn't a lot of history stored in museums. We are not The Hub of the Universe, the way Boston has decided it is.
When Matt Kemp and Josh Hamilton put up slow-pitch softball numbers for a month it's exciting, but it's not a total shock. These are immensely talented players in the primes of their careers who have established themselves as MVP-quality talents. But what about when Brian LaHair does it?
BALTIMORE -- The year 2012 has welcomed strange days that have nothing to do with any antiquated Mayan forecast and everything to with baseball at the extremes. The season has already seen a perfect game, a no-hitter and a cycle, three rare results that can't compete with what's happening with the Baltimore Orioles.
WASHINGTON -- Jonathan Papelbon may have left behind his native Nation but as he goes around his new city, he can't help but sense that its friendly people, laid-back feel and sidewalk cafes give it a European flavor.
John Smoltz and Dennis Eckersley discuss Angels pitcher Jered Weaver's remarkable no-hitter against the Minnesota Twins.
Baseball's new epidemic selects its victims carefully. It targets inhabitants of the same community, each of whom can be found residing on the pitcher's mound in the ninth inning of close games.
Five Cuts on a weekend dominated by the two pitching-led franchises who make their homes on either side of the Capitol Beltway:
A Panama native nicknamed "Mo," who endeared himself to New Yorkers with a cut fastball that baffled baseball's finest sluggers, is faced with the prospect of an unceremonious end to his illustrious 18-year career.
Few scenarios in baseball are so unnerving as the lack of reliable late-inning relief, and few places are so inhospitable to that uncertainty as the back pages of the New York tabloids.
Did you see the guy in the Batman underpants who leapt from the bleachers at Camden Yards on Opening Day and spent 63 seconds eluding justice on the outfield grass, his cape flouncing in the breeze, before a pile of policemen -- presumably in defiance of Commissioner Gordon -- finally tackled him in left-centerfield?
The Red Sox organization lives on the cutting edge of statistical analysis. It has reams of information available for the field staff and is not shy about making hair-splitting suggestions about how to deploy it. It employs stats guru Bill James. And yet manager Bobby Valentine posted a lineup in the clubhouse Wednesday thinking righthanded Twins starter Liam Hendriks was lefthanded. He checked his cell phone and got it wrong.
When his team plays at home, the Red Sox manager holds press conferences in front of a red brick wall that lends an unintentional air of comedy or tragedy to his every utterance, the brick-wall backdrop being synonymous with stand-up comedy and firing squads and official announcements from the Boston Red Sox, for whom April has alternated between farce and doom.
Smoltz discusses the unique measurements of Fenway Park and his batting practice experiences of clearing the Green Monster.
Is it OK to not like Fenway Park?
Excerpted from FENWAY PARK: The Centennial by Saul Wisnia. Copyright © 2011 by Les Krantz and published last Septeber by St. Martin's Press. Reprinted with permission by St. Martin's Press.
I wouldn't exist if not for Fenway Park.
Bobby Valentine was brought to Boston as a knee-jerk reaction to a perfect storm of last year's late-season collapse, wild accusations about allegedly dispassionate players, and a clubhouse culture that allowed such accusations to surface in the first place.
At 1-5 entering their home opener today, the Boston Red Sox are in worse shape than they were last year when they began 0-6. The 0-6 start was an anomaly by a set team that would be the best club in baseball until September arrived. This year's team has far more loose ends and questions: catcher, shortstop, leftfield, rightfield, closer , starting rotation and, if you believe Bobby Valentine needs early success to validate the cultural change he brings post-Terry Francona, manager.
NEW YORK -- A few days after Jayson Werth signed his first professional contract in mid-June 1997, the first-round pick of the Orioles traveled to Baltimore for an introductory press conference at Camden Yards.
Thursday brought the first multi-game slate of the 2012 baseball season and Opening Day for 13 teams. It was a day dominated by starting pitching, which was occasionally undermined by shaky relief pitching, and also brought us the longest Opening Day game in major league history, just to remind us that baseball will always show you something you've never seen before.
SI.com will be live-blogging today's season openers. Check back all day long for updates on Thursday afternoon's games from Cliff Corcoran (Red Sox vs. Tigers, Marlins vs. Reds), Joe Lemire (Mets vs. Braves), Ben Reiter (Phillies vs. Pirates) , Gary Gramling (Nationals vs. Cubs) and Ted Keith (Blue Jays vs. Indians). All times Eastern.
