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Massarotti: An Unhappy Papi, A Cop-Out By Red Sox Owners And Other Spring Observations

BOSTON (CBS) -- Sprinkling the infield while playing a game of catch(up):

-- If David Ortiz is smart, he'd write a check for $25,000, then hand it over to Major League Baseball in advance for violating baseball's new pace-of-play initiative. Maybe MLB can even create a smartphone app so guys like Ortiz can pay their fines as if they were using the Dunkin' Donuts app, auto-reload and all.

Because, let's face it, the pace-of-play rules are being emphasized precisely for people like Ortiz.

This isn't a slight on Ortiz, whose profanity-riddled rant on the pace-of-play rules yesterday was wildly entertaining. He made some good points. Pitchers are as big a part of the problem as hitters are – maybe more so – and penalizing one, without the other, is foolish. Baseball needs to move faster between pitches, plain and simple, and players need to make individual sacrifices in order to preserve the long-term health of a game that isn't keeping up with the pace of the modern world.

Still, can Ortiz just do his part? Yeesh. Beyond his routine between pitches, urgency is not exactly in his makeup. He takes forever to circle the bases after home runs. All anyone is asking for is a little more consideration for the time being spent by fans, without whom there are no major leagues.

That said, the $500 fines that MLB might ultimately resort to are laughable. It's not enough. If MLB truly wants to enact change on pace-of-play, umpires need to start calling strikes – and balls – when hitters and pitchers fail to comply. Once their performance on the field is affected, players will adjust.

After all, as we all know, people change only when they need to.

-- I'm trying to be fair today – a rarity, I know – but when Red Sox owners and executives justify last-place finishes by saying they are "championship-driven," well, that's a cop-out. Fine, the Red Sox sold off parts in 2012 and 2014, rendering August and September relatively meaningless. But an organization with Boston's resources shouldn't be ripping apart its nucleus every other year to contend.

And lest anyone forget, general manager Ben Cherington said as much in November when he said the Sox needed to break out of the schizophrenic nature of the last few years to achieve something more "sustainable."

Especially when owner John Henry came out and admitted that the 2013 season cannot be replicated.

The Sox need to build something this year, folks. And they know it. Let's not excuse the last-place finishes by saying the Sox are interested only in championships. Sox officials were interested in titles in the early years of their tenure, too, when a bad year meant 86-76. Not 69-93 or 71-91.

-- I've got nothing against John Farrell, but extending his contract was needless and everyone knows it. The Red Sox just finished last, for goodness sake. The team held an option on his contract for the 2016 season. If the Sox were worried about Farrell operating in potential lame-duck status, they could have just exercised their option, assessed the 2015 season, then made a long-term decision in the fall.

Instead, they extended Farrell through 2017 with an option for 2018.

Does a decision like this cripple the Sox? Of course not. Farrell is probably in the top 20-30 percent of the managers in the game, at least for now. Organizational stability certainly counts for something. But Farrell doesn't deserve the kind of royal treatment that Terry Francona might have received early in his tenure – at least not yet – particularly after a year in which the Red Sox vanished from the landscape in Augiust and September.

-- Plain and simple, Pablo Sandoval is fat. He was fat when the Red Sox signed him and he's fat now. Maybe he's even fatter. There is certainly no reason to be surprised by this given Sandoval's history with the Giants, particularly when San Francisco Giants officials knew they had to monitor Sandoval during the offseason.

Sandoval isn't a $19 million-a-year player, folks. And five years for a guy like him is risky. We knew that at the time of the signing and we know it now, but the Red Sox didn't have a choice because they had backed themselves into a corner.

In the end, that's the real story here. The Sox painted themselves into a corner at third base – and on the left side of the plate – because their farm system dried up on them. In the span of a year or so, Will Middlebrooks, Garin Cecchini, Matt Barnes and Bryce Brentz, among others, went pfft. This type of dynamic happened at shortstop years ago, where the Sox futilely threw money at people like Edgar Renteria and Julio Lugo.

Let's hope Sandoval turns out better than those two guys did.

-- Maybe Farrell just wants to pacify Shane Victorino, but there was no need to declare Victorino the Red Sox' starting right fielder before the Sox have played even one spring training game. Victorino was among the riskier signings when the Red sox brought him to camp prior to the 2013 season and he's even riskier now. He has been breaking down. And quite frankly, Mookie Betts might already be a better major league player.

Obviously, the best players don't always break with the team to start the season. The 162-game baseball season is a war of attrition. If the Sox can start Betts or Rusney Castillo in the minors because it will give them the most access to players over the longest period of time, they will. That makes some sense. But Betts also looks like the Sox' best candidate to fill the leadoff spot, which creates an interesting decision this spring.

Keep an eye on the center and right field rotations throughout camp. The Sox are already talking up Jackie Bradley, which suggests they might be trying to use him as trade bait. But the Sox obviously have too many players and not enough positions, and that doesn't even begin to address people like Allen Craig and Daniel Nava.

Tony Massarotti co-hosts the Felger and Massarotti Show on 98.5 The Sports Hub weekdays from 2-6 p.m. Follow him on Twitter @TonyMassarotti. You can read more from Tony by clicking here.


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