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The expanded New Year version: apropos of nothing

By Nick Cafardo
Globe Staff / January 1, 2012
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1. A few fans have suggested that the Red Sox move Carl Crawford to right field to take advantage of his speed in the bigger expanse. And there are some in the organization who also feel this way.

“It’s something we’ve considered, but we haven’t discussed lately,’’ said general manager Ben Cherington.

Some baseball people dismiss this notion because Crawford has such a weak arm. But proponents will argue that not only is Crawford’s athleticism wasted in left field, but he also throws lefthanded, so when a ball is hit into the corner, he can look awkward trying to make a throw from down there.

In right field, he’d be able to dig out a ball and make a more natural throw.

After a poor year offensively and defensively, would it be putting too much on Crawford’s plate to change corners? And would Crawford, a career left fielder, go along?

2. The prediction here is that Kevin Youkilis has a big year. He has had a couple of injury-filled seasons, but he has been working out in California, has himself in good shape, and his sports hernia surgery should not prevent him from participating fully in spring training.

3. You probably don’t want to commit to one right fielder if you’re the Red Sox, because at some point Ryan Kalish (who is probably out until June after shoulder surgery) is going to be that guy. Kalish is important to the Red Sox because he is also protection in case Jacoby Ellsbury flees to a Western city as a free agent.

4. To the Cubs fans who dissed me on Twitter for saying their team was not going after Albert Pujols or Prince Fielder: What do you think, still holding out hope?

5. Another prediction: Jason Bay gets it back.

6. Dennis Gilbert, who is heading one of the many groups trying to purchase the Dodgers, has done an amazing job as a founder and facilitator of the Scouts Foundation, which has an annual dinner and auction in Beverly Hills to honor scouts and their families and also takes care of scouts down on their luck. This year’s honorees at the Jan. 14 event include Joe Garagiola Sr., Frank Robinson, Johnny Bench, Jim Leyland, Tim Wallach, and Dr. Frank Jobe.

7. Always get asked, what are the Oakland A’s doing? Very simple. They’re sending baseball a message: Get us a stadium so we can compete. And there finally appears to be progress. Why spend a boatload of money on players who are about to enter their final arbitration years or free agency when you can deal them for players whose prime is down the road, perhaps at a time when the A’s have a new stadium and are generating revenue?

Yes, the A’s are the modern version of the Montreal Expos. They produce top-notch talent, which then gets traded off. Will say this about general manager Billy Beane and assistant GM David Forst: They get a lot for their players and they usually have a good feeling about when to send them off.

8. The Twins had an awful 99-loss season, so Bill Smith stepped down as GM and Terry Ryan, their former GM who had stepped down four years ago but remained as an adviser to Smith, returned as GM. Smith took a month off, then came back to assist Ryan. The organization also brought back Wayne Krivsky, who had left to become the Reds GM.

The trio worked so well together for so long, and now they’re back trying to recreate the good karma they had.

9. Remember when we were fretting that the Red Sox didn’t obtain Sergio Santos from the White Sox and he went to the Blue Jays?

10. I think this about Dan Duquette and the Orioles: Owner Peter Angelos and his sons need to step up, sign Fielder, and give Baltimore fans something to get excited about.

11. Is Jerry Dipoto of Anaheim the hottest GM going right now?

12. For everyone grousing about the Red Sox not spending a lot of money this offseason, Cherington has made two very good value deals. He essentially got two 27-year-old closers without giving up anyone who will hurt the Red Sox. Jed Lowrie needed a new venue. Josh Reddick was a fourth outfielder. Kyle Weiland is a reliever or marginal end-of-the-rotation starter.

One scout’s evaluation of the two younger players Boston gave up in the Andrew Bailey deal:

Raul Alcantara is an intriguing kid. He has a plus fastball and a very good curveball, and he has a chance to be a top pitcher. But he’s young and in A ball, and to project that far is pretty tough.

Miles Head’s numbers were better than he actually is. He’s got power, and that may manifest itself as he progresses, but we’ll see how far he gets.’’

13. J.D. Drew may retire, but he can still play and he can still hit despite his poor numbers last season. He could be an important add-on for some team before the winter is out.

14. ESPN’s Keith Law deserves a chance to be back in a baseball front office. Smart guy.

15. Keep thinking Pedro Martinez is going to hold a press conference saying he wants to pitch again. He left me the way Sandy Koufax, Marvin Hagler, and Thurman Munson did - wanting more.

16. Too bad Jose Canseco’s reputation has been tainted by steroids and flamboyant behavior off the field, because those who know him well say he has a heart of gold.