Baseball's newest venue is officially open, and it's impossible to look at Marlins Park in Miami without thinking, That place looks like fun. The fish swimming in the backstop, the Jacques-Cousteau-meets-Timothy-Leary home run sculpture, the South Beach nightclub satellite behind the bullpen, the pop art installations scattered on the courses: Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria isn't kidding when he says the ballpark he helped conceive and build "is meant to make you smile." Loria spent enough on free agents this winter to sound believable when he says he wants fans to focus on the game and the team. But, just in case your mind wanders, he made sure that baseball is not the only entertainment option at Marlins Park.
The 2012 Major League Baseball season officially opened last week in Japan, where the A's and Mariners played a mostly forgettable two-game series, and starts Stateside on Wednesday night when the Marlins face the defending World Series champion Cardinals. Thursday, though, is when the season really begins.
Last season, as The Great September Collapse was taking place up I-95, the Yankees waltzed away with their second AL East crown in three years. New York is in for a tougher fight in the Best Division in Baseball this year.
We have arrived at an exit ramp, only we cannot be certain to where it leads. Baseball in 2012, with its expanded postseason, franchise-changing TV money and the Technicolor dream of Miami as a baseball town, is headed in a new direction, as it seems to do every 10 years.
Growing up in New York City, there are a few things I never imagined myself doing, like driving a car, living in a house or attending big high school games like the ones I'd seen on TV.
With the injury problems that have beset the Phillies, it is very possible that if you ranked the major league teams from 1 through 30, you might go through six American League clubs before you reached your first National League squad. See if you agree with this order: 1. Angels. 2. Yankees. 3. Rangers. 4. Tigers. 5. Rays. 6. Red Sox. 7. Phillies.
PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- On a rainy Sunday morning, the Tampa Bay Rays' clubhouse is slow moving and quiet. The Food Network and ESPN are on the TVs, but the sound is turned down. There's no outdoor batting practice, and players are arriving later than usual.
DUNEDIN, Fla. (AP) -- David Robertson limped out of the Yankees clubhouse in Tampa, holding a pair of crutches, his right foot in an oversized black boot.
Back in October 2010, in the wake of a Yankees/Rays "race" for the AL East title that both teams treated with little care, the idea of a second wild-card slot in each league was floated. After a CBA negotiation and lots of waiting, MLB announced on Friday that the plan will be put in place for the upcoming season. An additional wild-card team will be added to each league, and the two wild cards will play a single game to advance to the Division Series. At the time of the original idea, this is what I wrote in my newsletter. Nothing has changed.
On Thursday, Jason Varitek will announce his retirement from the only team he ever played for, the Boston Red Sox, following a 15-year career. Varitek served as the Red Sox' captain for the final seven seasons of his career, and had been invited to spring training by the team. However, with the presence of catchers Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Kelly Shoppach and Ryan Lavarnway on Boston's roster -- and with no guarantee that he would make the team -- Varitek elected to walk away.
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Getting Bobby Valentine's autograph is not a passive activity. Implicit in the request for his signature, as Red Sox fans making the pilgrimage to spring training are learning, is consent to match his hurried pace because the club's new manager is in perpetual motion.
The heir to Stan Musial left St. Louis, the Tigers came out of nowhere to give a Prince a king's ransom and three of the most intriguing players in baseball today never have played a day in the big leagues. In other words, strange as it is, this is the perfect spring training to follow a 2011 season in which none of the nine biggest payrolls won a postseason series and St. Louis, which lost its ace (Adam Wainwright), scrapped its closer (Ryan Franklin) and languished 10 ½ games out in late August, wound up winning the World Series.
This week, Cliff Corcoran will break down what to expect from each team's camp as part of SI.com's spring training preview. Teams are listed by their order of finish from 2011. Note: The Big Prospect is a player who will be in camp and has not yet debuted in the major leagues.
Less than a year after retiring in disgrace to avoid a second performance-enhancing drug suspension, Manny Ramirez just might catch on with another major league team. Ramirez was reinstated from the retirement list in mid-December, began working out in Florida in January, and the Orioles, A's, and Blue Jays have since shown public interest in signing the 12-time All-Star. That interest comes despite the fact that Ramirez would still have to serve a 50-game suspension (reduced from 100 games in recognition of his having sat out all but five games of the 2011 season) before he could take the field and will turn 40 right around the time that suspension would end in late May.
