Boston Globe baseball writer Gordon Edes checks in every week (usually on Fridays) to answer your questions on the Red Sox. Ask yours now, and come back next week to see if it was answered.
Any thoughts on further tinkering with the lineup? Dustin Pedroia -- to my surprise and Terry Francona's credit -- is hitting and playing well, but batting ninth. Meanwhile, Julio Lugo and Coco Crisp, the speed merchants who batted 1 and 2 with David Ortiz out, are each hitting around .230. J.D. Drew may finally be adjusting, but still ain't much at the No. 5 spot. On the other hand, this lineup is winning ball games. Don't mess with success?
Creighton Abrams, Springfield, Va.
A: Creighton, Lugo's numbers in May defy logic. He drives in 21 runs, yet has an OBP for the month of .241, which is almost impossible to comprehend. It belies everything we've heard about the value of a leadoff man to jumpstart an offense. You have to think the runs would have been a lot harder to come by if Youks didn't hit every game from May 5 on. And Coco's offense has been way too inconsistent to have him swap places with Lugo. It's nice to have that speed at the top of the order, but if Lugo doesn't start getting on base more, I think he may force Francona's hand. On the other hand, Youks is seeing a lot of fastballs hitting ahead of Ortiz and behind a guy who is a threat to run. For now, your record stipulates you don't mess with success. Do you lead off with Youks, have Pedroia hit second, with Coco and Lugo down at the bottom of the order? Eventually, maybe that's the way you go, though I think the Sox feel Lugo will heat up.
Just wondering if you could comment, Gordon, on batting Lugo and Crisp 1-2 when Youkilis drops into one of the power positions. Lugo and Crisp have OBP below or near .300, by far the worst among any of the regulars. Terry usually plays by the numbers, but all experts will tell you that the 1-2 spots are high OBP spots. These guys do have speed and steal bases, but surely that doesn't overcome a low average and few walks. Pedroia and Cora get on base much more often as does Drew who even though he's showing no power is walking a lot.
Chris Schmid, Natick
A: Chris, you can see by the first letter that this is a topic much on the minds of Sox fans.
I got my daily dose of shadenfreude watching Toronto steal home on the Yankees last night. But I noticed just the day before how long it takes for Jonathan Papelbon to go through his routine of shaking his arm, looking down, and staring death toward the batter before he sets himself. What's to keep him from the same embarrassing fate as Andy Pettitte?
Steven Jong, Westford
A:Steven, Rule No. 1 if you're going to use 10-dollar words, which I learned too painfully in the past: You've got to spell 'em the right way. It's "schadenfreude," and for those who don't drop that word into their day-to-day chit-chat, that means taking pleasure in another's misfortune. Which, of course, many Sox fans are experiencing while the Yankees flounder. One difference between Paps and Pettitte, of course, is that Paps is facing third base when he pitches from the stretch, while Pettitte, as a lefty, had his back to the runner, Aaron Hill. The other difference is that if a runner took off on Paps, he'd probably tackle him.
I was impressed to learn that the Jays and third-base coach Brian Butterfield actually thought about pulling that off before the game. "Before the game, Butterfield came up to me," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons told reporters. "Butter knows these guys well, and he said, 'Hey, there might be an opportunity where we get a chance to steal home.' I said, 'Well, if it's there, go for it.' He put that on, and Hilly executed it perfectly. You don't see that too often. It was an exciting play."
A:Love your column and look forward to every Wednesday. I am a lifelong fan who has tried to not act like I know more about the players than the management themselves. However, the last week of watching Wily Mo Pena in the field on a "regular basis" has been scary at best. I can't remember the last time he fielded a ball cleanly that was not a pure flyball. I've tried to give him the benefit of having little playing time, but one of these days its going to be costly. He's a DH in its purest form and needs to be dealt as one while he still has value. Your thoughts?
Marc Sigel, Boca Raton, Fla.
A: Marc, I think if the Sox lost an outfielder for any length of time, they'd dip into the minors. I'm sure Wily Mo's confidence in the outfield can't be very high, either, especially since he doesn't get any regular playing time. But I think Theo Epstein is going to hold onto the power bat, as a hedge if anything goes wrong with Papi or Manny.
