Try, try again
Boston Globe baseball writer Gordon Edes check in every Thursday or Friday with his take on the Red Sox. Ask your question now, and come back next week to see if it was answered.
Gordon, Give me a name of a guy on another major league roster that will be on the Sox roster before the trade deadline. And I'm taking about an impact player, not an Alex Cora.
A: Pete, you do understand that if I KNEW the name of a guy on another big-league roster, I'd probably put it in the paper, right? All I can tell you is what they're trying to get done, and it's pretty fluid. I don't believe, for example, that the Sox were going to do the Graffanino deal until Bellhorn got hurt. They're talking now with the Marlins about A.J. Burnett, but they still think that Burnett will end up with the Orioles. They'd love to add lefty J.C. Romero to the pen, but it is by no means assured that the Twins will do that deal, which would cost the Sox Bill Mueller. If Billy Wagner becomes available, a very iffy proposition, the Sox will explore that. Theo Epstein has been pretty consistent in his public statements, that there's not much out there, so you might be talking mostly complementary pieces, like a Cora and Graffanino and Gabe Kapler and Romero.
I was just thinking about who we had last year in the pen. I know Curtis Leskanic retired, but he pitched pretty well at the end of last year. Any chance Theo could pull him out of retirement to make one more run at it. Especially since the laboring Embree has been designated we need help. Thanks
A: Curtis Leskanic, called "The Mechanic" affectionately by Sox PR man Peter Chase, was pitching last season with an arm held together by Krazy Glue and baling wire. I think the Sox have much better options in the minor leagues, like a Jon Papelbon, Jon Lester or a Manny Delcarmen, while also trying to talk Brewers GM Doug Melvin into parting with a Mike Wise, for example.
Did the Sox ever have a chance to land A.J. Burnett? And if so, why didn't they pull the trigger? I'm assuming here that Burnett will be traded to the Orioles by the time you answer this.
A: Steve, As you can see from my answer above, the Burnett deal is not yet done, and the Sox are trying to entice the Marlins with a package that includes Bronson Arroyo and could involve a third team.
With Mark Bellhorn in the final year of his contract what are the chances of them resigning him? I would love to see Todd Walker back in a Sox uniform. What are the chances of that happening?
A: The proverbial slim and none, Pam. The Sox were dissatisfied with Walker's range at second base, the Cubs are happy with how he's performed and Walker appears happy to be in Chicago, where he is still looking forward to playing again with Nomar Garciaparra, perhaps as soon as the end of the month or beginning of August. Walker did give Sox fans quite a parting gift with his terrific hitting in the '03 playoffs, didn't he? One thing you can be certain of: The Sox will have a different second baseman (Dustin Pedroia?) in 2006.
Could Kyle Farnsworth be had from Detriot? If so he would seem ideal for the ailing Boston bullpen with his 11.8 SO/9, 1.85 ERA, and 1 HR allowed in 39 innings.
Matt, San Diego
A: Matt, that's a great name to float, but with Dave Dombrowski having traded Ugie Urbina to the Phillies and Troy Percival going down for the season with a flexor muscle injury, Farnsworth becomes the Tigers' closer by default.
What are the projected power assessments for Hanley Rameriz when he reaches the bigs and what do the Sea Dog coaches think of him? Editor's note: What about his switch to second base? What does that mean for the big picture?
John, Penfield, NY
A: John, I'll be up front with you: I haven't spoken with Sea Dogs people directly about Hanley and have not seen him play since this spring, when I was really impressed by his progress and physical development. The Sox minor-league people love him, which is why he's all but untouchable as we approach the trading deadline. I believe that the Sox think Ramirez can be a 20-25 homer guy. I did have a top scout for another club tell me last weekend that Hanley definitely needs another year in the minor leagues, but I think the Sox will have an open mind in spring training. I think the switch to second base was provisional because of the injuries to Pedroia and Bellhorn; sure he could eventually be a second baseman in the big leagues, but to me a more likely scenario is one hinted at by Edgar Renteria, who said he'd be willing to switch to third base to accommodate Hanley.