17. With Duquette back in the majors, it’s time for someone to give Kevin Kennedy a chance to manage again.

18. It’s neat that Bobby Valentine will wear Tony Conigliaro’s number, honoring his former Padres roommate. But if I were the Red Sox, this would be a perfect year to have a ceremony around midseason where Bobby V takes off his jersey and the number is retired.

19. Wonder if Brandon Webb, Ben Sheets, or Scott Kazmir will make it back to the big leagues.

20. Had an email asking why umpires don’t go back to the old balloon chest protectors so they can see the strike zone better. Mike Port, who used to be head of the umpires for Major League Baseball, said there are a few issues involved.

The main one is safety. The current equipment is designed to prevent major head blows that could cause serious injuries and concussions.

While the old-school thought is that the umpire can adjust the balloon protector with his hand to give him a better over the-catcher-view, Port said that current umpire accuracy on balls and strikes is 94-96 percent.

“Do you give up some safety for what might be a little more accuracy?’’ he said.

Port said umpires often miss the outside pitch on lefthanded hitters because of where they set up. And since these umpires have been trained with the current equipment, going backward probably would be met with resistance.

21. Given his efficiency in deals so far, Cherington has the flexibility to trade for the Cubs’ Matt Garza. Garza is the one pitcher out there you would “extend’’ for. The Blue Jays have been very aggressive with the Cubs trying to make a deal.

22. Kevin Millwood couldn’t get a cup of coffee with the Red Sox late last year, but he had a decent run at the end with the Rockies, and several teams have inquired about him as a veteran stabilizer for their staff. The Rockies may re-sign him, and the Mariners are interested.

23. Would Tim Wakefield really go to the National League?

24. Catcher Kurt Suzukicould be next on the A’s hit list. The 28-year-old athletic backstop, who did not have a good offensive season, could be a nice fit for the Rays, who are looking for a front-line catcher and have young pitching to trade.

25. Don’t understand how good baseball men like former Orioles manager Dave Trembley and former Astros manager Cecil Cooper don’t have jobs in the game. Don’t get how a very intelligent pitching coach like Rick Peterson, who brings a whole system based on Dr. James Andrews’s lab findings, is still unemployed.

26. We know the Pawtucket radio job is usually a steppingstone to bigger things. This year, 28-year-old Aaron Goldsmith will cut his teeth in the booth alongside veteran analyst Steve Hyder. Goldsmith was chosen from more than 150 applicants to replace Dan Hoard, who became the radio voice of the NFL’s Cincinnati Bengals. Goldsmith was with the Portland Sea Dogs in 2009 as a broadcaster/ studio host.

27. Would the Red Sox and Cubs settle on outfielder Marlon Byrd as compensation for Theo Epstein? Byrd is a 34-year-old high-effort righthanded hitter with a good arm who could platoon in right, though his splits are not platoon-friendly. Last season, he hit righties at a .296 clip and lefties at .219. Something would probably have to be done about that $6.5 million salary, with the Cubs picking up some, if not all of it.

28. Ryan Madson would have been a good fit for the Red Sox, and if the market is dry, who knows whether he could still end up here? The Angels seem like the heavy favorites to get him, but the Dodgers also need a closer.

29. As much drooling as there is over Cuban outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, there are an awful lot of scouts and evaluators who don’t want to stake their reputation on a $50 million outlay for the 26-year-old center fielder, who is hard to evaluate based on the competition he has faced. Some scouts appear more comfortable with Jorge Soler, who would come at a cheaper price (around $20 million) and with lower expectations.

30. We said last week that the Red Sox should explore Oakland reliever Grant Balfour. They have.

31. I’ll probably keep saying it until he signs elsewhere, but Roy Oswalt and the Red Sox are a perfect fit. Better hurry, though. The Cardinals are sniffing on Oswalt.

32. I am on board with my good friend Scott Miller of CBSSports.com when it comes to supporting Alan Trammell for the Hall of Fame. I have voted for him for years. Extremely underrated. It’s so frustrating that he gets so little of the vote. He wasn’t Cal Ripken, but he was the best all-around shortstop of his time and was instrumental in the Tigers’ success. Trammell is so quiet and unassuming that he has never politicked for himself. So Miller and the rest of us “Trammies’’ will do it for him.

33. Good to see Mike Cameron hook on with the Nationals. Teams continue to see his value in mentoring younger players, and Washington has a guy named Bryce Harper on the way.

34. Watch the Yu Darvish negotiations with Texas. It’s not a slam dunk. The Rangers can get their $50 million posting fee back if they don’t sign him by Jan. 18. Darvish can become a free agent after next year, with no posting fee. The Rangers have the money, but they’re trying to allocate it over a period of time. They certainly want to get Darvish done if it makes sense.