This may be too long for your mailbag, and I'm not expecting it to be published, I just felt I needed to vent to someone who would understand. The first thing you need to know is that I am a diehard Red Sox fan who rarely misses a televised game and who loves to talk Red Sox with anyone. I also pretty much know what I'm talking about. Anyway, there were times in my past -- like when I was in college in the mid-70's and when I had kids in the mid-to-late 80's, that I followed the Sox, but it wasn't until 2004 that I started really, really paying attention. Then, in 2005 I watched every single game, as well as every NESN pre and postgame show. I knew I was being obsessive, but here's the thing: it's what kept me alive. Literally. I have suffered from clinical depression for years, and in 2005, it was really bad. The only thing that gave me pleasure and that made me feel that life was worth living was watching the Red Sox. I know that sounds shallow and even stupid, but it's true. There's no way I could let the Red Sox players and organization know that they were responsible for saving a life. Anyway, yesterday I was in the dentist's chair with all kinds of stuff in my mouth, when the dentist noticed that I had Papi's book with my pile of stuff on the counter. He started spouting off about how he didn't have any respect for sports writers, because all they do is write about a game. He said they serve no worthwhile purpose in life and don't deserve the respect that a news reporter -- or a dentist -- should. I was freaking out, because I couldn't respond, due to the crap in my mouth. I threw up my hands and grunted, but he didn't stop drilling. When I finally had the opportunity, I asked him whether he also thought novelists were worthless, and I told him that the "game" of baseball literally saved my life two years ago. He made some flippant comment and went back into my mouth. I really didn't know what to do. I went home and wrote him a letter, and that helped a bit. But I didn't feel that I would have done enough until I let the Red Sox know how much they mean to me (which I still don't know how to do), and until I let you and your fellow sportswriters and broadcasters know that what you do IS meaningful and worthwhile -- and respectable. Thank you so much for your analyses, reporting, and everything else you bring to us fans. You do such a good job. Sincerely,
A: Sue, I guess we shouldn't be inviting your dentist to next winter's writers' dinner, should we? Most of my sportswriter friends have few illusions about what it is that we do for a living, and its relative importance to the grand scheme of things. My sister the teacher reminds me on a daily basis, and is kidding only some of the time. But what your dentist fails to understand is that there can be immeasurable value...and beauty...and sweet pleasure in something as simple as a ballgame, and making an emotional investment in "your" team can be, indeed, life-giving. I still find it pretty cool, even after all these years, to do the job I do, and to be able to share with people who take the time to read a story that has my name attached to it. Thanks for being one of those people.
Has anyone noticed how Manny has been sprinting down the first base line on ground balls? Everyone notices when he doesn't.
Brian Wessels, Westminster
A: Brian, I've noticed on occasion, like when he tripled the other night, but if you're saying he hustles down the line on every ball a la J.D., Drew, no I haven't seen that. Of course, he has a lot of company in that regard.
Not so much a question as an observation. The only time in this young season that the Sox have lost 3 of 5 was from game 2 on May 19 (against the Braves) to May 23 (against the Yankees). And from my quick look at the schedule, they have not lost 4 or more in any 7 consecutive games yet. Too bad the playoffs aren't held in May, right?
Ian Jackson, Cambridge
A: Pretty amazing, Ian, that we're almost a third of the way through the season, and the Sox have not lost more than two games in a row, which they've done twice (4/6-4/7 in Texas, when it was freezing, and 4/23-24 at home against the Blue Jays). Both times, incidentally, it was Curt Schilling who was the stopper, winning the next game.
The pitcher throws to the catcher. The ball strikes the ground before the batter's box. The hitter swings and hits the ball as it bounces up. He hits for a single. Is this legal?
George Florentine, Branford, Conn.
A: Yes. Here's the rule, in Section 2.00 of the rulebook, under the definition of a ball. Rule 2.00 (Ball) Comment: If the pitch touches the ground and bounces through the strike zone it is a "ball." If such a pitch touches the batter, he shall be awarded first base. If the batter swings at such a pitch after two strikes, the ball cannot be caught, for the purposes of Rule 6.05(c) and 6.09(b). If the batter hits such a pitch, the ensuing action shall be the same as if he hit the ball in flight.
Aloha Gordon! Just reading the sports section of the online Globe and noted that the Red Sox were jostling around the starting rotation to get Wakefield pitching in the upcoming series against the Devil Rays (oh excuse me, the Yankees, my mistake) while pushing Tavarez back to the upcoming Oakland series. I don't understand this since it seems that the Yankees have figured out how to hit a knuckleball (the only thing that they have figured out) and Tavarez pitched solidly against them for a win. Please explain. Also, my wife Megumi who watches nearly every game on MLB.com, wonders why WMP can't get more time in right in place of JDD. Having read Papi's new book I fear the Red Sox may give up on WMP too soon like the Twins did with Papi. Thanks for all the wonderful insights Gordon!
Michael McCanless, Kailua Hawaii
A: Michael, Tito's explanation was that by moving Tavarez, he wouldn't have to juggle everyone else from pitching on their normal days' rest, and Julian is amenable to getting moved around. I'm not sure that this is a factor, but he also lines up better for when Lester gets promoted to the big club. Lester's next start is scheduled for Sunday. Yes, Tavarez beat the Bombers, but I'm not so sure that the Yanks have suddenly figured out how to hit Wake. His problems in his last three starts against the Bombers have been as much about walks as hits -- 16 walks in his last 17 innings against them. And Megumi, the Sox have too much invested in Drew not to let him hit his way out of this slow start.
