Spring has arrived -- and so has the mailbag! Boston Globe baseball writer Gordon Edes checks in every Wednesday with his take on the Red Sox. Ask your question now, and come back next week to see if it was answered.
Now that the Padres have Mike Piazza, do you think there is any chance that the
Red Sox could try to get Doug Mirabelli back, especially now that John Flaherty has
retired? Even though David Wells now says that he's willing to stay in Boston, he
originally wanted to go back to the West Coast, so I think a trade for Mirabelli
and someone else for Wells would make a lot of sense. Is this at all likely?
A: Heather, I know the Sox inquired about Doug Mirabelli, but at this point I doubt very much that the Padres would part with Mirabelli. They're counting on him to at least share the catching job with Piazza, and he's actually had a very good spring. Unless there is a scenario in which Mirabelli would come back as part of a package for Wells, I just don't see it coming to pass. But stranger things have happened.
Long time follower of yours. Keep up the good work. My question is in the backup catcher situation. Flaherty gone, Josh Bard? Ken Huckaby? How is their ability to catch Wake's floater this year? Wake's been a proven commodity over the years w/ major help from his backstop (Mirabelli) He was never a concern defensively and his offense was a plus. Do you see this as a crack?
Mike Araujo, Fitchburg
A: Mike, I think the Red Sox have some concern about the position at this point. Huckaby's knee has him sidelined, which leaves Josh Bard as the only viable alternative at this stage. He could very well prove to be a capable backup, the role he played behind Victor Martinez in Cleveland, but the Sox are clearly thin at the position.
Gordon, couldn't the Sox have waited until after the season for the extension for Terry Francona? He is an awful in game manager, and in Boston there is a short leash.
A: Sure, the Sox could have waited. They held an option on '07 for Terry as well, so theoretically they could have waited until after the '07 season, too. But Francona was considerably underpaid alongside his peers, especially considering the fact the Sox won it all in '04 and won 95 games last season. He ranked in the lower quadrant among all big-league managers, and the Red Sox recognized that required some adjusting. And neither they, nor I, share your opinion that he is a terrible in-game manager. The results certainly would suggest otherwise, and so much more goes into managing than the strategy that takes place during the game.
Is there any sort of pecking order in the dugout during games? Do the stars sit first, or get the best seats, etc.?
Pat Jones, Fredericksburg, Va.
A: Pat, that's an interesting question, one that's never been asked me. Absolutely there is a pecking order, in the sense that if Nomar wants to leave his glove at a certain spot in the dugout, or Schill wants to sit next to Tito, or Manny wants to sit at the far end of the dugout with a bat in his hand, or Pedro wants to sit next to Chris Correnti, the other players obviously defer to the preference of the stars. But so far, at least, Barry Bonds hasn't been allowed to bring his recliner into the dugout.
With the plethora of starting pitching that the Sox have right now it is
evident that one of them, if not two, will be moved. Curt Schilling, Josh Beckett, Bronson Arroyo, and Jonathan Papelbon are all safe on the Sox roster. Arroyo will most likely start the
season as a long relief pitcher and Papelbon could go to the 'pen if needed. To
me the three guys that could be moved are David Wells, Matt Clement, and Tim Wakefield. Clement really is highly underrated in my opinion. People seem to want to forget that
it was his first year in the AL so he will struggle and he was an All-Star in the
first half last year. Wells is one of the most consistent pitchers in the league and is a big game pitcher. To me, although Wakefield is a very good pitcher and is a great mix in with the power pitchers on the Sox staff it is time to let him go. The Sox don't have a catcher that can catch him and even if Bard or Huckaby can, they are both still major downgrades offensively and in
leadership from Varitek. It's about time that the best catcher in the game should get an opportunity to play every day. Wakefield will be missed, but in the long run our offensive production will go up and our pitching staff will be more stable. What are your thoughts on Wakefield leaving and do you see any chance of this happening?
Josh Wasserteil, Portland, Ore.
A: Josh, it's funny, but for all the speculation about which Sox pitcher might go, I've rarely heard Wakefield's name tossed into the mix. There's actually some logic to your argument. Wakefield is in better health than Wells, and his salary, at $4 million, is a lot more palatable to many clubs than Clement's $9.5 million. Terry Francona came into camp projecting Wakefield as his No. 2 pitcher, sandwiched between Curt Schilling and Josh Beckett, so the Sox clearly consider Wake an important piece of the puzzle. You also have to ask yourself, how many teams would be willing to trade for a 40-year-old (on Aug. 2) knuckleballer, especially without the benefit of a spring training to work with a catcher? One reason Wake re-signed with the Sox a few years ago when he had a chance to walk as a free agent was because so few teams showed interest, the Twins showing the most. So I think Wake is staying. Also, I can assure you the Sox have no intention of increasing Jason Varitek's workload. Jason will be 34 on April 11 and if anything they'll be looking to give him more rest, not less.
