A call for arms
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.
I know that Craig Hansen and Manny Delcarmen are pitching well as of late, but do you see the Sox making a trade to acquire another veteran arm for the bullpen? Seems to me that Rudy Seanez just won't cut it here. He has struggled with his control, and has allowed many inherited runners to score in the 1st half. Hitters have pounded the ball and he has been very, very inconsistent (those are just a few gripes about him). Julian Tavarez on the other hand will get some kudos for pitching well as of late (1.00 ERA in July).
Will he continue to be effective remains to be seen. However I did see in "The Buzz" on this website that former Sox reliever Scott Williamson could be available. It said that he wanted out of Chicago, and that he has requested a trade. Now that he is supposedly healthy, Williamson would make a much more viable option in the bullpen then Seanez. We have all seen what he can do, and the only reason why the Sox let him go was because of the shoulder problems he had in 2004. Besides wasn't it fun watching him blow away hitters in the 2003 playoff. Anyways again, Williamson seems healthy, and he hasn't pitched that bad for the Cubs. Plus he wouldn't cost that much to get. What's your take on Williamson, or another possible veteran arm for the 'pen?
A: Mike, It's clear that the Sox could use a fifth starter and a long reliever, although a healthy Clement would go a long way toward resolving the fifth starter issue. During the remainder of July and into the August waiver period, you can be certain Theo will be considering all possibilities for improving the club's mound corps. However, with 20 other teams still in postseason contention, competition for the very few potentially helpful available arms will be stiff. Look at how the Reds had to give up Austin Kearns and Jose Lopez, two front-line players, to get bullpen help from the Nationals. My feeling about Williamson is once bitten, twice shy.
The Sox' direction appears to be to go more and more with the young arms up from Pawtucket. Lester, Papelbon, Delcarmen and Hansen are all developing nicely to date. The Sox have just called up Craig Breslow as a lefty reliever, which appears to be a temporary move, but he'll likely get a September call-up as well, and are planning to replace Jason Johnson with Kyle Snyder for Monday's start against Kansas City.
Does it look to you as though Josh Beckett--and Jason Varitek--seem to have a little too much confidence in the heater? To me Josh, no doubt encouraged by Jason, is reluctant to throw his curve or splitter (which I don't think he has) or other breaking ball. Beckett and Schilling lead the team in homers in part because they both rely heavily on the fastball. Schilling does a better job of spotting his, plus he throws more breaking balls. My opinion is that the fastball works best when the batters can't sit on it. But with Josh, they usually can.
Relatedly, I also think Varitek called for Papelbon to throw too many fastballs in the 9th inning last Sunday at Chicago--the second one against Jermaine Dye, a terrific fast ball hitter, got parked and should have been a breaking ball.
Creighton Abrams, Springfield, Va.
A: Your observations regarding Beckett are quite valid. Beckett is coming to a new league, widely regarded as "the fastball league". He has not been able to simply blow away hitters in clutch situations as often as he was able to do in the National League, known as "the curveball league".
Terry seems confident that Beckett, who does have command of a number of pitches, will develop his ability to keep batters off balance as he matures. This development has been proven time and time again with many young power pitchers who begin their careers relying on their heaters. But remember, Beckett got burned by a hanging breaking ball on Dye's second home run Saturday. Varitek's role in all this? I think you've noticed that Beckett shakes off Varitek a fair amount, so there may be a bit of stubbornness involved here.
As far as Papelbon's pitch to Dye in last Sunday's Chicago game, Papelbon said he threw a splitter there that he left up just a bit-it wasn't a terrible pitch and Dye pulled it without hooking it foul, An impressive bit of hitting. Sometimes you just have to tip your cap to a good hitter. Not every home run is the result of a bad pitch.
I am one of these "new fans"-- wife of a fan now hooked on Red Sox baseball. So this may be a simple questions but I can't find the answer anywhere. During the All Star game they said the winning team gets home field advantage for the World Series. They also said the American League has been dominant and won the last six (I think) years. Why then was the 2004 World Series in St. Louis? Shouldn't it have been in Boston?
