Welcome to my very first mailbag. Following in the footsteps of my esteemed colleague Gordon Edes -- who, for those who asked, is off at Yahoo.com now -- I'm taking the reins on this venture. I hope I can answer as many questions as possible, as thoroughly as possible.
This week I got questions about such disparate subjects as Gary Sheffield, Julio Lugo vs. Jed Lowrie, and why I don't own a bottle of hairspray. We'll get you answers to the first two, the third will have to be taken up by my stylist. (Technically, that's me.)
But on to the reason you're here: the Red Sox. The Sox are coming off a road trip that had good news (6-3 in Baltimore, Toronto, and New York) and bad news (all the injuries). That bad news starts with the decision yesterday to scratch Josh Beckett from his scheduled start tonight to send him down to be examined by Dr. James Andrews. That news came in too late to have many questions about it, but I'm sure there will be quite a few in the coming days.
Thanks for participating in and reading the mailbag. I appreciate it.
I have not read any comments as to why Masterson was shut down this season. Given the adventure of the starting rotation in 2008, all I could think was that he was running out of his predetermined innings limit for the season. Please comment.
Benjamin, Naples, Fla.
A: Ben, that's a nice way to kick off the mailbag, as Justin Masterson is one of my favorite players to talk to on the club. Masterson wasn't really shut down this season, in fact he was well within his innings limit and could have continued starting. But the club needed to shore up its bullpen and, since the prices were so high for relievers on the trade market, there wasn't much the Sox could find. So they had to go internal. Masterson was actually a pitcher who seemed ticketed for the bullpen in spring training, so it wasn't that surprising that the Sox made the switch. I know there certainly were members of the team who would have liked to have seen him back in a starting role when Clay Buchholz was struggling so much.
Thanks for all the great work this year, keeping us informed about the Sox.
This is kind of a silly question, but anyway....
I was just wondering if you know why Jacoby Ellsbury wears a shirt with a long sleeve on his left arm and a short sleeve on his right arm? Is it some kind of superstition he has, or is there some other reason why he does this?
Bert, Nashua, N.H.
A: Bert, you're not alone in wondering. I wrote about the sleeve last September, after Ellsbury came up, but it bears repeating. Ellsbury has actually worn the sleeve on his left (throwing) arm since the beginning of last season, when he was with Portland. It's an unattached sleeve, sort of like a leg warmer, which is put on underneath his uniform top. As Ellsbury said last season, "It started in Portland, the start of the year was so cold. I don't like wearing sleeves. Just playing in Portland, it was so cold, I just wanted to keep my arm warm, my throwing arm warm. I don't like the bulk of wearing a long-sleeve shirt. Had success there, so I just kept on wearing it."
What is the general opinion among sportswriters on where Jason Varitek will end up next year? Do you think he'll accept a lowball offer from the Sox, or does the paycheck outweigh loyalty and he'll end up somewhere else? If he does leave, who do you see taking his place? There's a lot of buzz around Jarrod Saltalamacchia (Or "Saltamacchia" as Jerry Remy would say).
A: Given Varitek's bad year offensively -- and it has been bad -- I think there's a much greater chance that the Sox will land him for next year than they would have otherwise. I know there was concern about Varitek in the organization after Jorge Posada signed his deal in spring training (4 years, $52.4 million), but that has mostly dissipated with Varitek's offensive woes. There is some belief that one of the younger catchers in the organization, like a Mark Wagner or a Luis Exposito, could eventually be the Sox catcher, but that's a hard position for a transition to a young player, and neither of those players is even close to ready for the big leagues. So I think there's a good chance we'll see Varitek back.
I heard a cursory explanation from Theo on this but exactly how did the Sox acquire Paul Byrd through waivers w/o the Yankees, White Sox, et al, not claiming him? And, do the waiver wire rules apply only within your own league or can teams from either league with a lower winning percentage also put in a claim? Thanks, RS Fan in Yankeeland
Peter, Garfield, N.J.
