Boston Globe baseball writer Gordon Edes checks in every week to answer your questions on the Red Sox. Ask yours now, and come back next week to see whether it was answered.
I am maybe one of the minority that is puzzled by the Eric Gagne trade. First of all, Boston has the best bullpen in the majors without Gagne. Having Jonathan Papelbon, Manny Delcarmen, and Hideki Okajima plus Mike Timlin they are heads and shoulders above anyone else at this time. What Boston needs is a hitting right fielder. Drew is not and will not ever be the ballplayer he once was. He has now played for four different teams, I believe. He looks lost among the players. Kason Gabbard is going to be one of the best starting pitchers in the majors in a few years. To give up this potential for a once-great closer who has had three major arm surgeries is taking a heck of a chance. If they were going to trade Gabbard, I would have done it for a right fielder if possible. If not, then keep him.
A: Roy, the bullpen has been a strength all season, but there's some vulnerability there, which is what Theo addressed when he added Gagne. Paps acknowledged himself, in an interview with me a day after the Gagne deal, that he wants to see whether his shoulder will stand up to the test of a full season. Meanwhile, Okaji has been a sensation, but he's never had as heavy a workload as a reliever, and if you count October, there are still three months left. He can only benefit from Gagne being here. And finally, Timlin is 41 and has had shoulder issues. Gagne is a hedge against Mike breaking down, too.
Do you honestly think bringing in Eric Gagne is going to help a slumping offense? Being born and raised as a huge Red Sox and Bruins fan much like the most of Nova Scotia, we follow every single move like cats on mice. I truly believed we were in tall order for another big bat in the lineup, especially with the concerns Drew brings to the table. Having Jermaine Dye in the meat of the order would have put the fear of GOD in the opposing pitcher's eyes. That being said, I hope I'm wrong. But we've seen this same old song and dance before. The Yanks are pressing and the bats better start waking up! I'll be in Boston in Septemor ber to witness my first-ever live major league game against the Yanks. Can't wait! Until then keep up the great work.
Andrew H. Dill, Windsor, Nova Scotia
A: Andrew, I had no idea Nova Scotia had such passionate fans. I envy you your first Fenway experience. Seeing the Yankees in September with something at stake -- it should be really cool. Unfortunately, when I was a kid, the Mick had just retired and the Yanks were terrible! Theo Epstein, like you, would have loved to have added a bat like Jermaine Dye's, but he didn't want to mortgage the future to get a guy who would have been a rental. And if the Sox couldn't have found regular playing time for Dye, I'm not sure how happy he would have been to be here. But now that Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz are hitting up a storm together, some of the pressure on Drew will be eased, and he'll start whacking it, too.
I may not be the first to make this note, but in my mind, Eric Gagne is the "Fourth Hanson Brother." It looked to me like it was all he could do to keep from dropping his glove and going after Jay Payton on second in the ninth Thursday after what he considered a cheap RBI hit against him. A real fresh dose of attitude for the Sox, eh?
Jack Connor, Concord, NH
A: Jack, you're not the first guy to make an allusion to the Hanson brothers, the brawling hockey players who were immortalized in the Paul Newman movie, "Slapshot." Gagne, as most of you know, is French Canadian and grew up playing hockey, so he probably would consider the analogy a compliment. He's about as good-natured and open as you can get when he's not pitching -- he's written children's books -- but obviously is amped up when the bullpen door opens.
BTW, I've been around so long, I covered Steve Carlson when he was on the Kings, one of the hockey players on which the Hanson brothers were based. But for attitude, it's still tough to top the maniacal Brendan Donnelly, who has as violent a delivery as I've ever seen and the tough-guy mindset to go with it. Donnelly is having elbow reconstruction surgery. I miss him already. Even though we probably couldn't be more different, he was one guy I sought out regularly in the Sox clubhouse. He was blunt, honest, and funny, and lived for the game.
