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 whether it was answered.
Mark my words -- the AL East race has finally begun today (Sunday), with the Yanks now just eight back in the loss column. Our charitable Sox are not exactly building for October, but have been spinning their wheels and playing uninspired, sub-.500 ball for the past six weeks. A playoff-hungry team would find a way to do better than a home split with Toronto. And such a team would not follow up a Tampa sweep by getting get swept in Detroit. Instead, we're seeing mounting injuries, mental errors, GIDPs, LOBs, and a whole lot of frustrating mediocrity and underachievement. All the while, the offense continues to waste good pitching performances on a regular basis. The Sox cannot afford to give away any more home games, especially when you keep in mind their murderous schedule in August. So Gordon, what would you do as GM to fix this mess, one that is oddly reminiscent of the 2004 season (fast start followed by a two-month stretch of bad baseball)? But we know lightning isn't going to strike twice: this time, there is no Nomar to trade, no obvious way to upgrade the offense, and no one out there for whom it is worth dealing Clay Buchholz, Jon Lester, or Jacoby Ellsbury. Or do you stand pat, hope things work themselves out, maybe add a middle reliever or mid-rotation starter, and possibly be left wondering in September where it all went wrong? As any Sox fan (without hubris) knows, one must never count the Yankees out -- and they're now in plain sight in the rearview mirror. Should be fun.
Paul Garfinkel, Vancouver, BC
A: Paul, I think that's a pretty accurate analysis of what's going on. The Yankees have finally gotten the deficit down to single digits, they've got a soft schedule the next couple of weeks, their pitching is stabilized and the Sox have been treading water. You can say that this season is reminiscent not only of '04, but last season, too, when the Sox decided not to make a major move at the trading deadline, then got murdered by injuries (Varitek, Manny, Ortiz, and Tim Wakefield already out). Curt Schilling coming back is significant; if the Sox are convinced he's healthy, I can't see them making a major move for another starting pitcher, and with Manny Delcarmen emerging, I don't see them giving up any good kids for a reliever, either, although it wouldn't surprise me to see them add bullpen depth. Another bat? Where do you add another everyday bat? Your first baseman, third baseman, and DH are productive, your center fielder is coming on, and your corner outfielders are your highest-paid players on your team. Ellsbury has shown he can give your club a spark off the bench; maybe you upgrade your bench with a veteran bat, but not if it's going to cost you a top prospect. I guess that puts me pretty much in the stand-pat column, Paul, with no major moves in the forecast.
Am I the only one that is worried about the lack of clutch hitting on this team? It is almost as if the hitters resign with runners in scoring position. Do we have stats on where among the teams Boston is with runners in scoring position and especially during the last three innings? Maybe it is not as bad as it appears.
Mark, Westampton, NJ
A: Your question inspired me to do a little digging. On the face of it, the Sox aren't doing that badly with runners in scoring position (RISP). They're eighth in the league at .270, just behind the Yankees (.274). They're also in the middle of the pack in a stat called batting Close and Late with an average of .250, which is seventh in the league, just ahead of the Yanks, who are at .249. But I did some further checking, and your perception is correct. The Sox went 11 for 38 against the Yanks with RISP in their series at the beginning of June. Since then (beginning June 4 at Oakland), the Sox are batting just .237 (77 for 325) with RISP. They had a pretty good weekend against the Blue Jays, going 12 for 33, but last weekend in Detroit, they were just 3 for 28. So they obviously have to do better. The Sox best hitters with RISP have been Kevin Youkilis (.372), David Ortiz (.348), Mike Lowell (.309) and Dustin Pedroia (.286). The big dropoffs have been Manny Ramirez (.258), J.D. Drew (.225), and Jason Varitek (.206). Manny lifetime was .328 with RISP, Drew .289, and Varitek .255. Manny has done better with RISP and two out (.333). Drew is batting just .200 (9 for 45) in those situations, Varitek only .158 (6 for 38).