A: Nicole, simple question, but there may be a few folks not sure how this all works. For decades now, the World Series games procedure has been two games in one park, then three games in the other, with the final two games played at the first park. "Home Field advantage" goes in theory to the team with four possible home games, In 2004, the first two World Series games were played in Boston, and only the last two were in St. Louis, as Boston swept the Cardinals in four straight games. This year, for the fourth straight year, the winner of the All-Star Game was the American League, so for the fourth straight time the AL entry in the Series will be home for the first two games, the next three games will be scheduled for the NL park, and the AL entry will have the last two games-thus home-field advantage for Game 7.
Why is Jason Johnson in the starting rotation and David Pauley is not? I'm going to be flying to Kansas City to see the three game series next month. Would you agree that KC seems to be a much improved club over the past month or so? And how about I buy you a beverage after one of those games?
Jim Loomis, Ha'iku, Maui
A: Jim, since you wrote, Jason Johnson has been optioned to the minors. The Sox elected to go with Pauley at the time because they didn't want Jon Lester to make his big-league debut in New York against the Yankees, who are tough on lefties. Kyle Snyder appears to be in line to start Monday against Kansas City, but again, I suspect the Sox hope Matt Clement will be healthy enough to fill that role sooner than later. Kansas City remains a mess-this year they tried to plug their holes with serviceable veterans like Doug Mientkiewicz, Reggie Sanders and Mark Grudzielanek, which is a good route to go if you have a chance to win but a little dubious when you've lost 100-plus games, as the Royals did. Outfielder David DeJesus can play and third baseman Alex Gordon and outfielder Billy Butler are coming, but I blame ownership for making a mess of what was once a great franchise. It seems as if new GM Dayton Moore has been given authority to clean up this mess, but it's going to take time. Look for a bunch of the Royals vets to be moved at the trading deadline for more prospects. As for the beverage, thanks for the offer. Still waiting to hear if I'll be making the KC trip.
Do you think Trot Nixon returns next year? I'm sure he's willing to take a pay cut but I question whether the Sox will have interest in him moving forward. We all love his grit but his lack of power leads me to believe he is on the decline and they should start looking for a permanent replacement in right field. I'm not that impressed with his hitting average or OBP as much as I am disappointed with his six HRs.
Kerry Althouse, Plymouth
A: Kerry, this will certainly be one of the most difficult decisions Theo will have to deal with in the off-season. Trot's dirt dog style and his invaluable contributions to the community have made him a most respected player on and off the field. Baseball is, however, a business. While Trot will only be 33 next year, injuries have seriously cut into his playing time and limited him to but 24 homeruns the last three seasons. Honestly, I think there's a real possibility the Sox will let Nixon walk, and install Wily Mo Pena (9 years Trot's junior) in right in 2007, or get another outfielder. And don't be so sure Trot would be willing to take a pay cut. He will be interested to see what he might be able to command on the open market, and while he might be willing to end his career here at a lesser price, the money will be a factor.
Gordon, this question is obviously not a very serious one, but it has occurred to me lately that David Ortiz is in need of a better nickname. Big Papi is nice, but it doesn't really do justice to the magnitude of his contributions. He is the ultimate deliveryman in the game of baseball. I think he should be entitled to appropriate the name 'Mailman' from the much less deserving Karl Malone. I believe in Ortiz' native language this would translate to 'El Cartero'. That's not quite as catchy as El Guapo, I know, but I think it's on the right track. What do you think?
Bob McNeil, Halifax, Nova Scotia
A: Bob, c'mon, man, Big Papi is one of the best nicknames in the game today, IMO, and suits the man., Judging from the response at the All-Star Game, it is apparent that it has become one of the most recognized nicknames in all sports. As Alex Rodriguez so aptly put it, Big Papi has become the Magic Johnson of our time. A little story: After Ortiz had demolished the Marlins with two gigantic home runs on the team's recent trip to Florida, I overheard a tearful six year old boy pleading to his mother, "No more Big Papi!" Case closed.
