Boston Globe baseball writer Gordon Edes checks in every week (usually on Thursdays or Fridays) to answer your questions on the Red Sox. Ask yours now, and come back next week to see if it was answered.
Gordo, Thanks for the update on Jonathan Papelbon's shoulder last week. Perhaps you should have become an orthopedic surgeon instead of a sports writer. My question now pertains to our closer situation, or lack thereof. I keep reading about the usual suspects: Mike Timlin, Brendan Donnelly, Julian Tavarez, and Joel Pineiro or going and getting Chad Cordero. Let's just trade Craig Hansen and Jon Lester or Manny Delcarmen for Brad Lidge and be done with it. Your thoughts?
Larry D., Allentown, Pa.
A: Nice strategy, Larry, except for one minor detail the Sox asked about Lidge last winter, and were told the Astros aren't moving him.
Given the job Tavarez did down the stretch as a starter last year, why was he never even considered for that role? I'm puzzled.
Jeff Lovejoy, Linneus, Maine
A: The only scenario in which Tavarez could factor into the rotation is if the Sox moved Papelbon into the bullpen; otherwise, whose spot in the rotation would you give him? I expect a team looking for a starter might take a run at Julian perhaps the Mets?
I keep hearing that people "in the know" are thinking about putting Tavarez in as this year's closer. I was impressed with him at the end of last year as a starter, but I feel like he was horrible out of the bullpen for most of the year. Have people forgotten this? Do people really think that his poor performance was caused by not having an important role like starter or closer?
Patrick Morris, Brooklyn
A: I think the Sox feel Tavarez got off on the wrong foot when he was slapped with a 10-game suspension at the start of last season, which factored into Terry Francona not giving him a key setup role early on. Then Tavarez was ineffective, which left him in a position of remaining in the long relief role for much of the season. He did his best pitching at the end of the season, although one AL scout I spoke with this spring was skeptical that Tavarez could sustain that level of performance over time.
Why not put Tom Wakefield as the closer and put Jon Lester in the starting rotation? They seem to be babying Lester, who is clearly ready to start based on his attitude and performance. Wakefield did a great job as the closer a few years ago and seems better than the options they have.
A: Funny, but I ran that scenario past Wake recently and he wanted no part of it. The most nerve-wracking job in baseball becomes even more so when you're a knuckleballer and a passed ball or wild pitch with a runner on third base can mean instant defeat.
Why not give Lester a shot to close? Seems similar to last year where there wasn't a spot in the rotation for Paps but the guy is ready to pitch in the bigs. Let him close for a year and give Hansen time to develop. Next year Lester can replace Wakefield and hopefully Hansen will be ready to close. The guy is back from cancer and ready to go ... let him!
Seth Kerr, Orlando
A: The Sox are committed to Lester being a starter, and he gave them no reason to think otherwise with his strong performance last season. The Sox are proceeding cautiously with Lester; they understand the toll six courses of chemotherapy can take on a person, and want to make sure he's fully regained his strength before turning him loose. You're right, though ... he's anxious to get going.
Given Josh Beckett's history (blisters exacerbated by throwing breaking pitches, difficulty reaching the 200 inning mark, etc.), his obvious talent, demeanor, and the expectation that the Sox will have a number of quality young starting pitching options in the next few seasons, do you think the team quietly considers him to be a possible long-term solution to the closer vacancy? Certainly, there are preferred scenarios. Maybe Pineiro, Hanson, or another emerges and seizes the job for years to come. Maybe there's such a hole at the back of the bullpen this season that the Sox are forced to trade for an expensive and proven solution. Maybe Beckett improves and is a Cy contender, keeping him forever in the rotation. However, if he essentially repeats last year, and there remains any doubt about the identity of the closer heading into next offseason. Can you envision Beckett the closer, with his rotation spot going to Lester, a re-signed Schilling, etc.?
Brian Hickey, Eugene, Ore.
A: Brian, I've never heard it considered. I think they believe Beckett will be a top-of-the-rotation starter for years to come, and that a Hansen or Bryce Cox will emerge within the next year to seize the closer role.
I first wanted to ask you about Mike Timlin. I just read that he'll be out for at least a week. What are your expectations for him this year? He was pretty vulnerable last year and wasn't pitching the way he has been for the previous couple years. Also, what is the update on the closer situation. I have to be honest, I'm getting a little nervous about it. Does anyone seem to be leading the race?
