Boston Globe baseball writer Gordon Edes check in every Thursday with his take on the Red Sox. Ask your question now, and come back next week to see if it was answered.
Hey Gordo, I would like your opinion on this topic. In my mind, Jason Varitek should be moved up to bat No. 5 behind David Ortiz not only because he's started the season on fire but I also believe he's a much better hitter than Kevin Millar. I also feel it may give Ortiz even MORE good pitches to hit. What is your take on this? Huge Sox fan in Texas ...
Ron, Austin, Texas
A: Ron, will we be seeing you in Arlington this weekend? Millar has yet to hit his first home run of the season, but he's batting over .400 with runners in scoring position, which I would say makes him pretty effective in the No. 5 hole. Actually, I think Francona has three options to use in the 5-spot: Millar, Edgar Renteria, although he's still making the adjustment to a new league, and Varitek, who will force his way into that spot if he continues to hit the way he has to this point. This lineup is going to hit 1-9, and as guys go hot and cold, I think you'll see Francona move some bodies around, but I think Millar has given the manager no reason to make any changes yet.
Great to read the mailbag again, as always it is full of insights and interesting facts. It has been a while since I have written, but I am writing now because I need some help. I don't know how often, if ever, you listen to XM Radio, but I am a frequent listener and caller to the morning show on their "all baseball all the time channel" and this morning I got into quite a tussle with Larry Bowa over the defensive skill level of Manny Ramirez. I had the audacity to describe Manny as an "average" outfielder, and Larry just jumped all over me that it was indisputable that Manny was below average defensively, that everyone who knows anything about baseball agrees with that assessment, and that I must be really stupid to suggest that Manny might have worked his way up to "average" over the last several years. I pointed out to them that I watch over 100 Sox games a year, and that in my opinion I had seen sufficient improvement during Manny's three years to justify my assessment and let me tell you, the response was not pretty. You would have thought that I was comparing Manny with Willie Mays!
So I turn to you, who watch a whole lot more Red Sox games than I, in the ballpark where you can see a lot more of what's going on away from the ball, so to speak, and I ask you, am I totally out there? Is there really a universally accepted consensus about Manny Ramirez that he is a below average outfielder? Is there any room for argument that he might actually fall within what I assume is a rather large group of average outfielders? My reputation with the listeners of the baseball morning show on XM Radio Channel 175 is at stake here. After yelling at me that since I never played the game or managed a team I had no right to challenge Larry Bowa's pronouncement from Mount Olympus they told me to find some scouts to back me up. I don't know any scouts, but I trust your knowledge about baseball in general and the Red Sox in particular, so if you tell me that I am out to lunch I will call them back and stand corrected, as difficult as that would be to do. But if you think, or know insider baseball people who think, that Manny is not the defensive train wreck that I have been told that he is, could you let me know?
Or better yet, call the morning show yourself and set them straight. The show is hosted by Mark Patrick and usually Larry Bowa and Buck Martinez join him, unless one of them is broadcasting a game or doing Baseball Tonight. They are on from 6-9 am, then they replay the show from 9-12. Any help you can provide would be greatly appreciated! Thanks for listening ...
Barb, McLean, Va.
A: Barb, nice to hear from you again. It sounds like you got an earful from Mr. Bowa, who we all know is an excitable guy. We also know that he's got a ton of baseball knowledge. Here's where I stand on this one. I think Manny is an adequate outfielder, one whose bat allows you to overlook his shortcomings. I agree with you that he has gotten better since joining the Red Sox; I can tell you that he has worked at it, particularly playing the Wall. He does not get good jumps on balls and doesn't run well, but he makes the routine plays and has also made some catches that I never thought I'd see him make. I've also seen him -- as you and Mr. Bowa have -- have some real adventures out there, as in Game 1 of the World Series. His arm is average, and generally I would say he throws to the right base. I would also say there are times his mind drifts out there, too.
So, to the nut of your question: I would tend to side more with you on this one, if Bowa was contending that Manny is a butcher in left, or well below average. He will never win a Gold Glove, but I think you were justified in saying he's gotten better, because he has, and I think I could find a few scouts who would say the same.
As for satellite radio, I'm a big fan. Don't listen to the talks show much, but love the fact that I can listen to any game. I live an hour or so from the ballpark, so I get to hear those West Coast games on my way home.
Why does Gary Sheffield get away with everything? First, his OBVIOUS steroid use. He went from a skinny shortstop in Milwaukee to a bulked-up home run hitter, just like Jose Canseco, an admitted steroid user. Plus, how does he put up MVP numbers last year and still swing the bat like a madman when he has left shoulder bursitis? Then, when Sheff attacks a fan last week, he offers a lame excuse that "I thought my lip was busted," then gets off without a suspension! Is there a double standard here? Milton Bradley got 5 games last season for slamming a bottle into the stands, but Sheffield gets off with nothing!? Sorry, but I had to rant, but I'd really like to know why Bonds and Giambi can't leave their homes while Sheffield, who also testified about BALCO, gets a pat on the back.
Jake, Brunswick, Maine
A: Man, you are in full rant! I covered Sheffield in the early 90s with the Marlins, and I never thought of him as this unnaturally bulked-up guy. He was only 18 when he started with Milwaukee, so it would stand to reason he filled out. Canseco has the physique of a cartoon character I wouldn't put Sheffield in that category. As for him ""attacking" a fan, like you put it, neither MLB -- nor numerous Sox players, including Curt Schilling -- saw it that way. He took a shove at a guy who had interfered with a ball in play, and in the process struck Sheffield in the face, intentionally or not. Sheffield could easily have popped him, and chose not to, which was fortuitous for both the spectator, the player and the other fans in the area in what could have turned into a very nasty incident. Sheffield played in pain last year ... you see that as clear evidence that he was using steroids; others might see that as something admirable. He did admit to using the cream given him by Barry Bonds' trainer, Greg Anderson, but insisted he was not aware of what it was. The truthfulness of that account can be questioned, but unlike you, I can't point to his "obvious" steroid use.
