Expect Yankees to be hungry
Let's dip into that mailbag ....
It's great being a Red Sox fan 30 minutes north of Yankee Stadium. In the office I have had to deal with all The Yankee trash talk until this year and it's great. Everyone walks by seeing my picture taken with the World Series trophy, which was done back in early November at a special Blohard reception. My question Gordo is do you see the "25 players, 25 cabs" mentality shifting over to the Yanks? This used to be how the "old" Red Sox use to be described.
Marty, Peekskill, NY
A: Marty, no I don't see that happening, not as long as Derek Jeter is there, and you have a core of team guys that include people like Hideki Matsui, Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera and Bernie Williams. I think Alex Rodriguez desperately wants to prove he's cut from the same mold. The Yankees will be very dangerous this season, in my view.
I still can't believe we did it, Gordon! What was it like to be in the middle of history last year? I saw (and savored) Kevin Millar's characteristically loosey-goosey outtakes before Game 4 of the ALCS on the MLB DVD, where he was essentially whistling past the graveyard. Did you sense that his teammates shared his belief that the team would accomplish the unprecedented? Also, do you detect any difference in the team's mood this spring now that they are World Series champions, or are they still the same bunch of lovable idiots? Love your work, and I'm ready for the sequel!
Peter, Saunderstown, RI
A: Peter, no need to worry that these guys have changed, although Jason Varitek, among others, has already tried to distance himself from the "idiots" label. As for whether these guys knew they were going to come back and win, I think what happened is they didn't worry beyond that day's game. Once they beat the Yanks twice in OT in such dramatic fashion, and knowing they had Schill going in Game 6, they had tremendous confidence returning to the Bronx.
How good are the Red Sox defensively this year, particularly in the infield?
Steve, State College, Pa.
A: Steve, you have one "plus" defender in the infield in Renteria, one average defender at third in Billy Mueller, and two adequate guys in Mark Bellhorn at second and Kevin Millar at first. But that's essentially the same crew, substituting Orlando Cabrera for Renteria, that got it done last year.
Doesn't it make more sense to keep Bronson Arroyo in the rotation to let him develop than Tim Wakefield, who's in the twilight of his career?
Mark, New York, NY
A: Mark, Terry Francona has been praising Arroyo as a potential Ramiro Mendoza type (the Yankee model, not the Sox bust), a guy who can give you great middle relief and still be around to spot start. I think maybe they believe Arroyo is what he is, a guy who did a great job as a No. 5 starter but may never be more than that. Wake is in the last year of his deal, and the Sox know he's good for 12-15 wins and 200 innings, which may keep him around beyond this year.
How good can Matt Mantei be? Will he be ready to pitch this spring? Will he be the eighth-inning guy?
Jeff, Iowa City, Iowa
A: Jeff, Mantei can be tremendous. Remember, this is a guy who was closing for the D-Backs a couple of years ago and throws in the mid-90s -- when healthy. His health is the whole key here; yes, he'll be the eighth-inning guy if his arm holds up.
I realize that there are very few openings on the Sox' 25-man squad. However, I was wondering which non-roster invitee you think has the best chance of playing himself into a position to go north with the team?
Shawn, Clover, SC
A: Shawn, the non-roster types competing for a job are Roberto Petagine, looking to win a left-handed hitting backup first baseman job; outfielders George Lombard and Billy McMillon, who are competing with Rule 5 draftee Adam Stern for a backup outfield job, and pitchers Jeremi Gonzalez and Denney Tomori, trying to win a bullpen slot. Petagine may have the best chance to stick.
Great to have you and the Red Sox back. After last year, especially, can't get enough of baseball and the Sox. What is your favorite memory of the postseason? Which player that left will be missed the most? What new player will have the greatest impact?
Barbara, Fly Creek, NY
A: Hi Barbara, funny, but the postseason passed like a blur, which I know is a cliché but true. One of my favorite memories was standing in John Henry's office in Fenway Park before Game 1 of the World Series, and Henry standing in front of his desk, demonstrating the swing of his childhood hero, Stan Musial. I also remember Derek Lowe, champagne bottle cradled in his arm, trying to talk a security guard into letting him back on the field so he could find his wife after winning Game 4 of the World Series. And watching the Sox celebrate on the field in Yankee Stadium, and in the stands behind the dugout, and seeing one fan holding up a sign that read, "History Begins Today.''
Pedro will be missed most. He was the best pitcher I have ever seen, in terms of on a given night. I think Matt Clement is going to deliver big things.
Gordo, great to have you back! OK, everybody's talking about the starting rotation, defending the title, blah, blah, blah ... I want to know this: can we win the division this year? Is it really too much to ask the Orioles to not lay down like dogs every time they play the Yankees, but then play us like it's Game 7? Can we expect any kind of consistent play from these guys, or the Jays, or the Rays? Or will they continue to roll over for the Yankees?