This got a little more long-winded than I hoped for, but I think there's it's all necessary for my point. I've been pondering this ever since I saw a feature on David Ortiz earlier this season. The feature talked about how Ortiz has become one of the best clutch hitters in the game, but it began by showing Papi's problems when he was in Minnesota, how he was having a hard time hitting off-speed pitches, sliders, etc., and generally whiffing a bit too much. When I saw that, I immediately thought of Wily Mo Pena. From everything I read and hear, the problem with Wily Mo is that he's not getting enough playing time that's necessary for improvement. I'm not saying the answer is forcing him into the lineup, but it does make you wonder what kind of potential is there.
The other thing I'm curious about is, why is there only a need for one hitting coach? I'm not getting into the Magadan/Papa Jack thing. I'm just curious, with all the money spent on these players, and I'm not even talking about guys making $10M+ per year, but basically any major leaguer, why not hire two hitting coaches? I know, getting separate opinions sounds detrimental; you'd have one guy trying to correct something in the swing and another possibly having a problem with the stance. Hey, you don't have just one guy on your scouting staff, right? Why not have a couple of hitting coaches that can bounce ideas off each other while looking at video of a player and discuss what should be worked on? Who doesn't agree that Wily Mo should be making more contact, but who says he only needs to hit balls 450 feet?
Finishing off, let's just call this one example. I meant to highlight the similarity between Papi's initial problems as a younger player in Minnesota vs. Wily Mo's here in Boston. I got sidetracked, but I think my points meshed OK. I suppose I need an editor, huh?
Rob St. Pierre
A: Rob, you're right, your letter is a bit on the long-winded side (even in its edited version -- sorry). But considering it customarily takes me six paragraphs to clear my throat, who am I to render judgment? Besides, the issue you raise -- the one about multiple hitting coaches -- is a good one. In truth, there often isn't just one hitting coach. In the minor leagues, for example, each team has a hitting coach, but there is also a "roving" hitting instructor, who periodically visits each team in the system. All of the hitting coaches in the Sox system are supposed to teach the Sox approach, but individual voices are still heard. In the majors, while one coach is designated the "hitting" coach, other members of the coaching staff often are used as resources.
For example, when Dale Sveum was here as third-base coach and Ron "Papa Jack" Jackson was hitting coach, Jason Varitek made a connection with him, in part because like Varitek, Sveum was a switch-hitter. On the current team, Ino Guerrero, who is not an official member of the coaching staff, works religiously with Manny Ramirez and assists hitting coach Dave Magadan. Third-base coach DeMarlo Hale, Magadan told me, is a valued resource for Coco Crisp. Magadan said he looks upon their assistance only as a positive.
There was one situation with the Sox that led to some tension, though. That was when Terry Francona added Mike Barnett, who had been fired by the Blue Jays but was looked upon as one of the "progressive" coaches who made great use of video and stats. I think Papa Jack viewed Barnett as a rival and a threat to his own job security. Hitting coaches don't make a lot of dough as a rule. If they make low six figures, they're doing pretty well. Still, I don't think teams would be in favor of expanding their coaching staffs by much .it's one area where they still try to keep down costs. Penny smart, pound foolish? Maybe.
As for Wily Mo, Ortiz himself has seen parallels in WMP's potential and that of his own, and it really wasn't till Ortiz was 27 that he took off.
I keep hearing people complain about the high-priced acquisition of J.D. Drew. I believe he will come back with a good year next year after the "mandatory" Boston adjustment, but in a worst-case scenario and he is a total bust, isn't this what we have complained about the Yankees for years? They don't just spend a lot of money, they are venture capitalists. They have had plenty of busts, and expect them. A VC invests in several players/companies, and hopes one or two succeeds. Other teams can only afford to spend big on one or two players and cannot afford to make a mistake. It would be nice if Theo could pull an "Okajima" every time, but since he can't isn't being a VC the best way? My only concern would be if the money they spent on Drew prevented them from getting anyone else. That does not appear to be the case, and there is no cap like football. I never hear this angle from anyone, or maybe I missed it. What are your thoughts?
