Boston Globe baseball writer Gordon Edes checks in every week (usually on Wednesdays) to answer your questions on the Red Sox. Ask yours now, and come back next week to see if it was answered.
Your comparison of Paplebon to Schiraldi illuminates why you could never be anything more than a caddy to Gammons. I went to U of Texas and covered the baseball team for the Daily Texan and I can tell you without hesitation that Schiraldi was the most dislikable and disliked ballplayer I covered in ten years of sports reporting. Paplebon is his opposite in terms of character make-up. Your infatuation with statistics and inane information cannot obfuscate your total lack of insight into the character element of being a ballplayer. You, sir, are clueless.
R.D. King, Calgary
A: Well, now, who's Mr. Cranky out in beautiful Alberta? Those are pretty strong words there, Mr. King, though I must say caddying a round of golf for Mr. Gammons sounds like a fine way to spend a day, if Peter could stay off his cellphone long enough to line up a putt. How's this for a Gammons story? It's 9 a.m. on Patriots Day, I'm on my way to the clubhouse, and who's coming through the press gate but the Commissioner himself? I said, "Peter, didn't I see you last night on the ESPN Sunday night game in L.A.? How on earth did you get here?'' Leave it to Gammons: He took a redeye back from L.A., went home long enough to shower, then headed for the Fens -- as a spectator! One of a kind. That much of your missive, Mr. King, you got right.
Now, about this comparison business between Schiraldi and Papelbon (and Mr. King, please note the spelling; looks like you might need a little work there). To update those of you who might have missed it, in my most recent Sunday column, I suggested that there was a plausible comparison to be made between Papelbon and Calvin Schiraldi, inasmuch as in 1986 Schiraldi, like Papelbon a rookie and a former college pitcher, burst onto the scene after the All-Star break in July, took over the closer role, and pitched superbly. Schiraldi ran off 12 saves and 4 wins with a 1.41 ERA in 25 appearances, and played a significant role in the Sox advancing to the postseason. October, however, went disastrously. He hit Brian Downing of the Angels with a 1-and-2 pitch to force in the winning run in Game 4 of the ALCS, giving the Angels what appeared to be an insurmountable 3 games to 1 lead. He recovered to get the save in Game 5, struck out the side to finish off Game 7, then got the save against the Mets in Game 1 of the World Series. But then came the lost weekend in New York, when he disintegrated in Games 6 and 7, a bout of failure from which he never recovered.
So, anyway, that's why I raised the analogy to which Mr. King objected so fiercely, on the grounds that I was relying on "statistics and inane information.'' I subsequently wrote that Bob Stanley, Schiraldi's former teammate, said he believed Papelbon has better stuff than Schiraldi did, and former GM Lou Gorman, who had drafted Schiraldi with the Mets and brought Schiraldi to the big leagues, said there was something lacking in Schiraldi's makeup that kept him from being great, and that Papelbon had what Schiraldi didn't. So, in the span of a couple of paragraphs, I suggested why a Papelbon-Schiraldi analogy was plausible, and why it didn't work, but perhaps by that time Mr. King's attention had wandered elsewhere.
Now, Mr. King wants to take this a step further, and says I ignore the character element of being a player, and that Schiraldi was "the most dislikable and disliked ballplayer" he'd ever covered, having once worked for the Daily Texan, the student newspaper at the University of Texas. Well, Mr. King, I checked with my friends at the Daily Texan, and no one by your name covered UT in 1983, when Schiraldi and Roger Clemens pitched the Longhorns to the College World Series title. Maybe you caught Calvin when he was a freshman or sophomore, but it might interest you what others said about his character. Like his manager, John McNamara, on the eve of the '86 postseason: "I think it's the makeup of an individual that counts, and he's a tough kid.'' Or Bob Lively, a teacher in residence at Riverbend Church in Austin, where Schiraldi coaches high school baseball at St. Michael's: "I knew Calvin for several months before I knew he was one of the best baseball players ever to come out of the University of Texas. He has such a genuine humility. He knows what his life is about. It's about compassion and about caring for people. It's not about being the center of attention." Or one of his former players, Rhett Riviere: "He's just your basic, all-American good guy in a lot of ways. I'd tell you if he was a jerk. He's not. I consider him to be one of my best friends." I don't know, Mr. King, sounds like a pretty good guy to me.
Well, Mr. King, feel free to call me long-winded. But clueless? I think not.
OK, then, on to other topics.
I watched Keith Foulke's game over the weekend and it appears he's regaining his form to fill the closer role. Could the Red Sox be hoping for Foulke to regain the closer role and have Papelbon move into the rotation? I think the Red Sox need this kid in the rotation.
