Boston Globe baseball writer Gordon Edes checks in every Wednesday or Thursday with his take on the Red Sox. Ask your question now, and come back next week to see if it was answered.
For a native New Englander living in California, it's been great to keep up with the Sox through your comments on NESN (thanks to DirecTV) and your stories and mailbag on the Internet. We've heard about how Youk is working hard at his defense at first and the results have been obvious in the sox' first dozen games -- he's been better than expected by all accounts. On the other hand ... Wily Mo has been Wily Less in the field -- making us fans cringe when the ball is hit in his direction. What is being done to make Wily less of an adventure? Presumably, he doesn't need to be encouraged to take batting practice, though his efforts aren't showing much progress in that department either. Even though we accept that he is a "work in progress," trading Bronson Arroyo (and getting stuck with David Wells and his 'tude) for Pena and his defensive deficits and Bellhorn-like tendency to strike out will continue to be questioned by Red Sox Nation. Looking forward to seeing you and the Sox during the 2 trips to Oak-town after the All-Star break!
Pam Hooley, Sacramento, Calif.
A: Pam, you know we always look forward to hitting the Coast, too. Pena, I have to admit, has been worse defensively than I had been led to believe, though it was a tipoff when Reds manager Jerry Narron, after the trade, said the Reds were better defensively moving slow-footed Adam Dunn to left to take Pena's place. Sox coach Bill Haselman is working regularly with Pena on his outfield play, and Papa Jack, Ron Jackson, has been doing extra work in the cage with Pena, but it is truly a work in progress, one with an uncertain outcome. The potential is enticing, though.
Gordon ... In trading for Wily Mo Pena, do you think it worried Theo at all that Pena, having signed a major league contract at the ridiculous age of 17, ran out of minor league options years ago? Because I think what you want in a fourth outfielder, primarily, is solid defense. That's why Gabe Kapler is so valuable. Now the Sox are stuck with a spare part who's fundamentally unsound in the outfield (a dangerous weakness given Trot Nixon's fragile health) and undisciplined at the plate, making him a poor option as a regular pinch hitter. In the end, he's an atypical Theo player and, I think, a waste of bench space. What do you think they'll do with him?
Paul Duggan, Washington, D.C.
A: Paul, it's a very good question, because the minute they stick him on waivers, someone will grab him. Kapler, of course, appears nowhere close to a return, and it would seem Pena is going nowhere, meaning the Sox may have to carry a fifth outfielder, like Dustan Mohr, instead of a 12th pitcher.
Hey Gordon, greetings from Charm City. I like what the Sox have done with their contracts, which stands in contrast to what the O's have done with Melvin Mora. Anyway, given the way Kevin Youkilis has started the season and filled in the leadoff spot it got me thinking that he would also be a great number two hitter. Do you think the Red Sox would consider moving him to this spot once Coco Crisp returns?
Justin Bergolios, Baltimore
A: Justin, the thing that Sox fans find most charming about Baltimore these days is that there are always plenty of seats available for the Sox fans who flood the city whenever the Sox are there. The O's negotiations with Mora are more reminiscent of Sox past dealings, with Damon, Pedro, and Lowe, e.g. But as far as Youkilis hitting in the 2-hole, I think the Sox feel Mark Loretta is ideally suited in that spot, and that Youkilis will be of greater value lower in the order, in a run-producing capacity. It certainly wouldn't surprise me to see him move out of the 8-hole.
I am a fan of your mailbag and I appreciate your insight. The new-look Red Sox are very exciting and the last offseason might after all be the turning point in the years to come. I am writing this at a point when the Red Sox are 5-0 on one run games. Last year the Nationals were in a similar scenario; when they won most of the one-run games before the All-Star break. However, after that, the law of averages caught up with them and they ran out of gas. I just want to be cautiously optimistic. I don' t expect a blowout every game, but is it really healthy to have so many one-run games?
R. Nathan, Malden
A: R-Nate, there is a randomness to one-run games that is a little scary. The Tigers in 2003, for example, won 51 percent of their one-run games and lost 119 overall. The Sox in '04 won 47 percent of their one-run games and won the World series, In 1995, the Giants were 17-1 in one-run games and finished 4th, 10 games under .500. The same year, the Indians were 19-2 in one-run affairs and went to the World Series. Go figure. There's luck involved, and randomness, but stats do show that over time, good teams tend to win more one-run games than bad. The Nationals were ridiculous last season; On July 8, they were 24-8 in one-run games; then after the All-Star break they lost eight one-run games in a row and finished 30-31 in one-run games.