I have never been one to write in to your mailbag although I am a faithful reader each week. I just enjoy hearing the fans comments and your opinions as well. I consider myself a fairly knowledgeable fan of baseball having played some college ball in the '80s. As I have watched the Red Sox so far this year I can't seem to figure out what value Kevin Millar brings to this team. The fact that he has 270-plus at bats and only 4 home runs and 33 RBIs is mindboggling. How can a guy like him hit behind Ortiz & Manny and not be productive? I guess it would be one thing if he possessed a great glove in the field but that is certainly not the case. I guess I have a hard time understanding how Millar is still part of the everyday lineup. His production certainly doesn't merit it. I would be more than curious to hear your take on it. Thank you.
A: Rich, as you know, this is the last year of Millar's contract with the Sox, and the team will have a new first baseman next season. Why haven't they made a change sooner? I think a couple of reasons: 1, that they're hopeful Millar will have a second half like he did last season, and indeed, he has been productive in the last week; 2, the offense is still a run-scoring machine even with Millar struggling; 3, their focus is squarely on upgrading the pitching staff; that's the first, second and third priority. Millar needs to have a breakout series here soon to get people off his back. To be honest, I'm a little surprised at the vehemence of some of Millar's critics, that it's not enough for them to say he's slumping but that he's also a tired act. I know a lot of people don't want to hear this, but Millar truly is a good teammate, it's not some kind of circus act, and there is value to having people like him around over the course of 162 games. Does he have to perform? Of course. Is he capable of doing so? His track record would argue that he will be heard from before this season is through.
In the game the other day with the Yankees, the Sox had the bases loaded with none out. They let Cora bat instead of putting in Olerud as a pinch hitter. Cora has a terrible average with the bases loaded. And he hit into a double play. What was Francona thinking? And what did Cora do? He grounded into a double play. I wonder about Francona and the way he manages sometimes.
Bob, Prescott, Ariz.
A: Bob, As you probably know by now, that decision provoked a tremendous amount of discussion. Dan Shaughnessy, my Globe columnist, said that it puts Francona squarely on the hot seat, while Gerry Callahan, the talk-radio host and Herald columnist, wrote that it was proof Francona is managing scared. Given that the Sox are in first place, it's this kind of scrutiny that makes Boston such a tough town in which to manage: I've heard rumors that one Sox manager won 95 games and got fired (!) because he left a Hall of Fame pitcher in a playoff game too long.
Francona didn't help himself when he first explained his decision to let Cora hit by saying he didn't have another second baseman available in case the game went into extra innings, then backtracked and said he wanted to see Cora hit in that situation, and some decisions transcend the specific instance in question.
I'm not sure you saw this, but I did discuss this in a column this week. Last season for the Dodgers, Cora went hitless in nine at-bats with the bases loaded, just one of four players in the National League without a hit in such a situation (minimum 10 plate appearances). In his career, Cora's numbers with the bases loaded are awful: 6 for 44, a .136 average.
Meanwhile, John Olerud, who was available as a pinch-hitter, is batting .351 (65 or 185) with the bases loaded. In two at-bats with the bases loaded this season, Olerud had singled and grounded into a double play. Cora was 0 for 1 this season with the bases loaded before Sunday night.
Cora had never faced Mariano Rivera; Olerud, who was Rivera's teammate, last season, had 3 hits in 13 at-bats in his career against Rivera. So, the numbers would clearly seem to favor Olerud batting in that situation. But break down the numbers further: Since July 5, Olerud has just one hit in 13 at-bats entering that game. And pinch-htting, a role unfamiliar to him, is not one that he has taken to in the past. He has one pinch hit in five at-bats for the Sox this season, a double against the Cubs in Wrigley Field on June 11. That hit is just one of two Olerud has had as a pinch hitter in 21 at-bats since 1999. In his career, Olerud is batting .173 (13 for 75) as a pinch hitter. It's not an easy role.
Play with the numbers a little further: Let's say Pokey Reese, last season's utilityman, had been at the plate, with Olerud available on the bench? Most people would say that's a no-brainer. Surprise: Reese hit .545 (6 for 11) with the bases loaded last season.