Peter Glore, Boxford
A: With Timlin pushed back again a couple more days, it seems a stretch to think that Mike will be ready for the start of the season. Given that he just turned 41 and had shoulder trouble last season, there are grounds to be concerned about the guy who has been the workhorse of the pen. You have lots of company among those nervous about the closer; the honest answer is no one has yet to emerge. Theo said this week that he expects the picture to get clearer in the last week to 10 days of camp, but right now the situation is as unsettled as it was in '03, which can't make Tito feel very good.
It does appear that Dice-K has some understanding of English but I had always heard the Japanese educational system was very strong. Why is it that he and Hideki Matsui didn't take years of English in school? Is it that their adolescent baseball careers really interrupted their schooling? Also, will all these extra journalists make it hard for you to get access to the players this season? Of course, we fans are interested in the whole team, not just Dice-K, however it may appear at the moment.
Constance Martin, Watertown
A: How many kids do you know who took Spanish or French in high school and would be hard-pressed to carry on a conversation? The same may apply to Daisuke Matsuzaka, though I haven't asked him how much English he took in school. I agree with you that he understands more than he lets on at this stage; his wife is fluent in English, and he's now being tutored. We recognize that fans have an interest in other players as well, which is why we've written stories about most everyone else on the club, whether it's Kyle Snyder, Jason Varitek, Coco Crisp or Jacoby Ellsbury.
I keep telling myself that it is only spring training but the Sox do not look too good. The Yankees came to town with a split squad and for four innings looked terrific. They looked like they were really trying but the Sox looked lost. How come?
Joe Gullage, Lakeland, Fla.
A: Don't put any stock into spring-training results. You really can't expect the Sox to go after the Yanks with the same intensity in March that they show in April. Besides, the Sox won that game. J.D. Drew hit a home run, Kevin Youkilis had two hits, the bullpen performed very well ... pretty good showing, all in all.
Gordon, many thanks for your contributions and an always fun mailbag. OK, I read opinions on a great starting rotation, a great lineup and the angst of "who will close" (a 2003 redux it seems). And, yes, it is only spring training but am I the only one who is getting concerned about these averages?: Coco Crisp -.185, Tek - .105, Dustin Pedroia - .233. Coco is supposed to be all healed, Tek is supposed to be all healed and in monster shape and it seems Dustin is more of a work in progress than we've been led to believe. It's probably why I'm not employed by the Red Sox or the Globe but I remember Red Auerbach repeating that all the games are important and why not win the early ones and have less pressure in the middle-to-end of the season. Are we headed toward an anemic start on offense, in addition to a drama equal to American Idol at the closer position?
Michael Chevalier, Souderton, Pa.
A: Agreed, Mike, that the Sox haven't hit yet this spring, but surely you can't be worried that this team will score runs, are you? I think the bottom of the order has some proving to do -- Coco and Varitek need to have bounce-back seasons and Pedroia will have the normal rookie ups and downs -- but the first five matches up favorably with most clubs.
Hey Gordon. Love your work and look forward to your mailbag each week. With Kyle Snyder making some nice outings, it looks like he's caught in a numbers game. Why can't the Red Sox send him to the minors?
Steven Caella, East Hartford, Conn.
A: Snyder is out of options, which means the Sox would have to pass him through waivers in order to send him down. It's virtually certain that another club would claim him, which leaves the Sox in a position of either making a spot for Snyder in the pen or trying to trade him. Snyder has looked good in camp, and recently said he'd like to be considered for the closer role. Curt Schilling, for one, is a big Snyder backer.
What are the perceived weaknesses of the Red Sox that have the odds-makers favoring the Yankees?
Frank Depgen, Venice, Fla.
A: Frank, it may not be Sox weaknesses as much as Yankee strengths that have the wise guys making the Bombers favorites. The Yanks lose a Gary Sheffield, but Bobby Abreu is an all-star caliber replacement, which leaves the Bombers with a lineup that has an all-star filling every spot in the lineup from 1 to 9, with the exception of first base, where they're going with a platoon of Doug Mientkiewicz and either Jason Phillips or Josh Phelps.
I read these mailbags and just can't believe what I see. Apparently accountability means nothing to those that continue to appease Manny's behavior. Truthfully this attitude terrifies me. Who are these people? I hope they don't have any kids! If I do a great job at work but lie to my superiors I get fired or at least punished. That's the real world. Just ask Ron Borges! I have to be accountable for my actions. There seems to be a disturbing lack of understanding of this concept in society. This shows us that effort and attitude mean nothing, success means everything. If a guy quits on us, it's OK because he's great when he decides to put forth effort. It's a slap in the face to those busting their butts to get by. The better you are at something, the less accountable you have to be. It's a terrible lesson.