The winter was tumultuous and it was harder to see some go (Bill Mueller, Doug Mirabelli)
than others. For the most part, though, all the moves were understandable, except for
one: Can you give me one good reason why we let Mike Myers go?
Bronson, Durham, NC
A: It's really very simple, Bronson. While Myers was exceptional against left-handed batters -- .158 BA against -- he couldn't get righties out (.385 BA, .510 OBP). So Myers was at best a one-hitter guy, and the Sox were often in big trouble if the opposition sent up a right-handed batter to hit. While many teams have thrived using a specialist like Mike, the Sox felt it placed too great a burden on Mike Timlin, whom Terry Francona used far more than he would have liked. It will be interesting to see how Myers fares this season against Big Papi -- I think the Sox like that matchup. I will tell you this: Myers is one of my favorite people in the game; I was sorry to see him leave.
After giving up their shortstop of the future (Hanley Ramirez) and some
top pitching prospects, I was wondering why the Red Sox only signed Josh Beckett
to a one-year deal (I realize they might be worried about his health, but why
give up your best prospect for a one-year starter who is still young?). Doesn't
this make him a free agent at the end of the year? If so, I would hate to see
another ex-Red Sox player go to the open market with the possibility of becoming
a Yankee. Oh, no!
Steve Gulko, Miami
A: Steve, you're a little ahead of yourself. Josh Beckett has just four years of big-league service -- four years and 30 days to be exact -- so he's actually two years away from free agency. Obviously, for the very reason you stated, plus the fact that he's an elite pitcher, the Sox have great interest in signing him long-term, and I expect that push will come this winter. By then, any health questions they might have about his shoulder and blister problems should be answered.
Do you think David Wells is healthy enough? I think the Sox should keep all their pitchers because Wells doesn't appear to me to be someone who can pitch and cover first/home adequately with those knees and largesse. I liked him last year, but I think he made a start at least once only to collect his $300,000 when he lasted 1 1/2 innings and took a cortisone shot the next day; he didn't give the team a chance to win. I also think he rescinded his trade request
because he isn't healthy and knows no one wants him that way for one year.
Susan Rufo, Wilmington
A: Susan, Wells should appreciate how kind you were in your creative use of the word "largesse" to describe his physical condition. And the reality is, it's mid-March and we haven't seen him pitch in a game, so that has indeed dampened his trade value as well as raised questions about what he can do for the Sox. He claims he'll be fine and ready for the start of the season. He's scheduled to throw in a game Thursday for the first time (a minor league game), so we'll get our first real barometer of just how far along he is.
With the injury history, and Ellsbury, Murphy and Stern in the wings, do you see the Sox bringing back Trot Nixon after this year? His gritty style defines what a player should be, he is above average talent wise and clutch with the bat. Not always the best numbers, but solid as a whole; very much like some other guy that used to play right at Fenway that was known by a one word nickname. Also, is there any word on the David Ortiz talks? The savings we got from a certain new New Yorker should help us with both.
Jay Ham, Albany, NY
A: Jay, I suspect that the economics of the situation suggests that Nixon will be headed elsewhere after the season. Trot needs a big year after two seasons of injuries to re-establish his market value, but a big year will also likely drive his price up beyond the $6.5m he is currently making. He'll be 33 at the start of next season, and it wouldn't surprise me if the Sox choose to go with a younger, cheaper alternative. It won't be the same team without the original dirt dog, will it?
If NL managers were to have their pitchers throw at Barry Bonds (right
at the knees) at every at-bat in spring training and the season, if he makes
it, might Barry catch on that no one wants him in the game anymore, much less
around long enough to touch the Babe or Hank?
Craig Wilcox, Alexandria, Va.
A: Craig, that's a creative solution to a vexing problem, but if you notice, there aren't any players joining the chorus condemning Bonds, perhaps because players recognize there were so many others in their midst cheating during the steroid era -- and perhaps still cheating today.
There hasn't been much news regarding David Ortiz' contract negotiations. Boston's front office needs to get it done before the end of spring training. We have seen how Boston's tradition of leaving players hanging until the end of the season ultimately sabotages a resigning. It happened with Carlton Fisk, Pedro Martinez, and Johnny Damon, the latter two of whom I believe the Sox
never intended to bring back. Theo's contract negotiations were left to the bitter end and we all know how that panned out. So, do the Red Sox get it done with Papi now? Or does he bolt into the arms of George Steinbrenner when he refuses to give the Red Sox a "hometown discount" come December 2006? None of us want another Christmas present like that of 2005 when JD signed with NYY.
Pattie DeFelice, North Branford, Conn.
