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, Gordon...love the 'bag! Keep up the great work...it's much appreciated by us transplanted N'Englanders (Bristol, CT born and raised, myself). I have a question and a comment. The question is, What's your reaction to Mr. Gammons' belief that something is significantly wrong with Manny? I know his numbers are way off since last year's All-Star break. You watch him every day ... does he seem disinterested/lackadaisical/removed in the clubhouse? Any idea how the Sox can shake him up without completely sending him over the edge? We definitely need his bat. My comment is from last week's mailbag about giving Pesky his props on his Pole. I work at Joe Robbie/Pro Player/Dolphins Stadium, and they actually have the call letters and signal number of one of the local AM sports radio stations up and down their foul poles...so there's definitely a precedent for doctoring them up, albeit a commercial one. Sounds like an awesome idea to me to use the idea to properly recognize the Face of the Nation, as the Facade of Fame is closed to him.
A: Hey, Chris, don't know if you're familiar with my history, but I spent six years in south Florida -- my last place was in beautiful Coral Gables, while I worked for the Sun Sentinel and before that the National -- and have a fond spot for the Marlins, having covered their inception in '91, inaugural game in '93, and through the '96 season (I covered their two World Series wins for the Globe). I once spent a day as a Coke vendor at Joe Robbie, too, but hadn't noticed that the call letters were on the foul pole. I do remember when they turned the poles into giant pencils until the commissioner's office said no. Your idea is worth running by the guru of all things ceremonial and historical, Dr. Charles Steinberg. As I said in an earlier 'Bag, I'm all for honoring JP in a meaningful and permanent way, and while he is still among us, too.
As for Manny, I find it astonishing that as of May 18, he was hitting just .237. The lowest his average has been this late into a season was .219, and that was in June, 1994, his first full season in the majors. He told our Chris Snow that he's worried about the health of his mother, but was vague about her condition and described it as arthritis only with prompting. He has used ailing (and dying) relatives before as excuses, so both reporter and reader alike are advised to tread carefully. Last Sunday, after he hit his 400th home run, I wrote why he is Hall of Fame material, but he's clearly not playing like one now. We have never seen him endure such a slump, and while Francona keeps reminding us that his run production numbers translate to 35-40 home runs and 120 RBIs, regular Sox watchers have rarely seen him give away so many at-bats.
Hey Gordon, love your stuff. I agree with your take that Terry Francona deserves a raise, but on that same token doesn't that open up a whole bag of worms the Red Sox probably don't want to deal with? In other words, if you give Francona a raise for exceeding expectations, don't you also have go give more money to someone like David Ortiz, who by major league standards is vastly underpaid? Sure, one's a player and the other a manager, but the theory is the same. What should the Sox do?
A: Randy, Ortiz would have been in a position to go out on the open market after last season, but elected to take the security of a three-year deal that guaranteed him money far beyond what he had earned previously with the Sox. Could he have gotten considerably more on the open market last winter? Without a doubt, though not as many teams as you might think would have been willing to pay $10 million or more for a DH who conceivably could have Mo-like weight issues down the road.
Francona, on the other hand, had no leverage when he signed with the Sox; yes, he had previous managerial experience, with the Phillies, and actually was making more with the Phillies in his last year in Philadelphia than he was paid by the Sox. Your read on why the Sox didn't suddenly rip up his old deal and give him a new one after the Sox won the World Series is an accurate one; in their view, a contract is a contract, and I would venture to say that Francona shares that view, because you certainly don't hear him bellyaching about his deal. Yet, for a far more modest achievement than winning the World Series as Francona did, the Cleveland Indians tore up Eric Wedge's contract and gave him an extension with a big raise.
What I aimed to convey in my story is the wide disparity in the pay managers receive; the limited options available to them in trying to better their lot (clubs like the Red Sox, for example, refusing to allow a manager to have an agent); and the way in which the club holds all the cards. It is not for me to tell the Sox to give Francona a raise, but given what he achieved last year, in a tough market and in a unique historical context, I find it startling that Francona's compensation would lag so significantly behind some of his peers (Ken Macha, who has done an excellent job in small-market Oakland, is paid more!), and that John W. Henry, whose generosity seemingly knows no bounds with his players, would not feel some inclination to reward Francona for a job well done. JWH's feeling may be, all in good time, but on the bottom line Francona has already outperformed eight decades' worth of Sox managers, and that should be acknowledged in a tangible way.
I will never understand why Theo chose to keep Millar over Mientkiewicz at 1st base. The theory that Millar is far better offensively is just flat out wrong. He might be better but it is a slight advantage at best. Now when you talk about defense, it is not even a discussion worth mentioning. Mientkiewicz can save runs every game with his glove and he makes every pitcher better with the ground he covers. What was Theo thinking?
A: Mark, in Theo's view, he had a much greater need for a productive right-handed bat at first than a left-handed bat, and while we all are privy to Millar's proclivity to be streaky, in the end he occupies a valuable spot either behind David Ortiz or now between Trot Nixon and Jason Varitek. Sure, Sox fans cringe every time they hear of Doug M. hitting another home run while Millar failed to go deep until last week, but with a year left on his contract, I think Theo believed that Millar was a member of the winning core of this team, and that core should be trifled with very cautiously. The Sox have signed veteran John Olerud, who when he gets through extended spring training, should give Francona an option at first as well as a peerless defensive replacement and left-handed pinch hitter off the bench, but I think at the end of the day Millar's numbers will come to the fore.