Compared to Prince Fielder's $214 million deal with Detroit, every other transaction in the past week qualifies as "other news." Nevertheless, while Fielder was grabbing all the attention, some other impactful moves took place that warrant attention, such as:
Prince Fielder still doesn't have a team, but already he is almost assuredly about to set a record this year. No free agent ever has signed a nine-figure contract this late in the offseason.
The great modern Yankees teams played with such equanimity and honor that Oakland general manager Billy Beane once said it was as if they beat you wearing tuxedos. This aura of cold-blooded assurance came largely from the miens of Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera, who seemed to come through at every postseason turn and be not the least bit surprised that they did. Their manager, Joe Torre, gave voice to such calm.
The White Sox send mixed messages, the Blue Jays, Red Sox and Reds fortify their bullpens, and the best available centerfielder (not counting Yoenis Cespedes) and two of the best platoon outfielders in the game all re-sign with their 2011 teams in this week's edition of Hot Stove Roundup.
1. Cardinals win and Pujols leaves. To celebrate or to mourn? The Cardinals won a thrilling seven-game World Series -- baseball's first Fall Classic to go the distance since 2002 -- for the franchise's 11th title but just six weeks later saw future Hall of Famer Albert Pujols split for Anaheim with a 10-year, $254 million contract. Pujols provided one last thrilling moment for Cardinals fans when he tied a record by crushing three home runs as part of a five-hit effort in Game 3 of the World Series. Though his departure may have cost him a statue outside Busch Stadium, he left behind a new World Series banner as a parting gift.
The Angels and Marlins weren't the only teams getting things done at the just-completed Winter Meetings in Dallas, and Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson weren't the only players the Angels acquired. For fans of the other 28 teams and LaTroy Hawkins, here's a summary of some of the less-celebrated player transactions from the last week and a half.
DALLAS -- A little after eight o'clock, the Marlins brass descended the tower elevators, having just completed a meeting with the agent for Albert Pujols, and gave no indication of how it went.
The job of managing the Red Sox can be a cauldron of unforgiving heat and scrutiny. This will be the case even more so in 2012 after an historic September collapse further marred by the post hoc revelations that the club's best pitchers were dining on fried chicken and beer during games in the clubhouse.
MILWAUKEE -- The Red Sox have made a surprise, 180-degree turn in their managerial search, moving from a list of well-regarded relative neophytes to take a close look at bigger-than-life veteran manager Bobby Valentine, a force of personality who was originally viewed as someone who couldn't possibly fit into an organization reliant on Moneyball principles and run by a strong front office.
The day that the Manager of the Year award winners are announced feels like a day off amid the other award announcements made by the Baseball Writers Association of America in the week and a half leading up to Thanksgiving. There's good reason for that, and it's not just that managers, as largely sedentary presences in the dugout, are less exciting than the players. It's that managers don't really have all that much to do with whether or not their teams win.
When the Boston Red Sox signed Daisuke Matsuzaka to a six-year contract beginning in 2007 -- a $103 million investment including a $51 million posting fee to acquire his rights -- they worried about the Third-Year Wall. Research by the Boston quantitative analysts showed that most pitchers from Nippon Pro Ball suffered a sharp decline in performance about three years into their transition to Major League Baseball.
BALTIMORE -- Dan Duquette spent over two decades in the front offices of major league baseball teams, culminating with his role as Red Sox general manager in which he helped assemble the key pieces of what would become Boston's 2004 Curse-busting World Series title team.
The Rangers, just as they did after losing the 2010 World Series, held a clubhouse meeting after losing the 2011 World Series in Game 7 to talk about making a commitment to win the next one. Their persistence is admirable, if not standard stuff for also-rans. The ghost of Knute Rockne aside, what are the realistic chances that Texas can bounce back from not just losing a second straight World Series, but also one of the most historic collapses in postseason history, the 10-9 loss in Game 6?
The Red Sox and Cubs are now a full week past the deadline to agree on compensation for new Cubs president Theo Epstein. Their difficulty in finding agreement on this issue shouldn't be such a surprise since Epstein and his Red Sox replacement, Ben Cherington, are so like-minded that they probably value the same prospects, which tends to make dealing difficult.
If you could become the manager of one of baseball's signature teams, which one would you choose from among the Red Sox, Cardinals and Cubs? That's a decision that very well may have to be made by one of the several candidates being considered for the managerial vacancies of those teams. Among those on the lists of more than one of those teams are newly-former Red Sox skipper Terry Francona, Phillies bench coach Pete Mackanin, Rangers pitching coach Mike Maddux, and former Brewers manager and current hitting coach Dale Sveum.