It has been just over six weeks since Wily Mo went on the DL. He was expected to be out 6-8 weeks, so when could we realistically expect to see him back on the sox roster and playing? How much playing time do you see him getting since he now has to compete with Kapler for that 4th outfield spot?
Josh Wasserteil, Portland, Ore.
A: Josh, I though Pena would be activated Thursday night when the second half began, but he evidently was hit in the hand twice in the past week by pitches in Pawtucket, missed some playing time, and Tito wanted him to get some more at-bats this weekend. The club has some decisions to make, obviously, when Pena comes back. Willie Harris would seem to be odd man out here, with Pena getting the most time platooning with Trot in right, spelling Coco and Manny, with Kapler sliding into the fifth outfielder's role. But that is by no means etched in stone. I think it best to look at Pena as a work in progress for 2007 and beyond.
Any way MLB can get the voted-in All Stars to attend? Some ideas, likely already thought about: have a week off the schedule so all players get a rest, the winners get all expense paid vacation to Hawaii with wives, forget the winner gets home field. Players seem to value the time off more and they get a bonus for being selected not playing. Maybe have the game in Hawaii itself.
Rick Hull, Allentown, Pa.
A: Rick, assume you're referring to the Manny flap. Fortunately most players regard the All Star Game as an honor and opportunity. Did you watch Jonathan Papelbon's wide-eyed joy at just attending this year's event? It's interesting, but I don't recall so many teams not having to resume play after the All-Star Game until Friday. I think that should be across the board, which means that All-Stars would also get a couple of days off, too. Hey, I'd love to go to Hawaii every year, but I don't think too many players would be wild about traveling so far for such a short time-they travel enough in-season. the increased All Star hoopla, brought on by the Home Run Derby over the last ten years, is sufficient glitz for the event. Let's leave Hawaii to football and the surfers.
Back when I was a cub journalist I learned that all the best writers come out of Sports, because it is so hard to say, "The score was 6-3" eight zillion times and make it interesting, but you certainly proved me right in your coverage of Saturday's Sox-Sox game ("Ortiz homers again as Red Sox escape..." July 9, Globe). Nice prose, great details, humor and intelligence. Great writing! P.S. Do the teams ever take overnight trains anymore? There are still a few.
Jim RePass, Boston (Washington Post '70, St. Pete Times '71-'72)
A: Jim, certainly appreciate the compliment. I feel fortunate to be writing in an area like New England, where so many of my readers look beyond the simple stats of the game. They appreciate sense along with the sound, and are a constantly demanding readership. As for trains, the Sox took a train from Baltimore to NYC this season, and have been known to go Boston to NYC on train. But gone are the good old days when Ring Lardner walked the Pullmans taunting the Black Sox.
The number of HRs both Beckett and Schilling have given up on the road this year is staggering. On the other hand, their ability to keep the ball in the park at Fenway is just as surprising. Is there any explanation as to why the disparity? I know pitchers feed off the home crowd to some extent but logic would dictate the numbers should be reversed.
A: KC, the surplus of home runs by Schilling and especially Beckett is indeed most surprising, whether home or away. Theo said in an interview this week that in Beckett's case, he considers it a bit of a fluke. Though partially explained by the greater number of road games the Sox have played in the first half, and the tailoring of many players to their home parks, I would guess that this is simply a statistical anomaly. But the way Beckett's been giving 'em up, he is challenging the team record of 38 set by Wakefield a few years ago.
Gordo, I haven't heard much about Foulke lately. Do they expect him back this year and more importantly do you think he can actually contribute to this team in the 2nd half of the season? Or is he a full-blown basket case who is one bad outing away from chopping his ear off?
Greg Fresien, Hoboken, N.J.
A: Greg, you probably haven't heard much about Foulke because there hasn't been much new to report. While reports are his arm speed is good, he is still noticeably bothered by tendinitis, and it doesn't appear that he'll be activated in the near future. I wouldn't expect him to contribute to the Sox 2006 season.