What do you think of this summary of the Sox? They ain't batting in the runs, but are getting men on base -- so, barring injuries, the offense should improve. I think the bullpen is the best in baseball, and a case in point are the three games at Detroit -- the starters gave up 16 runs in 16 innings against the best offense in baseball, and the relievers gave up 3 runs in 13 innings. The starting pitching, in my mind, is the big question. An injury to Daisuke Matsuzaka or Josh Beckett would be catastrophic. As it is, relying on Wakefield, Julian Tavarez, and Kason Gabbard to start 60 percent of our games is scary. It's possible Lester could make a difference, but he's still at Pawtucket for a reason.
Creighton Abrams, Springfield, Va.
A: A major injury to one of your top starters is usually catastrophic, Creighton, be it the Red Sox or anyone else. That's why the Bombers struggled so badly early; they went through 10 starters in their first 30 games. I'm sure you understand that. Schilling being healthy, as I stated above, is a big key. In fairness to Gabbard, he's given the team two good starts after a disastrous outing in Seattle, his first start after Schill went down. If the Sox have any doubts about Schill, then I believe they absolutely have to add another starter. I think you hold onto your best prospects, unless Houston suddenly decides to move Roy Oswalt. Lester, as you noted, has struggled (3-5, 3.90, 48 K's and 28 BB's in 64 2/3 IP). The Sox pen has been tremendous; maybe only the Pads and perhaps the Mariners have rivaled their excellence.
I hear sportscasters talk about players OPS. What does that stand for?
Larry Grossman, Boynton Beach, Fla.
A: Larry, OPS is a fairly recent invention, first popularized by Pete Palmer and John Thorn in their book, "The Hidden Game of Baseball," which was published in the mid-'80s. OPS is the sum of a player's on-base average and slugging percentage. You calculate on-base average by adding hits, walks, and times hit by pitch divided by at-bats plus walks and sacrifice flies and times hit by pitch. (This is different from batting average, which is simply hits divided by at-bats.) Slugging percentage is total bases divided by at-bats (total bases is based on hits alone, with 1 base for a single, 2 for a double, 3 for a triple and four for a home run). An excellent OPS is .900 and above: There are 30 big-leaguers with an OPS of .900 or above entering play July 16. There are six players with an OPS over 1.000, led by A-Rod at 1.061. David Ortiz is at 1.010. Manny, who came into the season with a lifetime OPS of 1.011, is at .858. Kevin Youkilis is at .904.
Do you think it was right for Jim Leyland not to use Hideki Okajima in the All Star Game? When we were in a jam in the bottom of the ninth, wouldn't it have made sense to bring in Oki, with his low, low ERA? I think it was an unnecessary slight, and I just don't understand it. What's your take?
A: Sue, I had no problem with that whatsoever. Hideki was the 32d and last player chosen for the Game; as much fun as it would have been to see him, Leyland had to keep back a couple of pitchers in case the game went into extra innings.
Any chance the Red Sox could host the 2012 All-Star Game, for Fenway's 100th birthday? I thought I read that in the Globe a while back, but now I hear KC is expecting to get the 2012 game. Even though the Sox hosted it in 1999, 100 years old should be a big event for MLB's crown jewel of a park.
Mo Maher, Chappaqua, NY
A: Mo, I think there was an assumption made in Boston that the Sox would get the 2012 game, but there have been numerous reports that KC is expected to host the game in a renovated Kauffman Stadium. With the game having just been played in Boston ('99), I guess MLB has decided there are other places that are entitled to having it before it returns our way.
What is the likelihood that we will see Clay Buchholz up in the Bigs this season?
Craig C., Tollan, Conn.
A: I guess we should see how he does in Pawtucket first; Buchholz is scheduled to make his Triple-A debut tonight (July 16). If he does well in Pawtucket, I certainly could see a September callup in the offing, a la Jonathan Papelbon in '05 and Francisco Rodriguez with the Angels in '02.
My friends and I have been debating the usefulness of Wily Mo Pena since "the trade" was made a year and a half ago. From what I've seen he's decent hitter with monster power with a knack for striking out and not to mention a horrible outfielder. In my eyes he would be a powerhouse as any AL team's full-time DH. It doesn't look like Big Papi is going anywhere for the Red Sox and Pena is becoming less useful every day. He's proven to be no good as a pitch hitter and the club has shown how much non-confidence they have in him by calling up Ellsbury instead of letting Pena start a handful of games when Coco Crisp couldn't play. If he can't pinch hit and he can't sub for an injured player than why is he wasting a roster spot on the 25-man? That space could be used to get a speedy pinch runner or some other role player for our inevitable playoff run. The Sox need to either send him to Pawtucket to learn how to hit something other than a fastball or use him as trade bait for one of those expiring outfield contracts such as Torii Hunter or Ichiro. Am I off the mark here?
