The good, the bad, and the Grimsley
Boston Globe baseball writer Gordon Edes checks in every week (usually on Wednesdays or Thursdays) to answer your questions on the Red Sox. Ask yours now, and come back next week to see if it was answered.
It looks like Giambi is going down. He and Grimsley are good buddies. I knew that there was no way Giambi could come back like he has without the use of performance enhancing/illegal substances. Man, I hate cheaters... especially Yankee cheaters! They should make the Yankees forfeit that 13-5 win and every game that was decided by a Giambi hit.
Larry D., Allentown, Pa.
A: Larry D, your letter brings to mind a number of 'Bag correspondents who chided me earlier this season for excessive naiveté after I stated that it was hard to believe that Giambi would dare to cheat after undergoing the public humiliation he went through when his admission of steroid use to the BALCO grand jury became public knowledge. The case involving Jason Grimsley, who admitted to federal investigators that he used human growth hormone after steroids became detectable in MLB's new steroid testing procedures, shows the lengths to which some players are willing to cheat, and the risks they're willing to take to do so. This is the damning part of the whole performance-enhancing drug scandal in MLB, that it has cast the cloud of suspicion over everyone (though I'll say it again-I'll bet the house that David Eckstein is clean!). And that includes Jason Giambi, who is almost as big as ever and hitting HRs the way he was in his dirty days. When MLB announced its stricter testing procedures, Grimsley was one of the players quoted as saying he hoped it would clean up the game. We've seen too many examples (hello, Raffy) of players lying through their teeth to take anyone's word.
With 55 days until the trading deadline, are you going to make another dinner bet with Troup that Clemens comes to the Sox via trade?
Patrick Flynn, Hadley, MA
A: Patrick, no more dinner wagers for me for a while-I can only imagine how much Jerry Trupiano can pack away, which he'll be doing at my expense after he correctly predicted the Rocket would stay put in Houston. I really can't see a deadline trade happening; I think Roger already factored in the possibility of the 'Stros lagging in the standings at the trading deadline before he made his decision. If a greater certainty of playing in October was foremost in his mind, I think he would have opted for the Sox or Yankees first. The Astros have done a remarkable job of climbing back into the postseason in each of the last two seasons and I suspect Rocket believes he can get them there again. He should be fresher than he's been in years in September.
Like many Red Sox fans, I just don't see how the Red Sox can make a serious playoff run without three frontline starters. All we have is Beckett and Schilling and then all hell breaks loose. But I have an idea for a perfect number three starter who might be available. He ranks among the top thirty or so starting pitchers in most statistical categories, and as far as I'm concerned that makes him good enough to be a number 2 starter on most teams. As of Monday morning he ranked 12th in innings pitched. He is the 15th stingiest starting pitcher in MLB when it comes to opponents' batting average. He keeps the ball in the park, too, because he is the 25th lowest for opponents' slugging percentage. He is 30th for OBA and 31st for total strikeouts. Furthermore, he has compiled these stats in the not-so-pitcher-friendly American League. And he has a decent track record in the postseason. His name is Tim Wakefield and I bet he might be available for maybe a back-up catcher.
To be honest, we need a decent number four starter as well. How about this idea? By July 25th the Astros will be so far out of the wild card race (10 to 12 games) that Roger Clemens will request a trade to the Red Sox. At that point the Astros will want to dump salary, Roger will only have to live out of a suitcase for two to three months, and the Sox might only have to give up a mid-level prospect. Go ahead and laugh, but remember you heard it here first!
Mark, Oakland, Calif.
A: Mark, I couldn't have stated the case for Wake better myself. But as you see from the previous 'Bag writer, you aren't alone in the Rocket trade speculation. In fact, my colleague Nick Cafardo floated it in his column last Sunday. Nick believes it's possible; I don't think so.