Gordo, should the Sox consider Julian Tavarez as an option for the No. 5 starter slot?
A: Rick, an interesting suggestion, and you address what appears to be the current most pressing need - a fifth starter. Placing Tavarez in that role might be like robbing Peter to pay Paul. Until last night, Tavarez's effectiveness in long relief had been much improved, and he recently has demonstrated the ability to go three or four innings, if needs be, and keep the Sox in a tight ballgame. This was the role planned for Bronson Arroyo, and Boston has scrambled to find a strong middleman all season. Actually Julian was a starter for Florida throughout the 2002 season, but with St. Louis the past two years pitched just 130 innings in 151 games. Whether, at 33, he would possess the stamina to return to the starting role would have to be determined. And of course the logic of having him start because he has been less than stellar in relief might be brought into question, as well!
Two really big problems, one possible solution: Problem 1, Clement seems a huge waste of a large salary. The only encouraging statistic I saw recently is that he has a pretty good ERA the first time through the opposing lineup. Problem 2, Papelbon is obviously a star, but everyone can see he's being used far too little by a team that needs more quality pitching spread across more innings. Possible solution: Rehab Clement in the minors as a closer, and see if he's got the mental makeup for it. That seems to be 90 percent of the job, and while it could be dangerous to screw around with the obvious blockbuster success in Papelbon, maybe if Clement could show willingness and an ability to close, we could make that switch and get a win-win. I realize the thinking is that the question of Papelbon as a starter will be revisited next season, but why wait until then if changing now could make the difference for winning it all this season, especially if Clement's stats suggest a possible aptitude for taking that over, and little aptitude for returning as a starter? What you think? Thanks.
A: Well Paul, I see two obstacles to your suggestion. Clement's control has been spotty throughout his career, and good control is vital to a closer. Also, his current health makes such a move problematic, at best. He might develop the mental toughness necessary, but it would be highly unlikely Terry would make such an experiment in the second half of the season in a tight divisional race. As for Papelbon, I'd say if it ain't broke, don't fix it. Chances of him mirroring his remarkable first half may be less than a hundred per cent, but Jonathan has time and again demonstrated the various pitches, the control, and above all the mental toughness, to become the finest young Red Sox closer since Dick Radatz.
Always a pleasure to start my Wednesdays with your mailbag and your take on all things Sox. Didn't I read in the last two weeks that both Terry Mulholland and Russ Ortiz were released from the Diamondbacks? Is it because TM's 43 and in brittle shape that he's not worth a look see? Ortiz' contract is probably the reason.
Rob K., Scarsdale, N.Y.
A: Rob, I'm sure that Theo, along with 29 other GMs, keeps a keen eye on the releases and waiver wire these days, searching for pitching that will plug a gap. My sense is that the recent successes of Papelbon, Delcarmen, Hansen and Lester have encouraged management to look for help within its own organization. You'll note Craig Breslow has just been promoted from the PawSox, and Kyle Snyder likely will be back for a spot stat on Monday. But depending, as I've noted earlier, on Clement, or a quick recovery by Lenny DiNardo, Theo may well be shopping for a fifth starter prior to the July 31st deadline.
Will that 19-inning game have any lasting negative effects on the team?
A: If the Red Sox lose the division by one game, it certainly will! But coming as it did preceding a three-day break, the impact on the pitching staff is nil. The larger picture saw the Sox take two of three on the road from the World Champions, and come within one out of a sweep. Now that's good news.
Gordon, quite a few of us out here would like to know more about the health of Peter Gammons. Could someone please give us some encouraging words about this super human being.
Jim Stapleton, Cranston, R.I.
A: Jim, the word we're hearing from his wife Gloria is that Peter continues to make steady progress, is speaking, and is even admonishing folks around him that he "has to write." We all continue to hope and pray for a full recovery. WEEI has also been reporting that Peter will be checking out of the Brigham and Women's Hospital on Monday and will continue treatment at a rehab facility on Cape Cod. Their report also indicated that doctors said there was no permanent brain damage and Peter is expected to make a full recovery.