James Harvey, Manchester, NH
A: James, the Red Sox may well decide to move Papelbon into the rotation eventually, though to do so now would be counterproductive. But while Foulke did a nice job this weekend in Toronto, I don't believe the Sox think he's anywhere near back to being ready to close. They'll look for situations to bring him in earlier, especially against left-handers, but I don't think they feel stuffwise that he's close.
Gordon, I've read a lot about "competitive balance" having been "restored" to baseball. The normally astute Tom Verducci in SI wrote that it's a "non-issue." Is this a joke? To me it's more pronounced than ever. Baseball, to me, is still more like college football (i.e. rooting for Sox and Yanks are like following USC and Texas, whereas supporting the Pirates is like following Vanderbilt), when it should strive to be more like the NFL, at least in terms of competitive balance. Your thoughts?
Johnny Doyle, Dover, N.H.
A: Johnny, hate to tell ya, but I think I'm coming down on Verducci's side on this one. Starting with the 2000 season, when the Yankees won their third consecutive World Series and fourth in five years, there have been six different Series champions: Yanks, D-Backs, Angels, Marlins, Red Sox, and White Sox. In that span, 10 different teams have been in the postseason in the NL, 9 in the AL, or 63 percent of the 30 teams in the game. On Sept. 1 last season, eight teams in the NL and seven in the AL had legitimate shots at a spot in the postseason, or half of the 30 teams. You obviously would prefer not to have a situation where the Yankees have a $200 million payroll and the Marlins a $15m one, but it seems to me there are only a handful of teams that begin the season with no shot -- the Royals, the Pirates, the D-Rays, the Rockies -- but that may have as much to do with mismanagement as strictly payroll issues.
This year's additional changes to Fenway look great, just as those of the past few years do ... it's always been an important feature of Boston to intertwine its past and present, and that's exactly what this new ownership group is doing with the ballpark. It is tremendous the planning they have done -- all of these new additions look as if they've been in place for a long time because they match and fit so well. Anyway let me get to my point ... Fenway Park is first and foremost home to the Red Sox and the banners that highlight their 6 WS Championships are great (it should be 7, but 1904 is another story), as are the retired numbers and red seat in right field ... however, the Miracle Braves of 1914 won the WS while borrowing Fenway Park for their WS home games ... in adding to the lore of Fenway and recognizing significant history, I like the idea of adding another championship flag somewhere in the park celebrating this Boston championship as well. Anyone else think this makes sense?
Mark Dixon, St. Louis, Mo.
A: Mark, I've gotta admit I've never heard anyone else float that idea, which isn't to say that some of the old Boston Braves stalwarts might not agree with you. Seems to me that Turner Field in Atlanta would have a greater claim to that flag than the Fens. The franchise, more than the place, would seem to have precedence, IMO, though in the Sox historical display, it wouldn't hurt, obviously, to have some acknowledgment of what the "Miracle Braves" achieved.
Last summer I had a great time at the Jimmy Fund Baseball talk at John Barleycorn's here in Chicago. It was great to feel like I was back home while in the middle of Wrigleyville. Any chance of you coming back and doing it again this summer?
Matt Hicks, Chicago
A: Matt, I had a great time myself at Barleycorn's; the turnout was tremendous. We have some hesitation doing another event in Chicago this summer because it's Fourth of July week and we're afraid a lot of folks will scoot out of town, but stay tuned: I believe we'll be doing our thing someplace.
Being a Boston transplant in the Northwest I have to say your mailbag is a must for keeping up with the Sox, so thanks. My question is almost a comment. Several times this year I have seen pictures of the Sox laying down a bunt (Varitek just yesterday is one example) with their fingers wrapped around the barrel of the bat. Guys are going to break fingers that way. Do these guys get any instruction on bunting or is it just lay one down at the end of your BP session. How to bunt should be little league stuff.
A.J. Marks, Portland, Ore.
A: You mean you'd prefer to see these guys pinch the bat with a bent index finger and the thumb, with all the other fingers tucked away? What a radical idea. No, I can assure you, not much time is given over to practicing bunts, especially on the Sox, who last season had fewer sacrifice hits (14) than any team in baseball save for Texas (9).
With rumors flying about Dontrelle Willis, what is the most you would give up to get him if you were in Theo's shoes? I'm assuming it would take a Jon Lester and Manny Delcarmen combo minimum, and as great as Willis is, is he worth that? Along those lines, while I don't regret the Beckett deal, the early returns on Hanley Ramirez are really nice to see for a former Sox prospect. Do you have any take on how baseball insiders are viewing him? The Sox certainly never expected him to be this good, this fast.