This week, SI.com will analyze the offseason plans for each team in a division-by-division format. Wednesday will preview the National League and Thursday the American League. Teams are listed in order of finish in 2011.
The Cubs and Red Sox have both asked for permission to interview Rangers pitching coach Mike Maddux for their managerial jobs.
Yankees ace CC Sabathia used the threat of his opt-out clause Monday night to increase his contract from $92 million to $122 million and stayed with the Yankees. Sabathia's call to remain in pinstripes aided New York and deprived a star-infused free-agent class of a bit more glitz, but the group still contains three other players with a chance to receive deals for at least $20 million per year. Prince Fielder and Jose Reyes have an excellent chance to top the $20-million-a-year mark, and the iconic Albert Pujols, the top guy on the market, actually has been shooting to get into the $30-million-a-year range.
To be a Texas Rangers baseball fan doesn't compare to the prestige of growing up in the shadows of Yankee Stadium, Fenway Park or Wrigley Field. The pinstriped jerseys, classic uniforms and ball caps of those Major League Baseball teams are timeless and have become iconic touchstones in pop culture.
ST. LOUIS -- The surprise courting of hot young general manager Andrew Friedman by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim has begun even before Theo Epstein is officially signed, sealed and delivered to the Chicago Cubs. Though Friedman's name hadn't been tied to the Angels until someone tipped @DRaysBay that Friedman had been spotted dining in Tampa with Angels honchos Arte Moreno and John Carpino, it makes perfect sense as baseball owners are increasingly understanding how much more crucial the GM is to a team's success than a manager. Besides, as one AL exec put it, "Teams are copycats.'' Once one got Epstein (or is about to), it's no surprise another wanted the other hot available name.
ST. LOUIS -- Cardinals superstar Albert Pujols is helping his free agent case with his huge postseason, and the Cardinals may be helping their chances to keep him beyond this year, too. Neither Pujols nor the team is talking much publicly about what promises to be the most-watched free agent case since Alex Rodriguez four years ago, and they also promised not to talk to each other throughout the Cardinals season, which is lasting a good deal longer than anyone expected.
It appears that the Chicago Cubs are going to pry away Theo Epstein from the Red Sox to be their new general manager. Epstein, 37, was the face of the new breed of ultra-young GMs, handed the reins of the Red Sox in 2002 and producing two World Championships in nine seasons as their top executive. His 2004 team became the first Red Sox club since 1918 to win a World Series, assuring that he'd never need a wallet in any New England bar for the rest of his life.
Red Sox GM Theo Epstein has an agreement in place to become head the of Cubs baseball operations, SI.com has confirmed.
The big news out of Chicago this weekend was that Theo Epstein might have been spotted at a Lincoln Park Starbucks. Not kidding. That came via a Cubs fan who said he was "99.9 percent'' sure it was the celebrated, elusive longtime Red Sox general manager, and it shows how secretive the Cubs' GM search is being kept by relatively new owner Tom Ricketts. If Ricketts is as good at building a successful team as he is at keeping a secret, maybe the Cubs will break out of their century of general futility.
NEW YORK -- All around him was chaos. Small boys -- and grown men acting like small boys -- were bouncing around the room, spraying what had to be the cheapest alcohol-free wine in New York City, and old men were turning the hallway outside the Detroit Tigers clubhouse into their personal cigar bar and yet no one was calmer than Delmon Young -- not counting the sleeping infant being held in his mother's arms.
NEW YORK -- The Yankees' time is up for 2011. But Alex Rodriguez has six more years, at $30 million per no less (plus another $30 mil more in milestone monies to come). It's tough to say which thought was less appealing here on Thursday night.
The history-making dramatics that landed the Rays in the postseason on the final day of the season will be an unforgettable part of the franchise's past but the euphoria they engendered in Tampa has already started to fade.
For only the second time in the wild card era, and the first time since 2001, there will by three Game 5s in the Division Series. The first comes Thursday night in the Bronx, where the Yankees will play in their first double-elimination game since losing Game 5 of the ALDS to the Angles in 2005, and the Tigers will play their first since losing Game 5 of the 1972 ALCS to the A's.
DETROIT -- And then ... A.J. Burnett successfully saved the Yankees' season.
Five thoughts on the Division Series:
The Texas Rangers advanced to the American League Championship Series (ALCS) on Tuesday after sealing a 3-1 win over Tampa Bay Rays in the first round of the Major League Baseball (MLB) playoffs.