Gordon, I like your articles, but are you under the impression that the period is an endangered species? Some of your sentences run longer than Boston Marathoners. (I'm donating my next period for your next column_)
Jeffrey Catalano, West Roxbury
A: There are numerous reasons why you might be uninformed of my appreciation for the period -- my frequent use of dashes, for example, or sentences that could run from foul pole to foul pole and still have words left over (in discussing grammar, I always find that the use of baseball metaphors comes in handy), or the way I occasionally throw in parenthetical asides that stray far from the original thought and could probably stand alone as a separate observation, but if I did that, then I wouldn't be able to use commas, which appear to be the punctuation mark of which I am fondest, given the number of times that I'll throw one in, where admittedly a period might have been of more benefit to my readers, who are occasionally left to wonder if they'll run out of oxygen before they come to the conclusion of whatever it is I'm trying to say, which presumably was worth the time they took to read it. Periods: God made 'em for a purpose, and God knows that one day I'll learn why. Thanks.
Why don't the Sox keep Stern up instead of sending him down in a week or two? Terry Francona said they want to get him some at bats to see what he can do but why? They are set with Wily Mo Pena, Manny Ramirez and Coco Crisp long term. Stern is their best defensive option right now so why not keep him here?
Jake McElligott, Irrigon, Ore.
A: Adam Stern hasn't had 400 at-bats in a season since 2002, when he was with Myrtle Beach (S.C.) in the Class A Carolina League. Last season, he had just 96 at-bats, 81 with Pawtucket, 15 with the Red Sox. The Sox want to establish whether Stern has the ability to be a productive, every-day big leaguer, and the only way to do so is to have him play every day someplace. That's why, when Crisp is healthy, Stern is likely to go down to Pawtucket. And, off the early returns on Wily Mo, I wouldn't say that the Sox are set "long-term" on anything.
You're the only hope I have in getting this message across. The Sox almost lost tonight because of an idiot move by Francona. Mike Timlin [Fran wrote something that means inhales deeply] when he inherits runners. We all know this. Timlin should only come in at the start of an inning. Matt Clement never should have started the eighth inning in his last start. Please grab Terry by the collar and tell him not to allow this any more.
A: I can tell you that Terry Francona probably wouldn't take too kindly to me grabbing him by the collar, or any other part of his uniform, unless I wish to experience the sensation of being pinned up against the wall in the manager's office, which I don't. That said, you raise a legitimate question, one which I could not proffer myself since I was not covering Tuesday night's game. The facts are these: Timlin, as you note, has not pitched well with runners on base. He led the majors in percentage of inherited runners scoring, as 56.2 percent of the runners he inherited, 18 of 32, crossed the plate. That number in his years with the Red Sox is 40.5 percent, 53 of 131. The stats support your premise that he pitches much better from the start of an inning. So why, then, didn't that happen Tuesday? My best guess is because Matt Clement entered the eighth inning having thrown just 96 pitches, and in the judgment of Francona and pitching coach Al Nipper had plenty left. He'd handled Travis Lee, the first batter in the eighth, pretty easily over the course of his career (7 for 32, .219, one EXBH, a double), and with a two-run lead, they felt comfortable letting him open the eighth. But when he walked Lee on four pitches, that set off warning bells, and prompted the summons for Timlin. That didn't work out, as you passionately noted, though Timlin came away with the W for the second straight day, and in the 900th appearance of his career.
I was hoping you might address something that has puzzled me greatly. Far too often I've seen visiting teams steal third base against the Sox, the frequency of which must greatly outnumber third base thefts by Sox runners. Now I know that the Sox are built for power and not for speed (though it seems that this year's edition has more get up and go than in the past). I also know we have Tim Wakefield, who might be one of if not the easiest pitcher to steal on in the majors. Do you have any idea how often visiting runners have stolen third base against the Sox and how often they are thrown out? It feels like the answer to this two-part question should be 1) A lot; and 2) never. The Yanks love to pull that one on us, and it makes for a big difference when, with less than two outs, a pinstriper steals third and now can score on a sac fly rather than just a base hit. Thanks for your time and keep up the excellent analyses.