I expected J.D. Drew to pepper the Green Monster with opposite field doubles. Do you think he is too concerned with showing his power?
Russ Gil, Verona, N.J.
A: Russ, I hope that's not the case, because J.D. hasn't hit a home run in 101 at-bats, dating to April 22. Frankly, we were told that Drew's swing was ideally tailored to Fenway because of his ability to go the other way, but I agree with you, we haven't seen it.
Gordon, I know this won't get published in your bag since none of my notes ever do. Furthermore, I am not going to waste time and space telling you how wonderful you are, since clearly that has no impact on getting questions/notes published. I simply wanted to say that my vote for the AL first base representative will be cast for Youk. Don't get me wrong, I love Ortiz as much as the next guy but I think this season he is getting votes on reputation and not on production in 2007. I can't in good conscience pretend that the outstanding preformace of Youk THIS YEAR is less deserving of a trip to the All Star Game than Ortiz simply because of his history. Obviously in a perfect world this wouldn't be an issue, however I (and I hope you will too) encourage other members of RSN to write in Youkilis for the American League All Star First Baseman.
Kurt, Franklin, Tenn.
A: Kurt, Maybe you've discovered the secret to getting published: Reverse psychology! I heartily endorse your support of Youks for the All-Star team, but your letter raises the traditional debate about who fans would rather see in an All-Star game: The game's biggest stars, or the guys having the best three months of that season. Youkilis has been so exceptional that if he keeps it up it would be a slap not to make the All-Star team, though I could see where he might be sacrificed so that another team will be represented. The Sox will almost certainly send Papi, Manny, Beckett and Paps, with Mike Lowell another possibility and even Okaji a viable candidate. Where does that leave Youks? I also would dispute your contention that Ortiz is living on past reputation alone. The home runs are down because teams aren't giving him much to hit, but his OPS (on base plus slugging) is 1.010, which is fourth in the league behind Vladi, Magglio, and A-Rod.
I need your help. I see the Brewers at the top of the NL Central and I know that they've used the Sox and the Yankees revenue sharing money to get there. They're like the illegitimate child of of my beloved Sox and the hated Yankees. Do I cheer or do I boo?? I'm so confused.
Will Cowell, Franklin
A: Will, I think you should root for the Brewers. You can have all the money in the world, but if you don't spend it right, you're not going to win. Doug Melvin has done a terrific job of putting together that team, with young stars such as Prince Fielder, J.J. Hardy and Chris Capuano, among others, plus adding a veteran FA like Jeff Suppan while trading for a closer like Francisco Cordero. They're fun to watch.
Hey Gordo: When does the braintrust realize Wily Mo Pena isn't cute anymore? I mean, he bobbles/misplays what seems to be at least 90% of the balls that come his way in the outfield. The Bill James disciples must realize that this is costing the Sox in the long run... much like they think Manny is (according to Seth Mnookin's book). When I was in high school, if I misplayed that many balls without any evidence of improvement or an attempt at improvement, I was benched. This guy is getting paid millions. If I was as bad at my job as he is at his, I'd be fired. I don't see what the obsession is. He makes Manny look like Willie Mays.
Chris Pollone, Birmingham, Ala.
A: Chris, I don't know what the equivalent of a 450-foot home run is in your job, but I suspect if you could produce one once in a while, your bosses might be willing to overlook your other flaws. Besides, Theo probably figures if he went to fire him, Wily Mo would probably eat him.
Hi Gordo, I'm a big fan of your work both on the page and on TV. Thanks for helping to keep us informed...I am wondering what's the difference between a straight change and a circle change? I understand that the circle change gets its name from the grip, but am confused if there is a difference in the movement between the pitches and whether it is common for a pitcher to throw both types?
Jaimo Cappellano, Hartford Conn.
A: Jaimo, The wiki definition is as good as any. Here it is: There are several types of changeups, which are generated by using different grips on the ball during the pitch. The most common type is the straight change. The ball is held with three fingers (instead of the usual two) and closer to the palm, to kill some of the speed generated by the wrist and fingers. This pitch generally breaks downward slightly, though its motion does not differ greatly from a two-seam fastball. Another common grip is the circle changeup. The pitcher forms a circle with his index finger and thumb, using these two fingers to grip the seams of the baseball. By pronating the wrist upon release, this pitch tends to break slightly in the same direction as a screwball. More or less break will come about from the pitcher's arm slot-- the more three-quarters or side-arm angle, the more break generally. Pedro Martinez threw a great circle change. Tom Glavine's changeup grip is a circle change grip, but because he does not pronate his wrist, he doesn't have the screwball movement, but rather, more sink on the pitch than the straight change.