All four Division Series are in action tonight, and three of them involve teams facing elimination. The Diamondbacks return home hoping to avoid a sweep at the hands of the Brewers, while the Phillies and Cardinals will break a 1-1 tie in St. Louis, and the Rays and Yankees hope to force a Game 5 after losing tie-breaking Games 3 on Monday night.
Five cuts on the Division Series:
DETROIT -- There's no script in postseason baseball. So why do we keep trying to write one?
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. --- There's something that happens before games at Tropicana Field that's unlike anything at any other ballpark, and it says almost everything you need to know about the Rays, the most unconventional organization in baseball. Before they introduce the starting lineups, they play a video clip on the big screen above the right-field seats to get the home crowd going. As loud music blares, Rays manager Joe Maddon appears on the screen, pushing buttons and moving graphics around with his arms on a giant computer interface, just like Tom Cruise in "Minority Report." Clips pop up of Rays players hitting home runs, making great plays in the field and running the bases as words flash on the screen. RUN HARD. WORK TOGETHER. RUN PREVENTION. SMART AT BATS. THE RAYS WAY.
Cliff Corcoran will preview each day's games at SI.com throughout the postseason.
The Red Sox parted ways with popular manager Terry Francona, enraged team owner John Henry somehow seriously injured himself slipping on his yacht -- and the offseason action is just getting started. The stunning September collapse of one of baseball's three supposed superpowers won't soon be forgotten. But Red Sox people and their Nation are trying hard to recall that they appeared en route to 100 wins at the start of September before their brutal month undid all that was right.
NEW YORK -- Game time was fast approaching, and it was difficult not to look at the sprawling expanse of Yankee Stadium in all its vivid colors and see black-and-white. It was 61 degrees early on an early October afternoon before a postseason game, with bunting ringing the decks of the three-tiered ballpark and a living, breathing Yankees legend striding to the mound to throw the first pitch of the day.
NEW YORK -- The denizens on the D train, fueled by enough beer but not enough baseball as it rumbled away from a soggy Yankee Stadium, didn't seem to mind. Neither did the two managers, one of whom, the Yankees' Joe Girardi, did almost as much giggling as talking in his post-"game" press conference and the other of whom, the Tigers' Jim Leyland, opened his remarks with a joke of his own ("Heck of a game. It was great."). And, if the grinning faces and shrugging shoulders of Ivan Nova and Justin Verlander, two of the players most affected by the bizarre developments Friday night at Yankee Stadium, were any indication, the players weren't the slightest bit fazed.
Days after his team missed the playoffs, Terry Francona is no longer the manager of the Boston Red Sox, the team announced Friday.
The 2011 postseason will begin where the 2010 postseason ended: deep in the heart of Texas, where the defending AL champs meet the Team of Destiny in a rematch of last October's only five-game division series. Last year's tilt featured great pitching, great defense, aggressive base running, and a lot of shots of Nolan Ryan and George W. Bush on the edge of their front-row seats at Rangers Ballpark. Expect another dramatic series between these two evenly-matched teams.
While everyone was watching the Cardinals, Rays, Red Sox and Braves, the Tigers were quietly staging a late surge of their own, going 38-16 (.704) over the season's final two months and 20-6 (.769) in September to win the American League central by a whopping 15 games over the course-corrected Indians, the biggest division lead in baseball this season. Still, that wasn't enough to give them homefield advantage in the playoffs, so they travel to the Bronx to face the Yankees in the postseason for just the second time in franchise history and a rematch of their last Division Series in 2006. The Yankees, meanwhile, posted the American League's best record this season, going 97-65 on the strength of the second-best offense in baseball and, surprisingly, the third-best pitching staff in the AL according to runs scored and allowed.
BALTIMORE -- As outfielder Carl Crawford left the Boston Red Sox's Camden Yards clubhouse after game No. 161 Tuesday night, he was asked if a trip to the playoffs would make up for a season of not living up to the expectations that come with signing a $142 million contract.
They will go down as the most thrilling 129 minutes in baseball history. Never before and likely never again -- if we even dare to assume anything else can be likely ever again -- will baseball captivate and exhilarate on so many fronts in so small a window the way it did September 28, 2011.
The Tampa Bay Rays and St. Louis Cardinals won wild card berths in the Major League Baseball (MLB) playoffs after dramatic victories Wednesday.
