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.
Gordon, thanks for the great coverage both during spring training and now into the early season. My question after watching another unproductive offensive display in Toronto and mounting concern of many fans is, will the Sox' hot and cold batting order be able to absorb the continued weak hitting of Jason Varitek and Coco Crisp and still be able to have a successful season. Thanks for your insight and keep up the good work.
Ron Willis, Killington, Vt.
A: Ron, I suspect you took note of the fact that the team comes into this weekend's series against the Yankees with a collective batting average of .249, the lowest it has been after 14 games since the '96 club hit .226. I think the bad weather was a definite factor, even though the Sox didn't exactly tear the cover off the ball in three climate-controlled games in Toronto's Rogers Centre. The bottom of the order obviously could develop into a black hole, but I advise some patience before deciding that will indeed be the case. A team that has a 3-4-5 of Ortiz, Ramirez and Drew is going to score some runs, and while the Sox lineup does not stack up favorably against the Yanks this weekend, for example, I assure you that Terry Francona is happy to have the pitching staff he's got.
Hiya G, I was just wondering ... A-Rod will almost certainly leave The Bronx next year. Is there any chance the Sox can get him to sign? From what I read, 6 years, $180 million or so -- his price tag -- is not much, considering Manny's contract is up in 2008. The Sox could either save $20 million/year by letting Manny go and make room for A-Rod or keep them both and be a serious contender next year with the addition of another starting pitcher (Curt Schilling and Tim Wakefield being over 40). Your thoughts on that? Thanks!
Immanuel Carr, London, UK
A: Immanuel, the way things are going now, maybe A-Rod decides to stay in NY and live happily ever after. What he's done so far this month is truly astounding, and it's great to watch him let his talent take over and be the game's best player, which he is. Given the lengths to which the Sox were willing to go to try to get him after the '03 season -- and the way Theo Epstein has no qualms about doing business with Scott Boras (D-Mat, meet A-Rod) -- you have to think they would at least have some conversations, if Alex should opt out of the last three years of his deal. But what seemed a foregone conclusion coming into the season -- that Alex would indeed leave -- is now not quite such a slam-dunk, is it? Hard to imagine George allowing him to go if he keeps playing like this.
Gordon, please tell Wily Mo he is standing waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too far away from the plate. Those sliders away that he swings at (actually, he should take that pitch with less than two strikes) are impossible for him to reach at the present time. Thanks.
Doug Berlin, Jamestown, NY
A: Doug, think about it for a moment: How do you suppose any ballplayer would react to a reporter, 99.9 percent of whom have never stood in a batter's box against someone throwing sliders, curves, splitties, changeups and 95 mile an hour fastballs, coming up and saying, "Uh, Wily Mo, I think maybe you should move a little closer to the plate --you couldn't hit Felix Hernandez's slider with an oar from where you're standing.'' Somehow, even with someone as good natured as Wily Mo, I don't think that conversation would go very well. Your faithful correspondent would be much more within his rights to ask a hitter, or the hitting coach, Dave Magadan, a question like: "Does Wily Mo's setup make it harder for him to reach a slider? Would it be more useful for him to get closer to the plate?' Besides being more respectful, I might have a chance to live longer that way!
Are fans this badly behaved everywhere? I've been to a few other stadiums, and the behavior of the fans was nothing compared to Fenway. Everybody who sees these highlights from year to year must think most Bostonians completely lack maturity and class. Throwing beer, punching Gary Sheffield, and throwing pizza? Add to that the abhorrent language and some of the things I've seen at Fenway that I don't even dare mention because they didn't get on TV and were so reprehensible, that it doesn't bear mentioning. Are we a state of ill-mannered 6-year-olds? If I had children, I would never take them to a game, and that's terrible. Baseball is family entertainment and there is always a percentage of these gilligans at every game. It's not worth the ridiculous ticket prices to have to dodge beer, food and sometimes fists. I hope someday the fans can realize that they are spectators and not feel like they have to be the center of attention everywhere they go.
Earl Nezuch, Marlborough
A: Earl, there's much in your e-mail I agree with, but "gilligans"? When was Gilligan ever guilty of anything more offensive than being a sweet-natured dope? "Hooligans," I could understand, but as someone whose boating skills on Hickory Hills Lake have led some of his so-called "friends" (yes, Pete and Deb, I'm calling you out) to refer to him as "little buddy" -- we'll leave my dad, a.k.a. "The Skipper" out of this one -- I feel obliged to defend the honor of one of our culture's more harmless creatures. If Fenway were filled with Gilligans, there's no doubt it would be a kinder, gentler place -- even if they might cheer at all the wrong times.
Hi G! Perhaps you can settle an argument between my sister (Exeter, NH) and I. She says the Pizza Chucker was going for a splitty and I say it was a cutter. We both agree he missed down and away. The one thing that this episode taught me again, reinforced from watching the Sox on Extra Innings, is that Rem Dog and Don Orsillo are incredible. We get to see other teams announcing crews and they are good folks but nothing beats these two guys when they get cranked up.
Michael Chevalier, Souderton, Pa.