Regarding Jeff Bagwell, if his shoulder holds up over the summer (I know Houston is resting him now), do you think he could help the sox as a right-handed bat coming off the bench this Sept/Oct? I don't really see the trade happening, I'm sure he'd like to finish out his career in Houston. If he had a chance to come back to the Red Sox and possibly play in the World Series though, I'd have to think he'd consider it.
Dan, Vancouver, Wash.
A: Dan, I know I've said I think Drayton McLane, the Astros' owner, would satisfy Roger Clemens if he truly expressed the desire to go elsewhere, but Bagwell has been the face of that franchise for a good 15 years; I just can't see it happening. Besides, Bagwell is now facing surgery on his degenerative shoulder that will idle him for three months, with doctors giving no assurances that the procedure will suddenly cure what ails him. You're looking at three months of rehab, at a minimum, and he's making way too much money to make sense for the Sox. A great player, we all recognize, but the likelihood is that he's at the end of the line.
I am beginning to think this Orioles club might be for real. In the past, the Yankees and Red Sox always kept a close eye on each other with regards to mid-season moves. It seems whenever one made a move the other would counter. Do you see both teams concerning themselves with the Orioles as well this year? As I see it, all three teams could use another bat and another starting arm for the final stretch.
KC, New Jersey
A: KC, you're not the only one, and it would be fun to see if the Orioles could keep things interesting. Injuries to Luis Matos and Sammy Sosa hurt -- they called up a kid, Jeff Fiorentino, from Single A, but their lineup remains formidable. Is Brian Roberts starring in a 2005 remake of "Damn Yankees"? And Daniel Cabrera is showing signs of being a future ace. There doesn't appear to be enough pitching to sustain them, but if they can stay close till July, maybe Peter Angelos gives the OK to get another pitcher.
Apologies if this has been answered before, but is there any truth to the story that the Sox made an offer to Australian cricket star Adam Gilchrist? If so, how serious was the offer? This has been floating around for at least a month now, and I just came across a fan editorial asking if Gilchrist is going to be the next Jason Varitek. According to an AP story cited in the editorial, first base coach Jon Deeble said Gilchrist was worth a look. But as people have learned, you can't believe everything you read on the Internet.
A: Urban legend, Ailsa, according to the Sox. Deeble is a minor-league manager, not the first-base coach, and while he is an Aussie, he is not lobbying the Sox to sign what I believe is a 33-year-old cricket star who has never played baseball.
There is a lot of talk about Hanley Ramirez and Dustin Padroia. What about Dhris Durbin. Is he likely to make his debut in a Sox uniform anytime soon?
Boaz, Sunnyvale, Calif.
A: Boaz, Durbin, a right-handed hitting outfielder was drafted out of Baylor in the 10th round in 2003, the same year the Sox drafted his Baylor teammate, outfielder David Murphy, in the first round. Durbin didn't attract much attention his first two years in the Sox system, at Augusta and Sarasota, and was not listed among the Sox top 30 prospects in Baseball America. But he was named the organization's player of the month in April, and was still hitting .300 in mid-May. He bears watching.
Gordon, I see Jared Sandberg is playing well for the Sea Dogs. I was very surprised to see him at the Double-A level. How are the Sox looking at him? Generally prospects are at the Double-A level, and former big leaguers like Sandberg are at the Triple-A level. Do the Sox look at him as somebody who can eventually play in Boston? If not, why is he in Portland?
Jim, Neola, Iowa
A: Basically, Sandberg was a guy in search of a job near the end of spring training, after failing to win a spot with the Washington Nationals, who had signed him as a six-year minor-league free agent. The Sox already were committed to third basemen at Pawtucket, including Kevin Youkilis, but he accepted a spot in Portland. He got off to a great start, but is now hitting around .250 for the Sea Dogs.
I hate to say it, but I believe Curt Schilling could be the second coming of Jim Lonborg, the former Sox ace. If you recall, Lonborg tore ligaments in his knee after the 1967 season while skiing. Although Lonborg had surgery and returned in the middle of the 1968 season, but was never the same pitcher. The knee caused him to compensate by throwing harder while losing several MPH on his fastball, leading to arm trouble. I hope Schilling is not the next Lonborg. Schilling had problems with his ankle throughout the 2004 season, had surgery, and may never be the same again because he now has to compensate for the ankle. Now that Schilling's ankle is acting up again, he may now put wear and tear on his shoulder, and at Schilling's age, that could end his career. Is Schilling the second coming of Lonborg, or will he work through his ankle trouble and resume form as one of the top pitchers in baseball?
Jake, Brunswick, Maine
A: Jake, the analogy is a bleak one, and as you note, Lonborg was hurt in a non-baseball activity while Schilling was hurt pitching. And Gentleman Jim was much younger. Sox fans should hope that the analogy does not stand up, although there remains a great deal of uncertainty about when Schilling will even attempt to pitch again. He remains in the boot as of this writing, and a relatively conservative guess is that it may be a month before he is back, given that he can't throw yet.
Too early to call Edgar Renteria a bust? He has to lead the league in ground balls, and lazy fly balls.
A: Much, much too early to do so. Edgar's batting average steadily rose on the trip, he had a couple of big hits, and while he's made a few errors, he's made more than his share of outstanding plays, too. The man has a track record as a winner. Give it some time, instead of opting for the snap judgments of the uninformed.