Jay Moss, Washington, DC
A: Jay, first on Hanley: the scouts were raving about him all spring, said he was the best young player in Marlins camp outside of Miguel Cabrera. Your Willis question is one that undoubtedly will come to the fore as we come closer to the trading deadline. Do you trade your best prospect, Jon Lester, for a young pitcher who is already proven? Dan Duquette answered that question in the affirmative when he gave Jim Beattie, who was under financial pressure to move Pedro Martinez in Montreal, a choice of Carl Pavano or Brian Rose. Beattie chose Pavano, and Duke also threw in Tony Armas Jr., a promising prospect the Sox had gotten from the Yankees in a Mike Stanley deal. The Marlins insist they have no intention of trading Willis, and if they are intent on moving to, say, San Antonio, you'd think they'd have to hold onto somebody. But whether Theo Epstein would move a Lester and another prospect -- I can't see him doing both Lester and Delcarmen, I think it would be more likely Lester and a lesser prospect -- will depend entirely on how confident he is that Lester will blossom. So far, Theo has treated Lester as an untouchable.
Will the Astros' hot start reduce the Red Sox chances of landing Roger Clemens?
Ben Robbins, Boston
A: Ben, I would think that if Roger was convinced the Astros would make it back to the postseason, it would make his decision tougher, which is why I'm wondering whether John W. Henry sent flowers after Nomar's grand slam to beat the 'Stros Monday night.
Great job with the mailbag so far this year. I know you have to interact with the players, so I'll keep my question intentionally vague and avoid naming names. We have several pitchers whose WHIPs are near 2 or above. Clearly, these guys are completely ineffective. My question is, why not rotate these guys down to Pawtucket until they get their acts together and bring up the young guys who are getting it done down there? Bringing up Delcarmen was smart, so why do we insist upon sending guys out to the hill who can't get outs when we have guys in Pawtucket who can? It's very frustrating to watch a guy walk in from the pen and know he is going to get lit up.
Larry D., Allentown, Pa.
A: Larry D, it's safe to name names -- these guys are accustomed to being criticized when they don't do well. I assume you're referring to Lenny DiNardo, whose WHIP (walks plus hits per innings pitched) is 2.10, and perhaps Rudy Seanez, who is at 2. Obviously, the Sox are willing to give DiNardo at least one more start to stay in the rotation, which I think is appropriate, though I admit on Saturday I thought they might make a roster move. He's a young pitcher who didn't pitch all that badly in his first start, IMO, and there's no guarantee that Abe Alvarez or Matt Ginter would be an upgrade. If Lenny struggles again this weekend, the Sox may then elect to call someone else up, but I think it's worth giving him another shot. As for Seanez, they'll give him time to come around. They can't send him down -- someone would snatch him on waivers -- and their book on him shows that he'll have spells like this, and then get locked in. At least he got locked in the last two seasons in San Diego.
I hate even to ask this question, as I am Big Papi's biggest fan. How can a guy go from being such a friendly huggable teddy bear when off the field, to such a fierce, focused hitting machine on the field? I don't get it, but I love it. The big question comes when you look at his size, and remember the declines of players like Mo Vaugn and Cecil Fielder, and how they seemed to happen in the bat of an eye. Did similar quick declines happen to the old time big guys like Ted Klusewski and Boog Powell (thank goodness Boog is easy to spell compared to Klu---, you know what I mean). I worry a bit about Papi's extension and the possibility of sudden decline, although the DH position seems a great way to protect him. Any thoughts?
Alan Rogers, Warner, NH
A: You'd better hope that Big Papi doesn't emulate Big Klu. Kluszewski turned 32 in 1956, the year he hit 35 home runs for the Reds, who wore sleeveless jerseys so Big Klu's muscles wouldn't be constricted. Over the next five seasons combined, he hit a total of 38 home runs, including 15 with the Angels in 1961, his last season. Injuries took their toll, as is often the case with the big boppers, like Mo. Boog Powell's decline was even sharper; Boog hit 35 home runs in 1970, the year he turned 29, then hit more than 25 home runs in a season just one more time in the last seven seasons of his career. Cecil Fielder hit 39 home runs in 1996, the year he turned 33, then fell off to 13 and 17 and was done two years later. Mark McGwire hit 65 home runs in 1999, the year he turned 36 (in October), then two years later hit .187. Ortiz will be turning 34 after the 2009 season, when his extension runs out; since 1985, which of course includes the steroids era, 20 players have hit 35 or more home runs at the age of 34 or older.