Gordon, can you explain how quality control among umpires works? I understand that an umpire's authority has got to be absolute on the field, or else the game would never end, but I do hope that there's some procedure for kicking a bad umpire in the pants when the game is over. And by bad, I don't just mean "inconsistent strike zone that annoys both teams," but also "defensive and combative and a better lip-reader than Vin Scully." I do understand that Papa Jack's suspension is pretty much for losing it after being ejected than for whatever it was that got him ejected, but I'm still stumped as to how Greg Gibson justifies ejecting him, and I don't know whether he ever will have to justify himself, in front of a body more official than the peanut gallery.
A: Jane, the umpires come under a lot of scrutiny, especially since Sandy Alderson merged the two sets of league umpires under one MLB umbrella. There is, of course, the Questec system that evaluates umpires' ball-strike accuracy, but there are also seven umpiring supervisors -- Rich Garcia, Chris Jones, Jim McKean, Steve Palermo, Frank Pulli, Rich Rieker, and Marty Springstead -- charged with evaluating umpires' performance in all aspects of their jobs, including the type of incident you bring up with Greg Gibson and Ron Jackson.
I don't regularly follow minor league baseball, but with the hype surrounding Hanley Ramirez I find myself checking the Portland box scores every day. There are some projecting that he may be ready for the majors as early as next season, and rumor has it the Sox may ask him to play center field since they have Renteria signed until 2008. Is Ramirez talented enough to make the switch without missing a beat, and do you think his emergence will affect how Boston approaches Johnny Damon in the offseason? Thanks.
A: Jeremy, Hanley Ramirez switching to center field, for the time being, is exactly what you call it -- speculation. The Red Sox have been adamant to this point that Ramirez continue to play short, though with Renteria here for another three seasons and Bill Mueller in his walk year, it certainly would appear an option that either Ramirez or Renteria could move over to third base. Center field? That will depend greatly on whether the Sox will match Johnny Damon's price to re-sign as a free agent this winter; if Damon really does plan to seek a six-year deal, that could be problematic. I think folks in the Sox system all believe Ramirez is athletic enough to make that switch and play center, but it is by no means a lock.
Gordon, I have two questions. First, did Brian Daubach receive a ring and why wasn't he at the ceremony? I have read nothing about this. Also, does the new steroid policy for MLB allow for players to be tested while on the DL as well as the active roster? I have not seen this addressed anywhere. Thanks.
Joe, Woodway, Texas
A: I can't say with certainty whether Brian has already received his ring, but I can tell you there's no question that he will. I can also tell you was invited to the ceremony; why he didn't come, I don't know.
There is nothing in the new testing agreement that precludes a player on the DL from being tested for steroids.
As a Boston-native living in Baltimore, I rely on Boston.com to keep me updated on my beloved Sox. But no one, with the exception of Eric Wilbur's 4/22 blog, has addressed the return of Wade Miller and its impact on the current rotation. Schilling, Clement and Wells (before he was injured) are presumably locked into the rotation. But Wakefiled and Arroyo are pitching lights out lately. With signs that Miller is returning to the rotation soon combined with Wakefiled's and Arroyo's stunning performances of late, why is no one considering a 6-man rotation? It would allow the aging starters an extra day of rest and perhaps result in less reliance on the Sox bullpen. Why isn't this idea being bounce around when the Sox have 6 potentially dominant starters? Could this work? What's the downside?
A: Kevin, with all due respect to Boston.com's Mr. Wilbur, there has been considerable speculation in these parts about what the Sox might do when Miller is activated. But one reason you haven't seen me get too swept up in it is that 1, Miller, IMO, is probably still three rehab starts away from being activated, and 2, things tend to happen to a pitching staff that make such speculation irrelevant. In other words, guys get hurt, like David Wells, who sustained a foot injury Monday night, the seriousness of which we were waiting to discover the next day, given that Mr. Wells wasn't inclined to discuss the matter upon his return to Fenway Park late Monday night. We later found out he could be sidelined until June.
The Sox may soon be scrambling for another starter, rather than worrying about which starter might be bumped from the rotation. The day may indeed come when Terry Francona is faced with that decision, and it might not be an easy one, but every team in baseball would like to have that problem. As for your suggestion of a six-man rotation, I think you're overrating this staff a bit I don't see six dominating guys. A healthy Schilling you want going to the hill every five days, and I think the same could be said of Wells, Clement and Miller -- again if they're all healthy. If either Arroyo or Wakefield have to go to the pen for a spell, that's not a bad thing, believe me.
The Red Sox are going to have to make a trade for a pitcher at some point. Do you think Roger Clemens will be on his way back to Boston for one more season?
A: Joel, if the Astros fall out of contention, there will be juicy speculation concerning Clemens, but I really can't see it happening. I think Roger will stay home. Check back with me Aug. 1, though!
Roger Clemens' son has signed to play baseball at Texas. Honestly, how good is the kid? It's not like Texas would scholarship anyone, but ...
David, Kansas City
A: Koby Clemens had a ruptured disk in his back last year that held him back, but he put up some good numbers this year at Memorial High in Houston. He was 5-1, 1.97 with 52 strikeouts in 39 innings this season, and threw a five-inning no-hitter last week. He also can swing the bat pretty well: He was hitting .500 with 8 home runs, 37 RBIs and nine doubles. I'm sure he has pro dreams. I imagine he'll be drafted, but I don't think we're looking at a top 100 pick.