A: I can understand your anxiety regarding Big Papi, given the Sox track record in either letting stars go or driving them away. All I can say is the sense of urgency is not as great as you believe. The Sox do hold an option for Ortiz in 2007, so they could choose to send a positive message by picking up that option now while continuing to work on a long-term deal, or get the deal done soon. John W. Henry is on record as saying he intends to make it happen; I believe he will.
Gordon -- first of all love your work and read this every day. What are your thoughts on having Kevin Youkilis at first base every day? Do you think they will go
with him and J.T. Snow or look for someone with a bit more thump for first? Keep up
the good work and go Sox in '06.
Bob Hingston, Windsor, Vt.
A: Bob, I do believe the Sox will explore adding another bat, and likely at first base, and it might have less to do with Youks than with Mike Lowell. If Lowell can't rebound from his disappointing season in '05 -- he's off to a slow start here in camp, but says that has always been the case -- the Sox may need to play Youkilis more at third. I keep thinking that the Sox might try to pry Austin Kearns away from the Reds, perhaps for a pitcher, but I have no evidence yet that is a course they are pursuing. Stay tuned, though.
Hi Gordon! So glad the mailbag is back; thanks for doing this AGAIN! My question is about Bronson Arroyo. In your last mailbag, you predict that a starting pitcher will be dealt -- and guess that it will be Clement, but also mention Arroyo as a possibility. After basically taking a discount this winter (and stating that one of the reasons was because of a kind of gentleman's agreement that he wouldn't be traded), wouldn't it be terribly bad PR for the team to trade him away? Aside from the PR, Bronson seems to be more flexible (coming out of the 'pen or
being in the rotation) and much less expensive than Clement ... so why would the
Sox want to trade him?
Cyn Donnelly, Saugus
A: Cyn, I think Bronson took a calculated risk in signing the deal he did. He knows that it is no protection against a trade, despite his willingness to take less money; he also knows that if he does wind up in the bullpen, the contract suddenly looks a heck of a lot better. And you're right about the Sox being more willing to deal Clement's contract, though if they can get what they want in return for Bronson, I can see them going that route as well. But if I had to guess, Bronson will start the season in Boston.
In all the talk about the bullpen in your column I haven't seen any talk about Craig Hansen and where he fits in. I was hoping to see the Sox get something out of him this year what are your thoughts? Is he going to be the closer the hope for?
David Pollina, Swampscott
A: The Sox still love him, obviously, although one scout told me that he thinks Hansen has to work on finding a pitch to get left-handed hitters out with. The plan is for him to start the season in Pawtucket, but I can see him coming fast.
Great mailbag Gordo! My question concerns Rule 5 pick Jamie Vermilyea. The Sox are already facing a logjam with their pitching staff, and the chances of Vermilyea making the team are slim to none (and if he did, that would be a huge slap in the face to Craig Hansen and Manny Delcarmen). That means that the Sox have to ship him back to Toronto along with a check for $25,000 at the end of camp. It just doesn't seem very fair to me for the Sox to make this move, forcing a young pitcher to train with a team that he has virtually no chance of staying
with, and not giving him the chance to get comfortable with his actual team before the season begins. This deal can only negatively affect Vermilyea's season and in the end it will cost the Sox all that money -- not just the Rule 5 bill, but the money it took to train him. Why would the Sox make this move at all? Is it their way of getting a look at a pitcher that their minor leaguers
may end up hitting against this season, or is he really someone that the Sox are considering trading for?
Christopher Reardon, Amherst
A: Christopher, as you know, the Sox returned Vermilyea to the Blue Jays, where I expect he'll start the season in the minors. Makes you wonder if the Sox would have even taken him if Theo had been around. But someone figured it was worth the dough to take a look.
I read this page religiously every Wednesday. This is my first time submitting a question. My question is this. Why are the Yankees getting all of the respect from the National Media for simply signing Johnny Damon? They did nothing to improve their starting rotation which was suspect to begin with and if JD has a season like last year again this year I will be shocked. They are making it sound like they got Babe Ruth from us. For crying out loud JD can barely reach
the cut off man with that rubber arm of his. Just wait until he has to go deep into center makes a great catch but, every runner advances b/c of his terrible arm. So I guess my question is two fold, why are they making it sound like the Sox got worse over the winter when we signed a Younger CF, who is looking pretty good by the way, and a solid number one starter? Any insight into this would be helpful. Thanks!
Tad Dooling, San Diego
A: Tad, Damon had a great season last year and is a recognizable commodity nationally; people see him at the top of the Yankee order, hitting ahead of Jeter, A-Rod and Sheffield, and see the Yankees being an even more unstoppable machine offensively. That said, in October, the Sox may be the ones smiling. Coco Crisp has been outstanding in camp, Beckett could be a perennial 20-game winner, and the age in the Yankee rotation and bullpen could catch up with them.