So, should Olerud have hit for Alex Cora Sunday night? If Francona based his decision on his concern that he wouldn't have had a second baseman if the game had gone into extra innings, that doesn't wash. Try to win the game first, worry about a second baseman later. Bill Mueller at second and Kevin Millar at third was a viable option in an emergency.
But if Francona based his decision on his desire to take his chances with Cora instead of Olerud, the decision might not be as outrageous as it appears.
Gordon, were the Sox ever interested in picking up Al Leiter on waivers? I understand the Yankees picked him up for a mere $400,000. I think he would have been a great insurance policy as a spot starter (should Wade Miller's shoulder give out, for example) or a middle reliever?
Charles, Bellingham, Wash.
A: Charles, Leiter wasn't a waiver pickup; the Yankees traded for him after the Marlins designated him for assignment, but are only on the hook for about $400,000 of Leiter's remaining salary. No, the Sox showed little interest in Leiter, and for good reason: He was awful with the Marlins. He pitched well last Sunday against the Sox, but let's see how he follows that up before we decide the Sox blew it by not going after him.
The Sox need to pull out the stops to get Billy Wagner. What are the Phillies' needs? Furthermore, in the search of other help, shouldn't the Sox address their needs at second, in the pen and in the rotation by trading from depth (i.e. 1st base, 3rd base, and hitting)? For example, moving Olerud and replacing him with Roberto Petagine (also a lefty, who is just wasting away in the minors) should be the top choice ... Olerud is never going to be more valuable than he is now. Moving Mueller is a close second, but that would hurt more since Bill is clutch and a big part of the Sox. And if the Sox trade a valuable prospect, it should be Shoppach, since we are set at catcher for 4 years (rather than trading Hanley, Dustin or any pitcher). My big concern is that the Phillies don't match up with the Sox, so we might have to try a three-way. And is anyone else hoping that the Yanks get Eric Byrnes, so that they are less likely to bid on Johnny this winter?
Keith, Los Angeles
A: Keith, I'll start with your last point first. Even if the Yankees get Eric Byrnes, that doesn't rule out their taking a run at Damon. Sorry. Olerud is a part-time first baseman and left-handed hitter off the bench. How much value do you think he has on the open market? And Petagine is a guy who has performed well in Japan and in the minors but not in the big leagues; many scouts must feel that isn't going to change, otherwise Theo would have brought him up by now or traded him. The combination of Graffanino and Cora upgrades the Sox at second base and on the bench. And Billy Wagner, as I noted earlier, would cost someone big-time prospects in return, and if the Phillies are still in this thing in a couple of weeks, Wagner isn't going anywhere.
Gordon, I hate to crash the "love in" that has accompanied Gabe Kapler's return to the Red Sox, but isn't anyone concerned about his poor performance in Japan? After reading your article on Monday, it's clear Kapler doesn't want to discuss it with the media. But if I were the Red Sox, while I'd be happy to have him back after what he accomplished in '04, I would at least want a better explanation of what happened in Japan than what he has given the press. Have you heard anything?
Johnny, Dover, NH
A: Johnny, all I know is that he was miserable over there, felt unmotivated there, regretted having gone there, and got in a slump that he couldn't shake. I don't think it goes much deeper than that. I think the adrenaline rush of rejoining the Red Sox will instantly make him a better player.
With Manny hitting an eye-opening (not in a good way) .194 with just 4 HRs against lefties, does anyone in the Sox organization suspect this is nothing more than a statistical anomaly or could this be an ominous look at the reincarnation of Jim Rice? Have the Sox checked out Manny's left eye vision? He's had dozens of woeful swings against lefties this season and oftentimes it appears as if he's merely guessing where the ball might end up. Perhaps a trip to the optometrist and a Nike contact lens prescription ala Brian Roberts might help Manny's sudden aversion to lefthanders!
Steve, Lutz, Fla.
A: Steve, just in case you're right, the Sox have installed an eye chart inside the Green Monster for Manny to practice on when he disappears. Seriously, his performance against lefties this season has been one of the season's great mysteries. I think the Sox tend to believe it is more of a statistical anomaly, and haven't heard anyone suggest that Manny's eyes are out of whack.