I'm one of the apparent minority that believes the 8 (not a typo) figure salaries that these athletes earn requires more than just performance. They also require that athletes be accessible to the media, as well as require behavior that will reflect favorably to all of the fans out there that may look up to these superstars. In other words, a huge contract does not absolve an athlete from accountability. In fact, accountability should increase for such a price tag. Who are these insane people that don't see the merit in this? There's more than numbers to life, and there's more than numbers to the concept of team. I'd rather watch a team of Bill Muellers and Trot Nixons scrap to play .500 ball than watch terrible personalities teach terrible lessons to all those watching. I can't wait until the Sox start rebuilding so Red Sox Nation can shed the idiots that have created the nation's new reputation of Johnny come lately, annoying and arrogant fans so I can get back down to the business of enjoying my baseball team again. On another note, to all those that cite players not wanting to come to Boston to play because of the media, I offer two facts. One, the media frenzy is fed by THE FANS. Two, most players, like Wells, first cite THE IDIOT FANS for their angst, the media second.
Adam Heward, Newberry, Fla.
A: Adam, it's hard for me to accurately gauge how many people share your feelings on the subject. I think you know, from reading the type of responses I get, that there are lots of folks who feel you are sadly quaint, old-fashioned, and misguided. The end justifies the means, remember? And Hall of Fame talent exempts a person from criticism.
I have to admit I don't always read all of the mailbag but I like your columns and on NESN. I just read the most recent mailbag and I was shocked as to how much venom the fans have at the media. I don't understand this notion that the writers must write all pretty puff pieces on the local teams. If everyone has the same opinion, it gets a little boring. It is why talk radio doesn't do 10 hrs a day of the great charity work Tim Wakefield does and instead talks about Manny and whatever strikes the fans at that moment.
I think that fans should just read the writers they want and ignore the ones they don't. People criticize Ron Borges for being anti-Pats (which is a crime, once again). I didn't agree with his opinions on the Pats, so, guess what, I didn't read his articles very often. It was quite easy actually.
Sorry to get on a rant here. I love the Red Sox as much as the next guy, but I don't take it personally when some writer says something that I don't agree with. It's OK that some fans love Manny and can ignore his other stuff. But it is also OK if some people think that he should be more accountable. I don't think either side is wrong. I have no problem with my opinion that he is a child-like man who should be more responsible with how he acts AND still root for him when he is on the field. I would have been happy if they traded him (and got value) and I am happy they kept him. Am I crazy?
Keep up the good work Gordon.
P.S. -- I can't get enough Dice-K stuff either...
Aaron Itchkawich, Providence, RI
A: Can't we all just get along (smile)? It probably doesn't help reasonable discourse or differences of opinion when a Curt Schilling posts an entry on his blog entitled "Why the Media Sucks." Too bad, because anyone reading or listening to Schill can see he is capable of delivering a great deal of informed opinion and insight. Why he would choose to sink to that level, in a town where the vast majority of coverage he has received has been celebratory of his accomplishments and place in baseball history, is a bit baffling. He is not alone, of course, in a talk-radio world of shrill voices, but I'm just sorry to see him become part of the chorus. He is better than that.
Love reading the mailbag each week. I wanted to lay out for you an idea I had last fall about a different way of structuring a pitching staff and see what you thought about it. Two things last fall triggered this idea: Jonathan Papelbon's shoulder scare and Julian Tavarez' success as a starter. We all know that Papelbon is aiming to be a starter mainly because it is considered to be easier on his body than the irregular work of a closer. Let's suppose that that is true generally: pitching on a regular schedule is less stressful to a pitcher's arm than three days on, three days off or whatever irregular pattern closers and setup men have to work. In a postgame interview at the end of the season, Tavarez said that starting was better for him, as he could prepare mentally and physically for his schedule, rather than being called at random times from the bullpen.
So here are the propositions:
1) Pitching on a regular schedule is healthier for a pitcher.
2) Pitching on a regular schedule allows pitchers to prepare mentally and physically, and thus perform better and more consistently.
If you buy into those propositions, here is my idea for restructuring a pitching staff:
Four starters, each of whom would pitch 5-6 innings per start (or roughly twice through the batting order-if they are pitching well). Four "finishers", each of whom would pitch 3-4 innings per game to finish the games of the starters Two or three "firemen" who would come in during an inning to put out a rally. With each starter only going 5 or 6 innings (say 70-80 pitches), they should be able to go on a four-man rotation. The finishers would pitch 50-60 pitches each time out and also go on a four-man rotation. The firemen would be specialists who deal well with men-on-base situations -- sinkerballers or strikeout pitchers.
