How does a World Series champion maintain its edge?
If you're the Red Sox, you hire a sports psychology coach.
Bob Tewksbury, the former big-league pitcher who between gigs on NESN and some consulting work for the Sox completed his master's degree in psychology at Boston University, has been appointed to the new position.
Tewksbury, who is giving up his work as an analyst at NESN, will not set up a couch in the clubhouse. His efforts, at least as his job is currently conceived, will be on the minor league level, from Triple A all the way down to rookie ball.
"Tom Caron ran me out of NESN," Tewksbury said with a laugh last week, referring to the studio host with whom he appeared regularly the last two years. "He said one too many things about my hair."
It's an audacious move by the Sox, though not precedent-setting. Sports psychologist and author Harvey Dorfman, for example, did work for a number of teams, including the A's and Marlins, before being hired by agent Scott Boras to counsel his clients. Braves pitcher John Smoltz gave considerable credit for his success to another sports psychologist, Jack Llewellyn, with whom he worked in Atlanta.
What gives Tewksbury unique cachet is his status as a former big-leaguer, and one who enjoyed success, compiling a 110-102 record in 13 seasons, including back-to-back seasons in St. Louis in which he went 16-5 and 17-10. Tewksbury, who in the past had been assigned to assist a handful of Sox pitching prospects (Casey Fossum, Sunny Kim, Paxton Crawford, among others) on a more informal basis, knows all about the stress inherent in trying to win and preserve a spot on a big-league roster.
"I was a backwater kid from Salisbury, N.H., a town with one blinking yellow light, going to the Big Apple, and the media are telling me I'm going to be sent down," Tewksbury said of his experience breaking in with the Yankees.
"How am I supposed to know how to handle that? Dave Righetti and Bob Shirley wouldn't talk to me for half the year, because I was a rookie.
"I had no confidence in myself that I belonged. It wasn't until I went to the Cardinals and Joe Torre told me he believed in me that my career turned."
The Sox make psychologists available to their players through their employee assistance program, professionals trained to deal with off-the-field problems such as drug and alcohol issues, spousal abuse, depression, and the like. Tewksbury will also be available to counsel players who want to confide in him on such matters, but his primary focus will be on helping the players in ways that maximize their performance.
Certainly, off-the-field issues can have a great impact on how a player performs, but insecurity, anxiety, and doubt also can separate the players who succeed from those who don't.
"I think those issues are pretty important for players who have from 0 to 3 years of big-league experience, when they still have [minor league options] and there is still a lot of uncertainty about whether they will be on the roster," said Tewksbury. "I think it will be my job to help players to develop the toughness that will allow them to deal with these things as they get to the major leagues."
A few pitchers over 40 can be trusted
Roger Clemens, who agreed to return to the Astros for $18 million in a year in which he will turn 43, would have earned $1 million per win at that rate in 2004.
Only two pitchers in major league history have won as many as 15 games at age 43. One was a spitballer, Jack Quinn, who won 15 games at age 44 in 1927 and 18 in 1928. The other was knuckleballer Phil Niekro, who was 43 when he won 17 in 1982, 45 when he won 16 in 1984, and 46 when he won 16 in 1985.
What of Clemens's role model, Nolan Ryan? He won 13 in 1990, when he made 30 starts and threw 204 innings at age 43, and a dozen games the next year, at age 44.
Warren Spahn had an even better year than Clemens did at 42. Clemens went 18-4 with a 2.98 ERA and 218 strikeouts last year; in 1963, Spahn at 42 matched his career-best in wins when he went 23-7 and was involved in one of the greatest pitching duels of all time, matching zeroes for 15 innings with Juan Marichal before giving up a home run to Willie Mays on his 201st pitch to lose, 1-0, in 16 innings. But it can go in a hurry. The next year, at 43, Spahn went 6-13 with a 5.29 ERA, was demoted to the bullpen, and after the season was sold to the then-dreadful Mets.
Spahn, incidentally, never made more than $87,500 in a season; that's slightly more than Clemens will be paid per strikeout ($82,568) if he matches last year's total.
Ex-Angel explains how he was cast out
Jose Guillen, whose dustup with Angels manager Mike Scioscia led to a late-season suspension that kept him out of the playoffs, in which the Angels were swept by the Red Sox, remains convinced he was the wronged party. Guillen had been hit in the leg by a pitch and reacted badly after Scioscia lifted him for a pinch runner.
"I felt OK to run," Guillen told the San Francisco Chronicle. "It was an 81 m.p.h. pitch. All I said was, `Why are you doing this?' He thought I threw my helmet at him, but that's where the batboy sits, and it didn't even come close [to Scioscia].