A: Carl, this to me is when the 'Bag is operating at its best, people offering perspectives that may not have occurred to those of us who do this for a living. I have visions of John W. Henry reading your letter, nodding in agreement, and saying, "Finally, someone who gets it.'' Is that truly the model the Sox follow when assembling a roster? I suppose Theo would argue that the Sox are more prudent with their investments than the more scattershot approach you suggest, but to me, it's a strikingly apt description of the way the deep-pockets teams operate. My lack of a business background -- for me, balancing my checking account is a weekly challenge -- probably would have kept me from seeing it from this angle, so I thank you. And I suspect you're right about J.D.; he didn't become a stumblebum overnight. There's definitely time for him to get it right.
I was disappointed to read your recap of the Aug. 4 Sox-Seattle game, which began with the fantasy of Dice-K and Ichiro engaging in jujitsu or kung fu. I love your writing, love your analysis -- it's like a life preserver thrown all the way to Texas -- but resorting to racial stereotypes like this seems well below your standards. No matter how well Dice-K and Ichiro play, no matter how many All-Star teams or rings they accumulate between them, they'll always be seen as "foreign" players, as "Asian imports". And if you're going to invoke the cliché of the martial-arts mad Asian, then at least keep them straight: Kung Fu was developed in China. Mr. Matsuzaka and Mr. Suzuki are from Japan.
Stuart Kelban, Austin, Texas
A: Stuart, I'm not quite sure how to respond to your comment, beyond thanking you for the kind words at the outset, but I'll begin with a brief explanation of the passage to which you refer for those who might not have read it. Last Saturday night, the gist of what I wrote was that the Sox/Mariners game would not be long remembered, not on the day Bonds tied Hank Aaron and A-Rod hit his 500th. I said Ichiro/Daisuke could have engaged in jujitsu, kung fu, or a steel-cage bare-knuckles fight in between home plate and the mound, and it wouldn't have made a difference, not on a day with so much history.
The Ichiro/Daisuke showdown resonated more than the usual great batter/hitter duel precisely because they are from Japan, and are celebrities in their native country. That's the reason dozens of Japanese reporters have been following the Sox all summer. For them, it is still a novelty, that Daisuke is here in the United States; why should it cease to be a defining characteristic (not the only one, to be sure, but a significant one) for me? I have never thought that describing Pedro or Big Papi as Dominican was derogatory in any way; just a statement of fact, one in which many Dominicans take pride, just as many Japanese and Japanese-Americans are thrilled by the exploits of Daisuke and Ichiro. As for my reference to martial arts being a racial stereotype, I don't know -- would it have made more sense, for my purposes, to have written they could have staged a swordfight or drawn pistols? And while I suppose it is fair to conclude that I was mixing up my martial arts, I don't think either Japan or China would want to take credit for steel-cage fights, so the historical origins of the examples I used was (I thought) clearly of minimal significance.
There you go again -- making yourself the fool, knocking Ramirez again -- how come you don't "knock" the white guys???????? Do you ever wonder why Boston is considered a racist city or are you too naive or dumb to understand?????????
Jon Susce, Sarasota, Fla.
A: Jon, an earlier 'Bagger used a dozen exclamation points, you used 17 question marks. Clearly, the 'Bag is going to have to start charging more for punctuation. So, let's see if I understand you: If Manny makes a bad base-running mistake or misses a fly ball, it's racist for me to mention that? What am I being when I write that Manny plays a game with considerable energy or is one of the game's greatest right-handed hitters? Inconsistent, disingenuous, or just plain stupid? Do the same standards apply with Julio Lugo? If he gets picked off second and I write it, am I being racist? Or if Coco Crisp can't hit a lick for the season's first two months and I report that, I'm betraying prejudice? If Curt Schilling says something out of line or J.D. Drew looks at a called third strike and I report it, am I being biased toward guys born in Alaska or raised on a farm in Georgia? I'd give you more examples, but I've exceeded my quota of question marks, though I saved one for last: Is there anything I could say or do that would make a difference in what you think?