The manager would pair up specific starters and finishers for maximum benefit, such as righty-lefty, or slow-fast (Wakefield and Papelbon, say), to throw off the lineups of the opposing team. This strategy worked for Cuba in the WBC, where Pedro Lazo, a starter, pitched four innings in relief to close out games.
This strategy would seem to be perfect for the Red Sox, who have a surplus of starters, but no closer. This would be a way to get Lester and Snyder, and maybe Devern Hansack or Tavarez into the "rotation". This would have the added benefit of allowing an additional position player, with only a 10-man or 11-man pitching staff. Starters would have the possibilities of collecting more wins (with a four-man rotation and five innings pitched), and the finishers would rack up saves. In the case of a no-hitter, the starter could presumably be allowed to continue as far as he could. Extra innings could foul this up to some extent, but they foul up pitching staffs no matter what.
Overall, this should lead to more consistency, fewer injuries, more wins, and a greater "team effort" by the pitching staff. Sorry for the length of this letter, but I wanted to spell out as much of the idea as I could.
Stephen Falbel, Montpelier, Vt.
A: I enjoy the originality of your thinking, but I think the Sox and most teams would prefer to get far more innings out of their starting pitchers in a given game, and would challenge your premise that any staff would have the quality of depth that would make your suggestion effective. It would work much better in a short series like the WBC than a 162-game season, but again, you get big points for being creative.
Never been to Boston, am looking forward to a trip to Fenway before I die that's for sure. However I do live for the Red Sox. I wouldn't mind if you passed on my e-mail address to the other mad Aussie Red Sox fan as we need to start some sort of support group in Australia. Maybe the first step would be "I am powerless over people's confused faces when I start rambling on about the Red Sox and my life is unmanageable". Step 2 could be I came to believe that a power greater than myself (most likely David Ortiz) will restore me to sanity.
Anyway I needed to write about the whole Manny thing. The bottom line is that the fans in general want the media to back off a bit and let him hit. We understand he is a flawed character and he could have tried harder for the last 6 weeks last year. We understand he struggles with the way he shows courtesy and respect to his employers and that he could deal with situations differently and we all would love him to be personable like Big Papi and many others in the team but we don't have the power to change who he is. We can either accept his defects and look at the good stuff or we can build a resentment and look at the bad stuff. I for one will look at the good and I suppose we see the reporters currently looking at the half empty glass and we wish they would lighten up. Have a great day Gordon and all the best.
Frank Baran, Beaumont Hills, NSW, Australia
A: Frank, I hope you saw my piece on Jon Deeble and Craig Shipley and the miracle of the Aussie silver medal in the Olympics and the impact they've had on the Sox, especially in the pursuit of Dice-K. I agree that you owe it to yourself to make a pilgrimage to the Fens. Your point about Manny is well-taken, but again I submit that while the media is taken to task for its criticism of Manny, it was Sox management that placed him on waivers after the '03 season, tried to trade him for A-Rod, and have explored other trade scenarios since. Why is it that Manny's fans believe media members are the only ones that seem to have issues with him when he goes off-track?
On the hostile Sox media question: My perception is that the athletes are more distressed by the FANS than the media. Over-involved self absorbed get-a-lifers are endemic here, and they make the players' lives miserable. Many have said so after they leave (David Wells was especially blunt), and others don't come here because of it. Particularly galling is the perception that fans can freely approach and engage them on the street, in private life, etc. So to the guys writing in criticizing media aggressiveness: maybe you are the problem too.
Doug Watson, Rowley
A: Doug, what was it that Boomer said after returning to San Diego, that Boston should be called "Camera Town" instead of "Beantown" because of all the fans demanding that players pose for pictures? Interesting that some guys seem to have little problem with intrusions in their private lives -- guys like Ortiz and Varitek say they've been able to blend into the town they live in -- while others are not given a moment's peace. I am a firm believer in a player's right to go out to dinner undisturbed, but that is a challenging proposition in our neck of the woods.
Who will have a one-on-one with Manny first, you or Tina?
Dave McLaughlin, Temple, Maine
A: Dave, I like Tina's chances much better than mine. I have noticed Manny talking to a couple of members of the Japanese media, and chatting up good-guy Deron Snyder, the columnist for the Fort Myers News-Press. Manny never has had a problem saying yes to some of the beautiful correspondents who show up from time to time for Univision or Telemundo ... the man has good taste, what can I say?