A: Good question. Waivers are extremely complicated, but this question actually has an easy answer. No one claimed Byrd when he was put on waivers early in the process. That allowed the Indians to trade him to any team. So the Yankees, for example, once they passed the first time, could not block Cleveland from trading Byrd to Boston. As for waiver rules, the preference goes to a team with a worse record in the same league as the team that has put the player on waivers. Teams from both leagues can put a claim in, but American League teams get preference on AL players, and it's the same for the National League. But there is the possibility that players could switch leagues through a waiver claim. Hope that clears things up.
Hi Amalie - Love your coverage and looking forward to you delivering the mail! A lot has been made throughout the years about how difficult it can be for a batter to hit Tim Wakefield's knuckleball and for a catcher to handle it. That being said, how difficult is it for an umpire to correctly judge balls and strikes on it? Is it as much of a nightmare as I imagine it when Wake has the knuckler working?
Joy, San Leandro, Calif.
A: Thanks, Joy! I put this question to Kevin Cash the other day, figuring that he would know the answer. (I probably also should have run it by Jim Reynolds, the home plate umpire on Tuesday in Wakefield's last start.) Cash said, "Harder than a 95 mile an hour fastball?" He said he didn't believe that it was any harder to judge whether the knuckleball was crossing the plate in the strike zone than most other pitches. He did add, with a smile, "They're not trying to hit it or catch it..."
Are we going to get Gary Sheffield or what?? With J.D. Drew gone, we have an opening in RF. Even if J.D. returns, it wouldn't be a bad idea to shift Drew to CF; considering how poorly Jacoby and Crisp have played recently. Another option would be to have him play 1B with Mike Lowell out. Either way, having him bat behind Ortiz would be a scary site for any pitching staff. Say what you want about Shef, but I think he can still hit. We're good enough to go back to back, why not go for it!
Pierry, South Easton
A: Pierry, I got this question quite a few times, so you'll have to stand in for everyone. There are two reasons that Sheffield wasn't a good fit with the Sox for the rest of this season. First, unlike Mark Kotsay, Sheffield is signed through next season. So that's another $14 million for 2009 that the Sox weren't interested in spending. Second, Sheffield isn't exactly a picnic in the clubhouse. With the Sox having just gotten rid of Manny Ramirez, they're looking for clubhouse harmony. Sheffield might not hurt that, but he might not help either.
Hi Amalie, I am a student down here at WVU and have seen Jason Bay before he was a Red Sox and always thought he was a good player and thought the Red Sox did a great job in getting him to replace a lacking Manny. My question is that I heard someone in either the national or local media say they might consider trading him this off season is their any truth to that.
John, Morgantown, W.Va.
A: Nope. Jason Bay won't get traded. Since the Sox were not going to pick up Manny Ramirez's contract option for 2009, they needed to find a replacement, even if they hadn't ended up trading him. That's Bay. His contract runs through next season, and he'll certainly be in Boston for the remainder of that. I can't look beyond that, though. Perhaps someone like Josh Reddick could be ready for Boston by 2010.
Dear Amalie, I was watching the PawSox game on NESN. George Kottaras was hitting 22 HR with 65 RBIs What more does this guy got to do, to get a cup of coffee in Boston.
It is time to plan for the future, but not a replacement for Varitek. A trainee, a catcher being trained for the future.
A: Rick, you're right. Kottaras has made some strides offensively this season. But we already knew that he had the potential to be a good offensive player. His defensive skills and makeup as a catcher were more in question. It seems that some of those questions still remain, which is why he hasn't seen time in Boston. Perhaps he'll develop those skills, perhaps not. I think the jury is still out on whether he could be a viable major league catcher. I'd lean toward no as a starter, though he could be a serviceable backup.
Hi Amalie: With Jed Lowrie's emergence, what's the future for Julio Lugo with the Red Sox? I believe he is under contract for next year. Please tell me that doesn't mean he will get the SS job back at Lowrie's expense.
William, Fair Haven, N.J.
A: Here's another one that came up a lot. I wouldn't worry about Julio Lugo supplanting Jed Lowrie this season. I think the Sox will stick with Lowrie -- whether or not Lugo comes back from this quadriceps injury. (Lugo, of course, had a setback in his return when the team was in Baltimore.) Lowrie has been even better than the Sox could have hoped, excellent offensively and steady in the field. I can't imagine there's going to be a big market for Lugo in the offseason, but the Sox can't continue to have him as their starting shortstop. He was awful this season, offensively and defensively.