His outing Sunday was much improved, I'm sure you'll agree, but it seems like Clement's confidence might be suffering because of Francona's reluctance to hold his starters on a tight leash. Sure the bullpen has had a fair amount of work lately but if a guy's confidence has been suffering and he's had a great outing through 5 and then works through some trouble to get through the 6th, why send him out again for the seventh? It seems like getting those 3 outs is a positive way to end an outing and would add to Clement's confidence while sending him back out for the seventh and taking him out after 3 pitches might sap some of the confidence he'd built. Might it do Clement some good to keep him on a tighter leash while he works through this bad patch?
Ryan Allan-Hadley, London, England
A: Ryan A-H, always great to hear from folks on the other side of the Pond. In the case you cite, Clement actually admitted to Jason Varitek that he was gassed, which is why Varitek signaled to the dugout and Clement came out of the game. Francona actually had planned on Clement pitching the seventh.
As a retired HS coach, I often chart pitches while watching a game. Beckett bothers me with his pitch selection and the lack of using his curve ball. Major league hitters love hitting the fastball. Beckett even when effective is conservative with throwing his curve ball... it has a very good swing and miss ratio and is usually in the pitch pattern of one of Beckett's strikeouts... Both he (and Varitek) get pig headed with the fastball. I don't understand the philosophy of not throwing the No. 2 more... it sets up his fastball so well.
Certainly Red Sox brass sees the same trend in the pitching charts.
Rob Austin, Quaker Hill, Conn.
A: Rob, I'm curious, while charting pitches, whether you've noticed that Beckett abandons his breaking ball when he's unable to get it over the plate, or whether it's simply a case of thinking he can beat every batter with his No. 1. It was just a couple of weeks ago, after Beckett had put together terrific back-to-back starts, that Curt Schilling was lauding Beckett not only for his stuff, but also for his approach. Jason Varitek tends not to divulge many specifics of the plan he works out with his pitcher, but it's hard for me to imagine Jason becoming pigheaded about anything; he's too smart for that.
I hate to be the voice of gloom and doom, but I think the season is over for the Sox and they won't be going to the playoffs this year. When Beckett was acquired last winter I thought he would be an 18 game winner this year, unfortunately he hasn't pitched nearly as well as advertised. He's given up 16 homeruns in 45 innings on the road-that's Clement like bad. I seem to remember you writing a long piece about Beckett in the Globe a few months ago so you must know a little about him. Do you think he's willing to try to make some adjustments in his pitching style or is he so stubborn he'll just keep throwing fastballs and watch them leave the park at an alarming rate?
Robert Lowell, Portland, Maine
A: Robert, a little early to be throwing in the towel, isn't it? And you might be giving up on your prediction for Beckett a little early as well. Only Mike Mussina and Curt Schilling, with eight wins apiece entering Schill's start Thursday against the Bombers, have more wins in the AL than Beckett does. Obviously, the home runs are an issue, though it's worth pointing out that 12 of the 16 HRs came in four starts. His first three starts of the season, he didn't give up any home runs, then gave up three in consecutive games against the Jays and Indians. His next five starts, he went 0, 1, 1, 2, 0 until the 4-HR fiasco in Toronto and the two three-run home runs he gave up to the Bombers in a seven-run second inning. It seems to me, then, that the long-ball barrage is a correctable issue, and that Beckett can make the necessary adjustments. Beckett does seem to get hit early-he has allowed 12 earned runs in the first inning in his dozen starts-but that, too, can be rectified, IMO. So don't despair just yet.
With Josh Beckett giving up a ton of early season home runs and generally being inconsistent, is he changing his mechanics to avoid developing finger blisters?
John Lilburn, Missoula, Mont.
A: John, I think that's an interesting question to raise, because it would seem plausible that even a slight adjustment in how Beckett grips the ball, in order to protect the middle finger of his right hand where his blisters usually develop, could affect his command. Al Nipper, the pitching coach, told me this week that blisters have not been an issue this spring and Beckett is fine, and I'm guessing he probably hasn't changed his grip, but it's certainly reasonable speculation.
It seems like every time someone on the Yankees does something decent, they pop out of their dugout to take a curtain call. Each of the home runs on Monday, plus Bernie Williams' (solo!) home run last night? What in God's name was encore-worthy about any of that? Do they just feel like patting themselves on the back because they can actually do routine things they're paid to do? To me this bespeaks a team utterly without class. Say what you want about Manny's penchant for watching homers leave the park before trotting around the bases, but at least he doesn't come out for a curtain call unless it's special. I wish someone in the press would ask them what's up with this newfound penchant for soaking up applause for merely half-decent play.