35. Amazing how things come around. Last spring, we wrote about Fielder and Washington, and there were a lot of denials over the months that followed. Now we’re back to Washington being in the lead for him.

36. We’re always intrigued by how Tampa Bay puts its team together. There has been a lot of talk about the Padres trading Anthony Rizzo there and the Rays flipping him to the Cubs for an offensive piece or bullpen help. Some Rays people don’t buy it, though. First base is an issue, and Casey Kotchman could very well end up there again because he makes contact and plays good defense. Carlos Pena’s name has also been mentioned.

The big question is Johnny Damon. Manager Joe Maddon has no idea whether Damon will return. Maddon also has a relationship with Vlad Guerrero from their Angels days.

The Rays would listen on trade offers involving Wade Davis and Jeff Niemann, but I’ve heard evaluators raise concerns about both pitchers. With Davis, it’s what is his ceiling? Is he a fourth or fifth starter or could he emerge the way Chris Carpenter did after he left the Blue Jays? And Niemann? His big body and delivery issues - as well as some injury issues - have hurt the Rays in getting a desired return.

37. Stop dreaming about a Felix Hernandez deal. Not happening.

38. Righty Javier Vazquez was drawing a lot of interest as a free agent, having pitched for Florida last season probably as well as he has since his Atlanta days. But so far, he is sticking to his guns about retiring. So the Marlins need another starting pitcher.

39. Rocco Baldelli says he is very happy in his role as a special assistant to Rays GM Andrew Friedman and will likely have a more expanded role in the organization in instruction and evaluation. He reiterated that his playing career is over.

40. Still like Cody Ross and Ryan Ludwick as part of a right field platoon for the Red Sox. Ross’s asking price is still a little too high.

41. Hard to envision how Ryan Braun gets out of this 50-game suspension for a performance-enhancing substance. He says he can, though, and the union says we shouldn’t rush to judgment. I haven’t said this enough, but he’s the last guy in baseball I thought would test positive.

42. Did Yorvit Torrealba lose it (he punched an umpire in Venezuela) or what?

43. Think Jarrod Saltalamacchia will have a good year. He seemed to over-work last offseason trying to make a good impression, and he may have worn himself out.

44. The Blue Jays seem to be in on every big-name free agent or big-name player available in trade. But are they all-in?

45. Still some good pitching out there. Edwin Jackson should be the next free agent to go. He may get three years (and possibly an option). You can still deal for Wandy Rodriguez and have Houston pick up a lot of the freight.

46. Get the feeling Detroit is going to add some serious pieces in January.

47. Would love to see Valentine incorporate some of the old-school guys like Dick Berardino, Frank Malzone, Tommy Harper, Fred Lynn, and Jim Rice into important instructional roles.

Etc.

If you’ve never gone to one, and are a baseball fan, you should take in the Boston Baseball Writers Association annual dinner. I mention this as one of the things to do in my recent book, “One Hundred Things a Red Sox Fan Should Know and Do Before They Die,’’ because it is part of the Red Sox Hot Stove tradition. This year’s dinner is at the Westin Copley Hotel in downtown Boston Jan. 19 at 7 p.m. Tickets are $175 per person and are available by sending a check to Rusty Sullivan, c/o The Sports Museum, 100 Legends Way, Boston 02114. This year’s Judge Emil Fuchs Award winner for long and meritorious service to baseball is Tony La Russa. New Sox manager Bobby Valentine is also a guest. Jim Lonborg will be honored for his win over the Twins on Oct. 1, 1967 - as a Great Red Sox Moment. Associated Press sports editor Howard Ulman will receive the Dave O’Hara Award for reporting excellence. Other award recipients include Ryan Lavarnway, Joe Maddon, Ben Cherington, Miguel Cabrera, Jon Daniels, Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia, Josh Reddick, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, John McDonald, and Janet Marie Smith. ESPN’s Karl Ravech will emcee the event.

Short hops

From the Bill Chuck files: “Over the last two seasons, Brett Gardner leads the AL with 96 steals, followed by free agent Juan Pierre with 95. Coco Crisp is fifth with 81.’’ Also, “Following the 2008 season, Jimmy Rollins had a .277 lifetime batting average and an OPS of .774; that has slowly drifted down to .272 and .761.’’ Also, “Over the last five seasons, six pitchers have 60-plus losses, led by Jeremy Guthrie, who has 65. The five with the most losses - Guthrie, Derek Lowe, Paul Maholm, Bronson Arroyo, and Barry Zito - all have ERAs over 4.12, but sixth on the list is Matt Cain, who has 60 losses with a 3.26 ERA . . . Happy 26th birthday, Nick Hagadone.

Nick Cafardo can be reached at cafardo@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo. Material from interviews, wire services, other beat writers, and league and team sources was used in this report.

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