Don't worry, that fact hasn't escaped the team or the front office. Lugo, by the way, is signed for 2009 and 2010 with a vesting option for 2011. That's a long time.
Salutations Amalie: Is it a stupid question to ask are the Bo-Sox World Series bound? I am a die hard fan now living in SC. My first Red Sox game was in Fenway probably in the late sixties or early seventies my dad was stationed in what we call lower Maine (Portsmouth NH) my cub pack traveled to Boston to see the Sox play. I have been a fan ever since I was in euphoria when after 80 yrs we finally put the so-called curse of the "Bambino" to rest .
Bostonchip2006, Columbia, S.C.
A: Salutations. (That always makes me think of Charlotte's Web.) I think the state of Josh Beckett's right arm has quite a bit to do with this. If the problem is serious, or if it keeps Beckett from pitching for a while, I think there is certainly trouble for the Sox, perhaps in terms of making the postseason at all. The Sox definitely have a chance to make the World Series. But without Beckett that road gets quite a bit harder.
What's happening with Bartolo Colon and can we expect him to help the big club down the stretch? It's been a long time out for swinging a bat. Thank you.
Stu, Jamesburg, N.J.
A: There's no question it's been a long time for Colon. If you didn't notice, this week the Red Sox shifted Colon from the 15-day disabled list to the 60-day DL. But that was just a formality, since Colon has already been on long enough to be eligible to come off the 60 day whenever he's ready. He will be making another Triple A start on Sunday, and will likely be headed up to the majors once roster expand on Monday. Will he help? It's certainly possible, but I think, given that he's struggled a little in his rehab, that he isn't a pitcher that the Sox can count on down the stretch.
Hi: Enjoy your comments on NESN.
I'm concerned about Manny Delcarmen. It seems that at times he's got that "Deer in the headlights syndrome" as per Calvin Schiraldi. Manny seems capable, but is he a go to guy in the clutch? Thanks.
Bob, Springvale, Maine
A: The problem is that he should be. Given his stuff -- which Doug Mirabelli told me last season was the best on the team, bar none -- he should be absolutely dominant. But he's not. Or he is at some moments, and he's not at others. That's a huge problem for the Sox, who seemingly don't know what they'll get when they bring him into a game. I think he has some work to do proving he can be a late-inning pitcher as the season winds down. He came back on Wednesday, and threw a clean inning after having trouble on Tuesday in a similar situation. The team has put a lot of trust in him this season, and he hasn't always warranted it. As for a good explanation of his inconsistency, I'm not sure even Delcarmen or John Farrell has a good reason.
I'm just curious. I was watching an interview with Hideki Matsui and noticed that he is still doing his interviews with an interpreter. I am curious to know if Daisuke Matsusaka is learning English and if he is, how his progress is coming along? I would love to hear a Matsusaka press conference in English! Thanks!
Marc, Los Angeles, Calif.
A: Marc, Matsuzaka has learned quite a bit of English since arriving in the US last season. You can see it in his interactions with his teammates, which have increased over the last two years. But I can't imagine Matsuzaka will be doing his interviews without an interpreter any time soon. Until he's comfortable, there's really no reason to. Bartolo Colon, for example, still does interviews in Spanish with an interpreter, and he made his major league debut in 1997.
With the recent trade talk around Brian Giles and Mark Kotsay I was wondering, why does Boston seem to be on every players list of cities he can't be traded to? Have the disgruntled players leaving Boston given the team a bad rep? (Nomar, Pedro, Damon, Manny etc. etc. etc.) Is it just the weather? Do they not like Dunkin' Donuts?
Joshua, Placentia, Calif.
A: It is an interesting phenomenon for a team with a recent record of winning, as the Sox have. Though I think you might be on to something with the Dunkin' Donuts comment, I know that many players aren't quite as interested in coming to a cold weather team like the Sox than they would be to some other clubs. But there's another reason, too. Playing in Boston is different than in most other cities (other than New York). Not every player is interested in being in such a difficult environment. Many players in Boston have little privacy, and that level of scrutiny isn't for every player.