A: David, it didn't involve popping out of the dugout, but how about the Yanks making a fuss over Mike Mussina tying Jack Morris for NINTH place on the career strikeout list-not even all-time, but just the AMERICAN LEAGUE? And the crowd responds with a prolonged standing ovation? That was simply silly. But it seems to me the Yanks have been doing this for some time, the curtain calls. Like Mike Myers said, I don't ever remember seeing one for a guy who just made a great catch, like Melky Cabrera did Tuesday night. That, too, seemed like overkill, since the fans got to cheer for him during the time he trotted back to the dugout. I have to admit; I didn't even see the Bernie W. pop out, which I agree, also was overkill. What, just because he's nearing the end of his career, will he get a standing O for every home run he hits? There are certain moments that call for a pop-out O, but doing it with such frequency as the Bombers and their fans diminishes the value of what should be a special moment.
Why does Jason Varitek continue to play in games when Moose is pitching for the Yankees, when Doug Mirabelli is batting so much better? I mean 5-50 is not very good, and Mirabelli hit a homerun last night!
Bruce, Cheshire, Conn.
A: Bruce, that demonstrates the premium the Sox place on Varitek's skills in calling a game and handling the pitchers, that they would run him out there even against Moose when the numbers are that bad. I think Mirabelli would be the first to tell you that his HR came on a night that Mussina not only was far from his best, he also had a huge lead when Mirabelli came to the plate.
Regarding the draft, I noticed that some of the players the Sox picked had been drafted in previous years by different teams. I am assuming that they passed on being drafted and stayed in school, making them available to any team in the next year's draft. My question is: Does a team that drafts a player that stays in school get any compensation for essentially losing that draft pick?
Robert Paulson, Sacramento, Calif.
A: Robert, a good example of what you're talking about would be Daniel Bard, the pitcher from the University of North Carolina drafted by the Sox on the first round (28th pick). Three years earlier, Bard had been drafted out of high school in the 20th round by the Yankees, who did not sign him. And no, the Yankees did not receive any compensation because the kid elected to go to college. That's one of the things scouts need to determine before drafting a player, the likelihood of whether he is going to school. It's the thing that gives a high school player the greatest leverage when he's negotiating his signing bonus, although in the case of Boston's top pick, Jason Place, I don't think that's going to be an issue. When I talked to him, he couldn't wait to start his pro career, and also referred to graduating from high school as getting out of "prison," which suggests to me that the books don't have a high priority for him.
Why is no one mentioning what could have been if Hanley Ramirez and Freddie Sanchez were given their chance? The infield with Youk could have been amazing for years to come at a bargain. Sanchez may be an All-Star this year and Hanley looks like he will only get better.
Jim Famalet, Fresno, Calif.
A: Jim, I don't recall if it was in a chat or the mailbag, but I referred to Freddy Sanchez as a nice player but not an everyday one. Even up until a week ago, that was true, as Pirates GM Dave Littlefield said that when 3B Joe Randa recovered from his injury he would go back into the Pirates' starting lineup, replacing Sanchez. And with Jose Castillo at second and Jack Wilson at short, there appeared to be no position for Sanchez. However, Little has since rescinded on his insistence that Randa would supplant Sanchez, since Freddy was playing so well and at one point last week actually led the NL in hitting. Sanchez, you may recall, was traded by the Sox in 2003 when they felt they needed extra pitching to win the division and acquired Jeff Suppan from the Pirates. Suppan was disappointing for the Sox-he has since gone on and pitched well for the Cardinals-and Sanchez after being hurt has carved out a nice niche for himself in Pittsburgh. It's something fans should consider when they clamor for the Sox to trade for pitching. It's going to cost them some decent younger players. And when you aim high-as in a potential No. 1 like Josh Beckett-it could cost you a future All-Star, like Hanley Ramirez.