Wednesday night was not only one of the most thrilling nights of baseball in recent memory, it was also one of the most significant. Not one but two of the most severe regular-season collapses in the game's history were completed.
BALTIMORE -- Call it the "Curse of the Andino.''
This season I've watched countless Red Sox games, and at the same time not watched them -- only hearing them leak from car radios in the school parking lot, every driver's side window down, the same voice emerging from each vehicle as at a drive-in movie circa 1957. That movie now plays to an excruciating climax, watched through splayed fingers while palming one's face, until the screen is filled by THE END or that B-movie coda: THE END???
The final day of the 2011 regular season has arrived and still neither league's wild card has been determined. In the American League, the Rays and Red Sox both won on Tuesday night to remain tied with identical 90-71 records. In the National League, the Cardinals pulled even with the Braves by digging out of an early 5-0 hole to beat the Astros 13-6, while Atlanta was solidly defeated by the Phillies 7-1.
Star Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins, still only 32 and still at the top of his defensive game, presents a very nice alternative to top free agent shortstop Jose Reyes, who's a similar player to Rollins, but more brittle and very likely much more expensive. Rollins' coming free agency hasn't received the acclaim that Reyes' has, but then Rollins isn't in New York and he's with a team that doesn't seem quite as dependent on him.
Five thoughts on the playoff picture after the Rays and Red Sox both won in the American League, and the Cardinals won while the Braves lost in the National League.
With just one game separating the wild-card leaders and runners-up entering Monday's action, both leaders lost, but only one runner-up, the Rays, capitalized on that opportunity to pull into a tie for the final playoff spot in their league. It didn't hurt that the Rays were facing something less than the Yankees' best, including a pitcher making just his second major league start and working with a 65-pitch limit. Meanwhile, the only other team that remained alive for a wild-card berth before Monday night, the Angels, were eliminated.
With just two days left in the regular season, the Rays and Red Sox are tied for the wild card spot in the American League and the Cardinals are just one game behind the Braves in the wild card hunt in the National League. In the NL, Atlanta can wrap up its second straight NL wild card with a win and a loss by St. Louis but in the AL, this race will go down to at least Wednesday's regular-season finale, and maybe beyond.
The ballots for the Baseball Writers Association of America major awards are due before the playoffs begin, which still leaves time to finalize the choices.
Fears of a September without an interesting playoff race proved unfounded, as both wild cards remain up for grabs with three games left in the regular season.
NEW YORK -- Jacoby Ellsbury's game-winning home run -- the one that may have resuscitated the Red Sox' season -- followed 13 innings of white-knuckle baseball that began with a faith-shaking three-run deficit in the first, which in turn was preceded by club's 18th loss of the month on Sunday afternoon.
In the previous four days, the Red Sox, Rays, Angels, Braves and Cardinals all lost games in the eighth inning or later. The wild card races have become such wars of attrition that rumor has it the Mariners are back in it. Throw in the longshot Giants, and the six wild card contenders have gone 8-13 this week. It's absurd enough to root for the ultimate in chaos: the first-ever three-way tie in major league history.
(This story first appeared in SI in 1993.)
Rays general manager Andrew Friedman is as unlikely a success story as his team. He came directly to his GM job from the finance world, where he started out as an analyst at Bear Stearns, a big equities company that has since folded. That's the opposite route of the small-but-successful Rays, who are contending once again despite existing on a payroll that ranks only ahead of the Kansas City Royals. And despite having far less professional baseball experience than any other GM, a decent case can be made that no one has done a better job than Friedman since he came to Tampa in 2006.
1. That was ugly. The Red Sox, set up to gain a game on the Rays for just the second time in two weeks, instead watched a 5-4 lead go up in flames in the eighth inning against the Orioles. Boston remains two games ahead of Tampa Bay. Daniel Bard, asked to start the seventh for just the second time all season -- and the first since April -- got through his first inning unscathed but allowed singles to Matt Wieters and Mark Reynolds around a strikeout in the eighth. Terry Francona chose to pull Bard at 18 pitches, with Bard showing good velocity and command (18 pitches, 13 strikes), for closer Jonathan Papelbon. It was the first time all year Papelbon had been asked to get five outs for a save, and it didn't work. After putting away Chris Davis on three pitches, Papelbon allowed a single by Nolan Reimold on an 0-2 fastball, loading the bases, then fell behind Robert Andino and eventually gave up a double down the right-field line to Robert Andino, clearing the bases for what would be