A: Mike, I believe we now possess video evidence of the first-ever gyroslice. Stay tuned for the computerized models from a couple of MIT engineering whizzes showing the bullet spin of the pepperoni. And word has it that customs officers wouldn't allow Donnie O. into Canada until he stopped giggling.
What does the front office plan to do with all these young pitchers they have in the minors from Daniel Bard to Michael Bowden and Clay Buchholz and Bryan Cox and Justin Masterson. With Josh Beckett, Dice K, and Jon Lester all pretty young, how are they going to fit them in there? And yes I know that Cox is a relief pitcher.
Andy B., Nashua, NH
A: What they do, Andy, is keep their fingers crossed and pray that these guys all stay healthy. One of the scariest parts of baseball is the high attrition rate for young pitchers. You think you're loaded with great arms, but there's a built-in expectation in the game that some of these guys are going to break down physically, some of them are going to plateau and never reach the level expected of them, some of them are going to have other issues that might keep them from realizing their potential, and some of them will prove to be not quite as good as they appeared to be as prospects. The Sox have done a terrific job, it appears, in stockpiling some very promising young arms -- if even a couple of them blossom into stars, Mike Hazen and his player development staff and Jason McLeod and his scouting crew have done what they're paid to do.
Living out here in SoCal, it's hard to get all of the gritty info regarding my beloved Sox. Two questions I have are: 1. Where's Matt Clement? 2. What chance does Wily Mo Pena have of supplanting Coco Crisp in the lineup? Thanks for your time, and go Sox!
Trent Loomis, Santa Monica, Calif.
Trent, I hope you avail yourself of Boston.com to stay abreast of the club. Geography should no longer hinder you from keeping up to speed on your favorite team. Matt Clement is in extended spring training in Fort Myers, engaged in the slow and arduous process of returning from major shoulder surgery. He's on a throwing program, manager Terry Francona said, but forecasting his return is just guesswork at this stage. Matt has in mind a target date of sometime in July, but he would be the first to tell you there's a great deal of uncertainty involved -- he can't foresee whether there will be setbacks along the way. In spring training, Matt left little doubt that he is dedicated to doing whatever it takes to get back on the field. I marvel at the dedication of what many athletes -- Pedro Martinez is another example who comes immediately to mind--put themselves through in the rehab process. As for Wily Mo, Terry Francona has made it abundantly clear that he's nowhere close to quitting on Coco -- patience is his byword.
I'm sure this doesn't really need to be said, but in response to Scott Mason of Syracuse, who asked Don and Remy to focus on the game: Are you crazy? I love when they get off-topic. The recent Pizzagate incident, during which they spent what felt like three innings replaying slo-mo footage of a guy throwing a piece of pizza at another guy, is a perfect example. They're hilarious, and everyone I know agrees that their occasional meandering is great. They're just like you and me, after all: At some point during a three hour game, your attention wanders too. Dear Don and Remy, please don't change anything. Also, please come over to my house some night and announce my friends and I getting drunk and singing karaoke. That would be awesome. For me. Not for you. Boring for you. Awesome for me.
Alex R., Boston
A: Alex, we all know that Rem and Donnie O. are eminently capable of branching out -- Rem with his Remdawgs and website and Fox Game of the Week gigs -- Donnie O. with his offseason calls of basketball games and whatnot -- but I'm guessing they might not be able to fit the gig you're proposing into their schedules. Somehow I get the feeling you and your pals will surface on "YouTube" before long. Nice try, though.
Gordon, As I write this (Patriots' Day) Coco Crisp is batting about the weight of a 8th grader (.111) .I know it's early and Francona has shown the knack of being patient with struggling players, for example Mark Bellhorn in 2004, Edgar Renteria in 2005, Mike Timlin last season. But, how long can he stick with a guy who looks so overmatched at the plate? The most logical thing to do is platoon Wily Mo Pena and Eric Hinske in Crisp's spot. And when Hinske plays right field put J.D. Drew in CF, when Pena plays put him in CF. I won't buy that this will cause a negative effect on Drew, he has played CF many times in the past. Then use Crisp as a spot starter and late inning pitch runner until he gets his swing back or you trade him. I know the argument is "How can you get your swing back if you're not playing?" but when your average has been plummeting steadily since Opening Day there comes a time you need to move to Plan B. Hinske has shown, albeit with limited ABs this season, that he can be productive and has a history of being a decent hitter. Hinske doesn't seem like he will pull a Jay Payton and demand a trade but sooner or later he has to start feeling like he should be in the lineup more than he is. Pena doesn't have the track record of Hinske but he can be far more productive than Crisp has been this season. I am not ready to give up on Crisp just yet but even he has to know .111 is not going to cut it.
Patrick Sheehan, Amherst
A: Patrick, you lay out a plausible scenario if the Sox do indeed decide Coco can't get the job done, but I guarantee you, as I noted earlier in the 'Bag, Tito is nowhere near doing something that drastic yet. One hot streak by Coco, and I think a lot of this talk is going to go away.