A: Dave, I think the Jays will be better, the Orioles still short on pitching but capable of beating you up on any given day with Sammy, Miggie and Co., and the D-Rays still a long way from competitive.
Big question. How does any team (especially one that accomplished such a monumental feat) put last season behind it and start anew? Is that the best strategy or should they try to make this one long continuation from last season?
Robert, Forest Hills, NY
A: Robert, they have a great example in the Pats. They certainly can't play mediocre ball for three months like they did last season, and assume everything will kick in down the stretch, as it did last season. Winning last season, and running the table the last eight games of the postseason, should imbue this team with tremendous confidence, but these guys understand that you don't just hit the replay button and it's '04 all over again. They also understand they have a lot to prove without Pedro and Derek Lowe.
Hi Gordon, and thanks for your hard work with the Globe. I noticed that Chris Snow has replaced Bob Hohler as the beat writer for this season -- or at least that's the way it appears from the spring training coverage. Can you give us some background info on Snow and let us know how the Globe's Red Sox coverage is shaping up for this year? What has Hohler moved on to, back to the Washington bureau?
Daniel, Oak Park, Ill.
A: Hey Daniel, nice to hear from you. Hope all is well on your front, too. Chris is 23 years old, a Syracuse graduate who interned two summers for us and made a great impression on everyone with whom he worked with his poise, energy, knowledge and (not least) his reporting and writing ability. He spent last year covering hockey's Minnesota Wild for the Minneapolis Star-Tribune before the Globe reached out and brought him home (He's a native of Melrose, Mass.). Bob Hohler spent the last 3½ years covering a club that went through a lot of tumultuous times and gave us a depth of insight and coverage that was deeply appreciated by the Globe's readers. He's moved on to another high-profile position, one that will involve him writing major projects and sports-related stories that often will appear on the front page of the newspaper. He's a class act.
Gordon: So what's happening with the Sox minority owners and specifically our guy from northern New England -- Les Otten. Is he involved with important Sox decisions, i.e. renovation of Fenway, etc.?
Ron, Killington, Vt.
A: Ron, Les has a big title -- vice chairman -- which would imply some voice in decision-making, though I think Theo and the Trio make all the major decisions on the baseball operations side, and virtually all on the business side, too. I'm not privy to the inner workings, but I suspect most of what the Sox do is presented mostly as fait accompli. Les is visible -- he pops up on NESN and plays catch on the field, but as far as authority, I would guess it's rather limited. But I qualify that as an educated guess.
In retrospect, do you think that baseball writers knew, or should have known the extent of the steroid problem while it was going on, and what was or is the responsibility of the press regarding the steroid controversy?
A: Blair, I think we as media could have and should have done more, although there were a handful of reporters who called attention to the steroids issue years ago. I refer you to this piece by Rick Telander of the Chicago Sun-Times: http://www.suntimes.com/output/telander/cst-spt-rick072.html
Our responsibility is to inform the public as much as we can about developments regarding steroids and other performance-enhancing substances, how it could be impacting play on the field and health of the players, and the issues regarding drug testing and the like. There's much we need to do better than we have. The first reference I could find in my work to steroids was in 1989, during the Pete Rose trial, then not again till '96. During the andro controversy in 1998, I quoted Mo Vaughn as saying he didn't use steroids, but had this quote from the Sox strength and conditioning coach, Merle Baker.
Baker agreed that it would be naive to believe that there aren't some major leaguers using illegal steroids: "There are kids in high school using steroids just so they can get jacked and look good for girls," Baker said. "What makes you think that grown men wouldn't roll the dice so they could make more money?"
Last Tuesday's Chicago Tribune (Feb. 22) carried an article from Mesa, Ariz., (where the Cubs train) quoting Nomar as saying he did not watch his ex-teammates in the 2004 World Series. Like most Sox fans I'm tired of beating this dead horse, but if the piece is true, doesn't that tell us all we need to know about this guy?
Ted, Rio Verde, Ariz.
A: Ted, that's not my read at all. I can understand where it would have been excruciating for Nomar to watch something he had worked so hard to be a part of for seven years. I know he called and congratulated several guys afterward.
Hi Gordon, I gotta say that as much as I love being world champs, I love that the Sox are world champs we can be proud of. Theo's done such a great job assembling talent and character. How does a GM scout a player's reputation in the clubhouse?
Lisa Carney, Feeding Hills
A: Lisa, that's a good question. One way Theo Epstein does so is to hire players only recently out of the game, like a Craig Shipley, who has numerous contacts around the game and can ask players, coaches, etc. about a guy's off-field behavior.