Gordon, why is it when Eric Hinske didn't want to talk to you guys about his family matter, you described it as "Hinske politely declined to talk," but when Manny doesn't talk to you guys, it's always some putdown or "Manny refused to speak to reporters after the game?" You and others' constant attempts to paint Manny in a bad light have become beyond annoying, especially considering it's never worked.
Mick, I honestly can't recall writing "Manny refused to talk to reporters" in ages, because it's such a given now that it barely merits mentioning. Whether he talks to me is immaterial -- I've said that a million times -- although IMO it should be of some degree of importance to the marketing arm of the franchise that pays him $20m a year, and teammates, most notably David Ortiz, have obviously grown weary of answering Manny-related questions. I think the marketers have gotten around the aggravation of that by Manny morphing into something of a comic-book character, the old M Being M shtick. I disagree with your contention that I constantly attempt to paint Manny in a bad light; review the thousands of words I have written about the man, and you will find vastly more positive than negative. I just don't give him a free pass the way his many fans do.
Mr. Edes, this question has nothing to do with the team's performance, but I just wanted to know. I know the Red Sox are a team of great tradition and history, but I believe the uniform should receive a new juicy look, at least for the road games. The one jersey that really comes to mind for the road is the navy blue with the "Red Sox" red letters and numbers. I mean they can still use the traditional gray road uniforms, but mix in a new one also. Has ownership thought of anything new like that? I know Larry Lucchino is no stranger to changes.
Elfi A. Martinez, Trenton, N.J.
A: Elfi, as if the Sox marketing department needs any motivation to put more product out there! Have you been to a Sox souvenir shop lately? There are so many variations on Sox caps/jerseys/warm-ups out there, it's mind-boggling. They've worn different combos in spring training and the red jerseys on occasion in the regular season. The thing I hear more than your plea for a color change is for names to be affixed on the back of home jerseys, but that hasn't happened -- yet. So far, Elfi, tradition still has some toeholds, but they're slipping fast.
What is J.D. Drew's first name?
A: Gloria, actually his nickname should be D.J.; his birth name was David Jonathan. Here's how he explained it once: "My family still calls me Jonathan; so do a few old friends. But David is what my Dad goes by. David is my birth name; I went by Jonathan Drew in school, where it got turned into J.D. The guys on my high school team called me J.D."
My question pertains to the World Baseball Classic, which I believe to be a very special and worthwhile event. I think everyone would agree that the timing of the first installment was lousy. My other fundamental premise is that the All-Star Game is an exhibition game, and by extension its tie-in to the World Series should be severed. Immediately. Now, with respect to the WBC, surely a suitable time might be the All-Star break -- and INSTEAD of the All-Star Game -- every four years. Obviously there are complications in coordinating that with the other leagues but perhaps an amicable solution does exist.
My vision is that instead of whining about players doing the extracurricular playing, people might come around to the idea that playing for your nation is a great honor, period. The idea is analogous to football/soccer, where playing for your club and your country are on roughly equal footing. Any thoughts?
Dan DiPaolo, New York
A: Dan, I think your ideas have a lot of merit. I'm with you that the All-Star Game should not be tied into the World Series. If it wasn't an exhibition, Tony La Russa would have been pilloried even more than he was for leaving Albert Pujols on the bench, instead of pinch-hitting him in the bottom of the ninth. I think there are better ways to juice up the game. The old AL/NL distinctions have become so blurred by interleague play, I think there is reason to look for alternatives, like the United States vs. the World, or I don't know, maybe a generational thing: The Future Stars vs. the Old Guard, to offer one wacky alternative.
As for the WBC, I loved the tournament and I think it has great future potential. The timing of when it's played is a problem, but to play it at midseason probably is not workable. I don't think pitchers could afford to have such a long layoff. I think my buddy Jayson Stark has suggested a tiered approach, with early rounds played in March, and the championship round being played at the break (if that wasn't you, Jays, I apologize). I do know that MLB, the players union and the international federations have all given the timing of the tournament great thought; so far, this is their imperfect solution.