First a comment concerning an e-mailer saying he hated Johnny Damon. I don't hate him, but substituting an "e" for the "a" in Damon would summarize my feelings for the traitor.
His agent stated he had 3 teams offer him contracts including one team for seven years (Angels?). He did not have to thumb his nose at the Nation by going to the enemy.
He and others such as Roger Clemens and Wade Boggs just either don't care enough for the fan base or never GET IT. I seriously doubt natives like Rich Gedman, Carlton Fisk or Rem Dawg (ask him I could be wrong) would ever have jumped to the Bronx because they understand the Red Sox fan base psyche. Question: I saw a sports analyst call the Major League schedule makers "stupid" because there were northern teams with home games in early April, thus causing the postponed games because of cold weather.
First, should northern teams not have a home series until late April or May? THAT is stupid. But here is a suggestion: start the season, as it was once done, in the second to third week and, God forbid for the coffers of the teams, SCHEDULE double headers later in the season to make up for the late start. Am I being unreasonable? By the way I never played at Doyle field, I was not a football jock, but we did win the State title in '74.
Mark Caissey, Westampton, NJ
A: Mark, do you really believe players should take into consideration the fans' psyches when making a decision about how best to pursue their livelihood? Baseball is an entertainment for us, for these guys it's a way of making a living. Johnny Damon loved playing in Boston; he loved the adoration and the fame that being a member of the Red Sox brought him. But becoming a coveted player on the free-agent market is a hard-won right that Damon was able to exercise in the way most of us in a similar position would have elected to do: He went to the employer who was willing to pay him most handsomely, in a place where he and his family believed they would be happy to live. You just can't fault him for that. I certainly would never speak for Jerry Remy, but if George Steinbrenner would have been willing to pay him top dollar, I'm guessing he would have put on pinstripes.
As far as your scheduling question, I think we're seeing some of the perils caused by interleague play. West Coast teams that ordinarily would be making two trips in to play the Sox are making one, so when weather issues arise, teams have to scramble to find makeup dates. And just because teams in the north play in cold-weather climes, you can't have them opening the season on extended road trips; that would put them at a competitive disadvantage.
A couple of things. First, being down here in Tampa I have gotten to see Julio Lugo play the past few years and was excited to see the Sox pick him up. I thought the criticism was unjustified. He has a lot of raw talent, but has not received a lot of instruction. Until Lou Piniella came, he had never learned to work a count and get a high on base percentage. That has changed and he is an excellent leadoff hitter. Last season Joe Maddon was working with him on getting his feet set properly when throwing the ball. I believe he was working on that this spring as well. He only has 1 error so far, which projects to about 15 for the season. Not bad. He's a hard worker and is willing to fix problems if you show him. Secondly, everyone is raving about Beckett this year, but if I remember correctly he was doing the same thing last spring. He has also had success in October. Could this be that he is a good cold weather pitcher? I hope some of the adjustments he has made (position on the rubber, mixing up pitches better) will result in a solid season throughout. I hope he doesn't go back to relying on the fastball whenever he has a bad outing or two.
Todd Broseghini, Tampa, Fla.
A: Todd, the early returns on Lugo have been very favorable. He has made some exceptional plays already at short, and if he can continue to reduce the errors he has made in the past on routine plays, I don't think you'll hear too much pining for Alex Gonzalez, not when Lugo can do so many more things at the plate. As for Beckett being a cold-weather pitcher, I think Josh would chuckle at that one. He grew up in Texas, pitched great in Florida, and while it's worthwhile to watch if Beckett can sustain this great start, he has looked terrific from spring training on, and I think he's poised to have a HUGE year.
Here's something I don't understand. Assuming that this may well be Doug Mirabelli's final season with the Red Sox, and knowing the valuable role the Red Sox expect Wake to fill in the rotation for at least the next couple years, why is George Kottaras in Pawtucket and knuckleballer Charlie Zink in Portland? Wouldn't it make sense to have them on the same team so Kottaras can get used to catching the knuckleball? We all saw what happened last year with Josh Bard, and back then I wondered why they didn't have Zink in spring training camp to give all the auditioning catchers more exposure to the knuckler. I mean, what's the point of having a mediocre knuckleballer in your farm system if you aren't going to use him to help groom Wake's next personal catcher?
A:Mark, that's a very good question, and I actually ran it past Francona this week in Toronto. He said that it's much more important for Kottaras to get a chance to develop in Pawtucket as an everyday catcher than worry about whether he can handle Wake's knuckleball; he noted that catching one knuckleballer doesn't necessarily mean a catcher can handle another ("There's only one Wake," he said), and he also noted that it wouldn't have been fair to some of the guys on the Triple-A staff to pitch at a lower level if they're more deserving than Zink is. But even Francona acknowledged it was a good question. So, score one for the 'Bag.
Editor's note: Join Gordon Edes of The Boston Globe, his special guests, as well as fellow members of Red Sox Nation at the 3d Gordon Edes and Friends NYC event on Saturday, April 28, from 9 p.m. to midnight at Foley's NY Pub and Restaurant at 18 West 33d Street in New York City. Click here for more information.