Matt Englander, Roxbury
A: Matt, I had searched all my statistical databases and employed the services of the Sox crack PR staff, but was unable to come up with that number. But then I contacted Seymour Siwoff, the Babe Ruth of statisticians, and he tracked it down. Sox opponents stole third base 16 times last season, and once so far this season. I don't have the caught stealing number, but I suspect "never" comes pretty close. I can tell you the Sox, since the start of '05, have stolen third four times -- once each by Alex Cora, Manny, Edgar Renteria and Adam Stern. Coco Crisp has been caught once.
I was just wondering if Jonathan Papelbon was considered a rookie this year or did he spend to much time here last year. Thanks so much, LOVE your columns.
Pam L., Boston
A: Papelbon still qualifies as a rookie. Here's the rule: "A player shall be considered a rookie unless, during a previous season or seasons, he had a) exceeded 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched in the major leagues; or b) accumulated more than 45 days on the active roster of a major league club or clubs during the period of a 25-player limit (excluding time in the military service and time on the disabled list). Papelbon pitched 34 innings last season, well short of the rookie limit, and while his service time is 64 days, nearly half of that came after rosters were expanded from 25 to 40 players on Sept. 1.
I haven't seen a whole lot of press about Bud Selig announcing his retirement 4 YEARS from now, is anyone talking about this? Is it just me, or does this look extremely arrogant to announce something like that 4 years in advance? Does he really believe it will take 4 years to replace him? Enough already ... about 4 months. As far as I'm concerned Selig can ride off into the sunset now (and take Bonds with him, please!)
Darren Hurlburt, Portland, Maine
A: Darren, in 2003, at a convention of sports editors, Bud said he wouldn't seek another term when this one ran out in December, "no question." Well, clearly, he's had a change of heart, though I'm not sure what announcement you're referring to. I do know he's on record as saying he intends to leave in 2009 -- he'll turn 75 that year -- and despite the steroid scandal, I can assure you the vast majority of owners prefer to keep Bud in his present seat. Baseball is riding a great wave of profit and popularity right now, and for the first time in three decades has experienced some labor peace as well, and Selig deserves much of the credit. Depending on where this steroid investigation leads, Selig could yet be forced to step aside, but while it is clear he has made some mistakes and could have been more aggressive in attacking the problem, I reject the conspiracy theorists who argue Selig looked the other way deliberately because he didn't want anything to take away from the Great Home Run Chase of '98. Now, the George Mitchell investigation may yet prove otherwise, but remember, at that time the players' union was vehemently opposed to any form of testing. In balance, Selig, whose greatest strength is as a consensus builder, may well be remembered as one of the game's great commissioners, though steroids could well become what the Viet Nam war was to LBJ, the stain that obscured everything else he has accomplished.
You may have seen where Baseball Prospectus has done an analysis of pitching rotations and concluded that employing a four-man rotation (with homage to Earl Weaver) can be the optimal usage with certain pitcher-types and close monitoring of pitch counts. Having some apparent bullpen depth and with David Wells's uncertain status, could you envision the Red Sox considering a four-man pitching rotation? Has that idea ever been floated in discussions? Thanks for the mailbag ...
Matt Scully, San Diego
A: Matt, there's too much age in the Sox rotation to even entertain the idea, and given the Sox commitment to pitch counts and protecting their investments, I can say the idea has not been seriously considered on Yawkey Way.
I have a question concerning the current depth of the Red Sox, and its effect on the lineup. The Red Sox have quite a few guys that are able to come off the bench, and I've noticed that Francona has not been afraid of switching up the lineup for a game or two depending on a pitching match up. For example Alex Cora, Wily Mo Pena, Adam Stern, and Dustan Mohr have all seen significant playing time in one series or another, this granted that Coco is injured. However, do you think that we will continue to see Francona switch up the lineup for a game or two in a series, to either give guys time off or match up against a pitcher? Or will we begin to see solidified starter roles set in place as we get deeper into the season?