Am I the only fan outraged that he can no longer afford to go to a baseball game? -- heck, can't even afford to park there, let alone go in. Thanks again for turning the Red Sox into a celebrity fad.
A: Steve, I'm impressed at how much influence you give me credit for. I thought the Impossible Dreamers of '67, the El Tiante/Fisk/Rice/Lynn team of '75 and the Rocketman/'86ers helped build this team into the beloved institution it has become, not the modest scribblings of me or anyone of my ilk. Believe me, having grown up in a blue-collar home, I understand the frustration of the fans faced with $100 box seats and the like -- I have lots of friends and family who wish they could go to the ballpark more, but can't/won't pay the going rate. But obviously, there are enough fans (and corporations) willing to do so, which is why the Sox have sold out games for more than four years now.
I'll keep asking this question until you stop avoiding it -- at what point do we start to cast glances askew at Dave Magadan? This team continues to be unable to hit with runners in scoring position. Every time they score 10 runs in a game, they follow it up with 0, 1, and 2 runs in the next three. They can't all be in a yearlong slump on their own! Every night they make the Trachsels of the world look like Cy Young! Pathetic!
Steven Levine, Reston, Va.
A: Steven, are we watching the same team? The Sox began play Sunday fourth in the league in runs scored (second to the Yanks since the All-Star break), and first in the majors in walks. They're second in the league in on-base percentage, and third in slugging percentage. They have a rookie second baseman who is leading all rookies in hitting, a shortstop and center fielder who have overcome deep slumps, and big boppers who are starting to crush the ball. Their corner infielders are both having big seasons, and a catcher at 35 who has enjoyed a bounce-back year. If I'm Magadan, I'm asking for a raise.
Why doesn't Fenway televise away games at Fenway Park? With giant screens, fans at Fenway watching the games will feel as though they are at the game. Fenway realizes income with concessions, ticket sales, etc. A win-win situation for all!! Had this idea while listening to the upcoming away schedule and was so excited about it, I just had to ask if this is a possibility??
Connie Faivre, Westfield
A; Connie, why would folks, unless it was a Yankee game, leave the comfort of their own homes or the coziness (and cheaper drink/food prices) of their favorite neighborhood establishment, to come to Fenway, fight the traffic/pay for parking to watch the game on the big screen? For the community experience. If the Sox thought there was money to be made, believe me, they'd probably already be doing it now, but the cost of paying park employees would outweigh the profits they might reap from your proposal.
Gord, please give me your take on Kyle Snyder and his present/future role with the Sox. He has had only a couple of bad outings all season, but doesn't seem to get any critical action. Is it just a matter of too many good arms in the Sox pen?
Splinter, Charlotte, N.C.
A: Splinter, I think Kyle Snyder is one of the better success stories on this team, a guy who overcame multiple arm surgeries to play an unheralded but valuable role on a club that could be going to the World Series. Believe me, Kyle, like any competitor, would love to be getting the call in the eighth inning, but he also understands that there is a place for a guy who does what he does, getting the early call when a starter gets knocked out, mopping up when the game is out of hand, etc.
I heard on your NESN pregame interview that Curt Schilling sprang for steak and lobster for a postgame spread TWICE while down in Pawtucket. I really like hearing about those aspects of this team. Thank you. I know you are first and foremost a reporter, but are there any Sox players that you are quietly rooting for because of who they are as people?
Patrick Morris, Brooklyn, NY
A: Patrick, I noted Curt's generosity in my role as a reporter, not because I'm rooting for him. I thought it said something about him that he would do something like that, and was worth reporting. As for your larger question, and a good one, I don't think it compromises me as a reporter to see people I like and respect do well, and have good things happen in their personal lives, and there are plenty of good people in the Sox organization.
Gordon, why is it assumed the Sox won't sign Gagne at the end of the season (especially if he's lights out)? Is moving Papelbon back to the rotation next season out of the question now?
Mike Souder, Golden, Colo.
A: Mike, because it is widely assumed that Gagne will resume closing next season, and that won't happen here. There is no thought of returning Paps to his former role, unless the Sox are fooling everybody.
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