Love the blogging, mailbag, and articles! Keep up the good work! My question more has to do with the prospects than anything else. It seems with all the coverage of Dice-K, Manny, and the closer situation, that the farmhands are being forgotten. I would love to know how Clay Buchholz, Josh Bard, and Bryan Cox are doing in minor league camp, and more about how David Murphy and Jacoby Ellsbury did in major league camp. They are the future of the Red Sox! Go Sox!
Ben A., Coral Springs, Fla.
A: Minor-league camp officially opened on the 11th, and the first games began today (the 16th). I hope you caught my piece on Ellsbury last Sunday ... his background is fascinating, and he showed enough in camp to be pegged as the most exciting position prospect the Sox have had since Nomar Garciaparra. He's going to start the season in Double-A, but I believe he'll be challenging for a big-league job by next season. Murphy has drawn praise from Tito for getting stronger over the winter and will be on call in Pawtucket if the Sox need an OF. Buchholz, who actually had a footrace against Ellsbury a couple of years ago and may be the fastest guy in the system, is projected to open the season in Portland, while No. 1 draft pick Bard figures to be part of a kick-butt staff in Class A Lancaster, along with Michael Bowden. Didn't ask yet about Cox, the college kid with big-time closer potential; Portland would seem to be a real possibility.
Hi Gordon ... love the mailbag and this Website that provides it. I'm a lifelong Mets fan and grew a devotion toward the Sox out of our mutual dislike of the Yanks. (I'm sure there's quite a few of us.) I asked this question toward the end of last season, but now that the Red Sox will be seeing the Mets in spring training, maybe you can ask it of them or the reporters covering them. Last season, the Mets began playing "Sweet Caroline" at Shea Stadium. This is obviously a Fenway tradition so why are the Mets blatantly stealing it? As a Mets fan, I'd rather we start our own traditions like the "Jose, Jose" chant. Why are the Mets doing this and do you think the fans of the Red Sox would care that they are doing this? Thanks.
David Reiss, Forest Hills, NY
A: I'm a fan of the "Jo-se, Jo-se" song, and a bigger fan of the player, easily one of the most exciting young kids in the game. I admit to being shocked when I heard Neil's voice come over the PA at Shea during the playoffs last season. ... Mets have gotta be able to do better than that. Never get tired of the "Curly Shuffle" though. I blame my buddy Chip for that; he scarred me at a young age.
Gordon, I'm wondering why the sports pages have become top heavy with gossip, innuendo, and rumor-filled whispers over the last few years? As a long time reader of the Globe, I remember a time when sports stories and columns were primarily about sports. It seems to me we've become a nation of gossiping old biddies who can't wait to hear the "latest" juicy tidbit from that unimpeachable unnamed source and then to wag our tongues in shock and dismay over said tidbit. I suspect the proliferation of entertainment-gossip shows on television is eviscerating the modern sports fans -- turning us into the sports equivalent of the yammering "Give us more Britney stories" types. Then again, maybe I just need to get with the times and go with the flow. It's not easy being a dinosaur.
Joe St. Laurent, Rochester, NH
A: Joe, I admit to being a bit of a dinosaur myself. I much prefer a world where we don't have to read about Bill Belichick's involvement in a divorce case or Derek Lowe's stuff or Theo's wedding at Coney Island (nice scoop by me on that one, no?). A player's personal affairs should really be off-limits unless it's affecting his play or he's breaking the law, but in Days of our (Celebrity) Lives, that just doesn't play anymore, does it?
Enjoyed your piece on Ellsbury. It reminded me of growing up in Somerset in the 1940s and hearing the rumor that Rudy York was part Indian. Since you didn't mention it in your article, I assume it was just a rumor. Could you confirm? Thanks.
Kimber Wheelock, Lady Lake, Fla.
A: Kimber, that was no rumor about Rudy York. He was at least one-eighth Cherokee, and was quoted as saying he had considerably more native American in him than Irish.
How can you write an article about a native American ballplayer likely ending up playing in Portland, Maine, without also mentioning the very famous Maine native Louis Sockalexis? A member of the Penobscot tribe, he was the first American to play major league baseball. Young Jacob might be interesting in learning this story himself.
Jan Conway, Alexandria, Va.
A: Believe me, Jan, I'm well aware of the Sockalexis saga and will be visiting that story in the near future.