Peter Tympanick, Millville
A: Peter, as you noted, much of the playing time you cite was due to the injuries to Coco Crisp and also Trot Nixon, who missed most of a week. Francona will continue to platoon Pena with Nixon in right field, and Bard will catch Tim Wakefield, and Cora may get more playing time at short if Gonzalez doesn't hit. I can easily see the Sox trying to upgrade offensively at short at the break. But in general, Terry prefers to use a regular lineup as much as he can, while keeping his regulars fresh and bench guys sharp.
I love that MLB.TV provides me with a real link to the Red Sox, even while I'm in New Orleans. Do you know how they determine which team's broadcast will be picked up on any given day? I can never be sure whether I'll get the NESN broadcast, or the feed from the Sox' opponent. There are a lot of days where Don and Jerry are a very welcome addition to the recovery process. Thanks.
Mark Newberg, New Orleans
A: Mark, I'm not certain how that's determined, but as a subscriber to MLB.TV myself, I like the opportunity to hear the other broadcasters on occasion, for a different perspective.
Gordo, With news of David Wells's visit to the 15 day DL, I have to say I nor RSN should be surprised. I was aghast at the enormity of his size while getting lit up by the Jays in his first start. At age 42 and coming off knee surgery, one would think that a key part of Wells's preparation for a successful return includes a dietary regimen that would help mitigate stress on his fragile knee. Apparently the buffet line is more important than his pitching line! I'm a little disappointed in Sox management for overlooking such a critical element to Wells's successful return -- his weight! I hate to think we are witnessing another player in the twilight of his career reaching beyond his physical capabilities only to get caught in a humiliating overnight collapse. Your thoughts?
Chris Lamarre, North Adams
A: Chris, It has been a long time since Wells wore anything other than XXL. Remember in 2003, when he mocked the virtues of working out, then left his World Series start against the Marlins with back spasms after just an inning? He's always been blessed with a healthy arm and what they call "pitching shape,'' but the bad knees supporting way too much girth may finally have caught up with him.
Hi Gordon. Purely hypothetical question: Suppose you, the manager, have a pitcher with an incentive-laden contract based on number of starts. He's coming off surgery and needs another 2-3 weeks in Triple-A to get ready. Fastball topping out at 84, that sort of thing. Nevertheless, he demands to pitch. What would you do? Just curious. Your pal, Wayne.
Wayne Roberge, Troy, NY
A: Wayne, it's amazing, how your hypotheticals seem to approximate life its ownself. You couldn't possibly be alluding to David Wells, could you? There are lots of veterans who would have exercised the same prerogative, and in this case, I believe both the Sox and Wells thought he'd do better in his first start; remember how quickly he turned it around last year? But his knees obviously were in worse shape than he either recognized, or was willing to acknowledge.
Can you tell me which players on the Red Sox roster were free agents when they came to Boston?
Marvin Aldridge, Ormond Beach, Fla.
A: Sure, Marvin. Alex Gonzalez, the shortstop; J.T, Snow, the first baseman; Manny Ramirez, the left fielder; David Ortiz, the DH; Dustan Mohr, the backup outfielder; Matt Clement, the starting pitcher; Keith Foulke, the erstwhile closer; Mike Timlin, the reliever; Rudy Seanez, the reliever; Julian Tavarez, the reliever; Jermaine Van Buren, the reliever (6-year minor league free agent). I think that's everyone on the active roster.
Sorry Gordon, I don't think your statistical analysis ended this debate about Mo Vaughn and Nomar Garciaparra. Yes, Mo still hit a few dingers as he dwindled, but he was obviously not the same player. I think he got paid for two seasons in which he could no longer physically compete (the numbers don't show this of course), but it proves he was an elite player who just fell flat on his face, without warning, like Nomar. Nomar's decline is so similar, 8ish years of domination, then freak accidents and random injuries have turned him into a workmen's comp case collecting checks in front of the TV getting ready to do the "where are they now" interview with the local newpaper's intern. No, seriously, after a few years pass Nomar will be remembered as a superb player, like Vaughn is remembered, these seemingly twilight years of player's careers always get forgotten. See, even you forgot about Mo's. Thanks for taking my comments.
Frank, Cheshire, Conn.
A: Frank, as you noted so eloquently last week and reiterate again this week, there are certainly parallels in the rise and fall of both men. It will be interesting to see if Nomar has any bounce-back left in him.