A: Jeff, since you wrote of course, Ichiro has re-upped, and the Twins by sweeping Oakland over the weekend are within six games of the division lead in the Central, so I don't think Hunter is going anywhere. And besides, it would take a heck of a lot more than Wily Mo to get him here. No team is going to give up much, I suspect, for Wily Mo, but as reluctant as Theo Epstein may be to give up on him, the Sox may have no choice but to upgrade the bench for the stretch run.
Hi Gord, I would like to see Pena moved, released, or traded. The Sox should give David Murphy, Brandon Moss, or Jacoby Ellsbury a shot.
Reggie Smith, Louisville, Ky.
A: Reggie, you may get your wish.
For the last two years Manny has said he wants to be traded. Isn't obvious by the way he is playing that he does not want to be in Boston?
Leo Gullage, Lakeland, Fla.
A: Leo, he's playing every day, he hasn't made any waves, his production is down. Is that the sign of a guy who wants out, or a guy who at 35 may finally be slowing down some at the plate, or still has a hot tear left in him?
Hiya Gordon, always lovin' the mailbag -- gets me through the chilly winter mornings down under. My question relates to Manny hitting when we need him to -- runners in scoring position and close and late games. Don't get me wrong, I'm a big Manny fan but it seems he just ain't getting it done. His double play in the 10th vs. Detroit in Saturday's game had me looking at the stats: 14 DPs overall, ranked fifth; batting .241 with runners in scoring position; hitting .194 in "close and late" games with just five RBIs (ranked 194th and 83rd respectively) -- even Coco and Pena have 7 RBIs in these situations. What do you think is eating Manny in these situations? I know it's hard to be definitive, but do you think Manny has become a rally killer for the Sox?
Phil Reed, Wellington, New Zealand
A: Phil, I discussed Manny's production in an earlier response to how guys are doing with RISP. Obviously, when Jim Leyland walks Ortiz three times intentionally to get to Manny, Manny is not striking the same fear into opponents that he used to. Many people associated with the club still think Manny is going to put up the numbers before it's all over with ... we'll see. He had a good weekend against the Blue Jays -- 6 for 16, 7 RBIs, a pair of 3 RBI games -- maybe that's the start of a big second half.
Gordon, I understand and respect the Red Sox philosophy of not rushing guys up from the minors to the big club. It can certainly damage a player (Cla Meredith) getting the call up too soon, and the Sox want their players fully developed once they reach the show. I understand the strategy more with pitchers (Buchholz and Michael Bowden) than position players. Hanley Ramirez and Dustin Pedroia certainly struggled in their first go-round at the major league level, but talent will win out in the end as proven by Hanley's Rookie of the Year Award and Dustin's stellar year. I always thought the idea of the organization was to win the division, or at least make the playoffs. To that end, there is absolutely no reason why Ellsbury is not with the Sox. He certainly did not look overmatched in his short stint in Boston and he at the very least, provides a better option defensively and as a base runner than Wily Mo or Eric Hinske. Tell the powers that be Red Sox Nation would rather see Ellsbury lead the Sox to the promised land and not Pawtucket.
Doug Berlin, Jamestown, NY
A: Doug, Ellsbury will be here and contributing, but probably not until September callups. The Sox still believe, and I think their judgment is very sound on such matters, that Ellsbury would profit more from playing every day in Pawtucket for now, to increase his chances of making -- and sustaining -- an impact when he gets to this level.
Hey Gordon, here's a random question that has always bugged me. Why is it that when a batter strikes out and the catcher throws the ball around the horn it never goes to first base? Any idea?
A: John, I found this in the baseballlibrary.com: According to Paul Dickson's "The New Baseball Dictionary," the term "around the horn", which refers to a double play started by the third baseman, or throwing the ball around the infield after a strikeout, has its origins in sailing. It refers to the long voyage from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. Before the creation of the Panama Canal, ships had to travel south past the tip of South America, Cape Horn, to get from one ocean to the other. So the long journey from one ocean to the other, like the journey from third base to first, had to go "around the horn."