"I went inside and said, `Why did Mike do that?' and then he started screaming and shouting at me. If he'd called me to his office and talked, we would have figured it out, but instead it was right in front of everyone. That's why you have an office. I think he wanted an apology right away, but I went home, and when I came back the next day, he wasn't talking to me and everyone was quiet. I knew something was going on."
The Angels let Guillen walk -- he's now with the Washington Nationals, his seventh team -- and signed free agent center fielder Steve Finley.
The House That George Built?
The Yankees may be no more than a few weeks away from getting official approval of their plans to build a new Yankee Stadium, according to a highly placed industry executive. The team has agreed to pay $800 million for the construction of a 50,000-seat ballpark at Macombs Dam Park, a block away from the existing stadium in the Bronx, while asking an additional $300 million from government officials for infrastructure improvements. The plan calls for the new ballpark to open in April 2009.
Last week, the Bombers paid the city of New York $3.6 million in back rent owed after a comptroller's audit showed that the club had under-reported millions of dollars in revenue to the city and overstated deductions to baseball from 1997 to 2002. Yankee Stadium's lease expires in December, with talks under way to extend it another four or five years.
Breaking up is hard to do
White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen didn't mince words at a recent FanFest when asked why his club didn't retaliate after Twins outfielder Torii Hunter ran over White Sox catcher Jamie Burke in a July 26 game. "We had a guy go into second base as if his wife were turning the double play," Guillen said, an apparent reference to Carlos Lee. Guillen pointedly noted that Lee, who was traded to Milwaukee in the Scott Podsednik deal, had been "shipped out."
Wheels still spinning on Kim
The Rockies remain interested in Sox reliever Byung Hyun Kim, but only if the price comes down. The Sox are willing to eat most of Kim's $6 million contract; the Rockies are willing to pay $750,000-$1 million, but the Sox want a better prospect than the Rockies are willing to give up. The Rockies envision a bullpen role for Kim, who told the Sox he preferred to start but long since has lost his leverage. Jerry DiPoto, who did such a nice job as a professional scout for the Sox last season before being named the Rockies' director of professional scouting, has told his new employers that in a less stressful environment than Boston, there's a chance Kim will bounce back. The Mets have some interest, too, and the Sox have told teams they have an offer from another club (the Dodgers?) willing to pay $2.5 million of Kim's deal, plus give up two prospects.
Don't be surprised if the Marlins make a play for Doug Mientkiewicz if they don't land Carlos Delgado. The Mets would seem to be in the same position, but the Red Sox have some doubts as to whether the Mets want to deal with them.
Derek Lowe will wear No. 23 with the Dodgers. The No. 32 he wore in Boston? That belongs to Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax and has been retired. So Lowe reversed the numbers and will wear the number worn most famously in Los Angeles by Kirk Gibson, who in 1988 hit one of the most dramatic home runs in World Series history, a walkoff blast off Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley. "I'm from Michigan," said Lowe of Gibson, his fellow Michigander. "I know all about that home run."
Lowe will take advantage of his newfound celebrity as a member of the Dodgers by playing in the Bob Hope Desert Classic this week. He's scheduled to play in the same foursome as Celtics boss Danny Ainge, according to a club official.
Why the Sox can charge $44 for a spring training ticket (complete with waiter service) and raise a regular box seat to 24 bucks: They sold out the tickets they placed on sale last weekend in a mere six hours. In this climate, they can ask for whatever they want, and they're going to get it.
Ball's still in play
Doug Mirabelli, in an interview with the Las Vegas Sun, left no doubt whose side he's on in the Mientkiewicz World Series ball to-do. The Sox backup catcher said he called Mientkiewicz the day after the story broke and told him, "You are the dumbest guy in America if you give the ball back. I tell you right now, if I had that ball I'd lock it up and bury the key somewhere." Sox brass are downplaying the flap, but make no mistake, there are some people on Yawkey Way who are not very happy about it. "I think the whole thing is disgusting," said one Sox decision-maker who had no interest in being identified. "What is next? Employees taking phones with them? It is very clear that MLB owns the equipment for postseason, and the problem is that it hasn't been well-enforced."
Curt Schilling quietly made a significant donation to the Children's Hospital in Peoria, Ill., in the memory of the mother of Phillies strongman Jim Thome . . . Framingham Lou Merloni is on the move again, signing a minor league deal with the Angels, who will bring Merloni into big-league camp. Merloni was well-regarded by the Indians, but after Cleveland signed Jose Hernandez and Alex Cora, he was squeezed out of a job . . . Nomar Garciaparra says he is experiencing no problems with either his Achilles' tendon or wrist. Garciaparra showed his class last weekend by conducting his annual clinics at Stonehill College.
Material from personal interviews, wire services, other beat writers, and league and team sources was used in this report.