Gordon, how is it relevant that I missed the All-Star Game press conference, was it really newsworthy? If it had been one of my 5 Sox teammates here, would you have reported that? I think not.
Manny Ramirez, Boston
A: Manny, hate to disappoint you, but if one of your teammates had been the only AL player not to attend the conference, I would have mentioned that, too. Didn't make a big deal of it, just mentioned you weren't there. No one thought you'd be there, anyway. If you'd gotten fined for your no-show, then it would have gotten more mention, but since MLB didn't assess you a fine, no point in making a fuss about it.
Looking for a Red Sox-Yankee game played on a Saturday night from 1950-58 (ish) that went into extra innings and was called because it went into Sunday and blue laws preventing finishing the game. Any info would be great for a library patron.
Lynn Sacs, Old Bridge, NJ
A: Lynn, if your patron wants to check, he/she can go to a web site called retrosheet.org, which lists all the games (and many of the box scores) of every game that the Sox have played. That would give him the dates of all the games played between the Sox and Yanks, and then he could cross-reference against microfilm accounts of those games. Time-consuming, to be sure, but I don't know how else he could find it.
Editor's note: Reader Richard Pinkham writes in with this: "This might be the game the library patron is trying track down: Sunday, September 3, 1939. From baseballlibrary.com: 'With the Sunday curfew impending, the Yankees stall to avoid a loss in Boston. Irate Fenway fans litter the field with cushions and debris. Umpire Cal Hubbard forfeits the game to the Yankees, but AL President Will Harridge subsequently overrules him and fines the Yankees for their tactics. A Saturday night game and the Yankees were down 12-11. They were trying to get the game postponed and then forfeited on account of the Blue Laws.'"
Do you think that Kevin Youkilis has received enough credit for his emergence as an excellent player this year? He has done a great job making the switch from third to first and seems to be on his way to being a superstar. I, for one, think he deserved to be on the All-Star team and I cannot say enough about his excellent play this year. Yooouuukkkkkk!!!
Matt Barker, Columbus, Kan.
A: Matt, I think people around baseball have recognized the kind of year Youks has had. Buster Olney at ESPN.com just made him the centerpiece of his All-Grinders team.
When a manager gets thrown out of a game, does he still pretty much call the shots from the clubhouse, or does MLB make sure he has no say in the outcome of the game? Also, are there any other knuckleballers in MLB besides Wake?
Carl, Stafford, Va.
A: Carl, no other knucklers in the bigs right now. Yeah, many managers find a way to get word to the dugout if there's something they want done after being ejected. Kind of hard to police that.
I couldn't help but notice that during the last 2-3 innings of the All-Star Game, Big Papi and Manny were nowhere to be found in the AL dugout. Did they take an early exit?
Rich Leopold, Woodbridge, Va.
A: Yes, but so did a lot of other guys.
During the late innings of the All-Star Game, umpire Bruce Froemming got hit by a foul tip not once but TWICE - and practically in the same spot! Every Red Sox game that I watch in which he umps, he always gets hit by foul tips in the left forearm or shoulder. I never see an umpire take as much punishment from foul tips as Froemming. Does he leave himself open more than other umpires when he stands behind the plate? Or do you just chalk it up to bad luck? He seems to average one or two hit by foul tip (would that be listed as "HBFT" on the scorecard?) every game! Ouch!
A: Bryan, I think it's bad luck as much as anything umps take a pretty good beating back there.
Hey Gordon. I'm a transplanted New Englander in the Show-Met State, and I love the mailbag. I've always had an admittedly odd question about how, exactly, major league players are paid. Do they get a bi-weekly paycheck like the rest of us? I can't imagine they get paid lump sums. Thanks!
Matt, Columbia, Mo.
A: Matt, they get paid on the first and the 15th .their checks just have a lot more zeroes than ours do!
The Sox started back Thursday, but about half of the teams are off until Friday. What about making All-Star week a four-day timeout for everyone to allow all teams to rest their arms and catch a break. If they have to fly across the country, that's a day shot anyway.
A: David, I'm with you. They should find a way to give the guys an extra day off, which would be especially beneficial to the players chosen as All-Stars.