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.
Gordon, I am aghast at all the heat Theo is taking. I was ECSTATIC that we did not give up any of our young guns at the trade deadline. Even if we finish in LAST place this year, don't Red Sox fans (and journalists) understand
the incredible payroll flexibilty we will have over the next 5-6 years if Hansen, Papelbon, Delcarmen, and Lester are anchoring the staff on the cheap? I promise you that the Yankees are very nervous about our long term game plan.
Vance Macdonald, Los Angeles
A: I didn't know Theo had an Uncle Vance in the family, but I'm sure the embattled GM appreciates the support. I'm not sure, Vance, that I share your conviction that the Yanks are quaking at what the Sox are doing, and I definitely don't see a last-place finish a worthy tradeoff for "payroll flexibility,'' especially for a team with Boston's deep pockets. There may even be a myopic journalist or two who recognizes the value of hanging onto the kids you cite, but there are no guarantees in this game, and who knows what the rate attrition will be in the future for those good young arms.
How much did that 18 inning game in Chicago, played on a beastly hot day, take out of the Sox? Both the Red and White Sox have been slumping ever since.
Bob Smietana, Chicago, Ill.
A: Bob, maybe you left an inning early, but that baby July 9 in Chicago went 19 innings. Eighteen innings, and I still might have made my flight to Pittsburgh that night for the All-Star Game. But honestly, I don't think that game had much of a carryover effect. The All-Star break was right afterward, so guys got some time to recover. The All-Stars on both squads had it roughest, but Papi, for one, certainly hasn't looked the worse for wear, and neither has Jermaine Dye.
Perhaps I have been spoiled, these past eight years, watching
Varitek handling pitchers from behind the plate. Or perhaps Greg Maddux had it
right all those years in Atlanta. What I do see in Javy Lopez is a poor
receiver who gives a weak target and doesn't move his feet. Now what happens
come early sept when Tek returns? With expanded rosters they can afford to hold
three veteran catchers I suppose, but please tell me Lopez will not see October
(hoping we're playing of course).
Matt Scully, San Diego
A: Matt, Lopez's shortcomings defensively are well-known; the Orioles might as well have plastered them on a billboard when they went out and signed Ramon Hernandez last winter. If Jason Varitek is healthy when he comes back, I don't think you'll see Lopez doing much catching. I suspect he'll be more of a bat off the bench with just an occasional spot start.
Gordon, I am still amazed that Theo & Company did not make "ONE" move during this trade
deadline. Just amazed. They didn't have to give up the "farm" as so many
people have been led to believe. Bobby Abreu would have been a perfect fit with
this team. He has the type of OBP that this organization seems to covet. The
Yankees gave up squat in terms of talent to acquire him and Lidle. How can this
ownership justify not making one move to improve this team?
Leo Tribulic, South Boston
A: Leo, because the Sox could easily have matched the prospects the Yanks gave up for Abreu and Lidle, I suspect the decision was a financial one made on the ownership level, and that's the question I put to John W. Henry in an e-mail two days ago. Hey, he may be preoccupied with business elsewhere, but I'm still waiting for an answer.
Greetings from a Sox fan in Long Island! Just a thought after watching
the Sox change around their leadoff hitters from game to game- would it be
beneficial to put Coco/Youkilis 9th and 1st in the lineup, with either one
filling either spot? The leadoff man is typically a big OBP, "moneyball" player,
so by putting an OBP guy last in the lineup and another OBP guy first, the
chances are pretty great that one if not both get on base and jump-start the top
of the order. It could even be argued that Coco/Youk go 1st and 2nd, but IMO it
would be good to have a good bat at the bottom of the order to lead back to the
top. Any insight?
Andrew B., Long Island, NY
A: Andrew B, there are a lot of managers who would endorse your approach, saying they consider the 9-hole like a second leadoff guy. Remember in 2004, the Sox had Billy Mueller, a batting champion, hitting in the 9-hole, with Johnny Damon leading off? I think in a perfect world, Terry Francona would prefer to have a potentially disruptive force like Coco in the one spot, and have Youkilis and Alex Gonzalez hitting down in the order, which is how the season started. But with Crisp's impact diminished since starting the season on the DL, Francona as you know elected to install Youks at the top of the order and has settled on Crisp hitting in either the 7 spot or 8 spot, not the typical place you'd expect to find a guy of Crisp's skills set hitting.
Do know if Theo ever signed his contract? Last I read in the Spring that they were going take care of it but still wasn't signed, or official.
Steven Marks, Newton
A: Steven, the last time we checked, a couple of weeks ago, Theo had not yet signed his contract, which is odd, to be sure, but may not mean a thing, other than to offer hope to budding young geniuses in Brookline and Newton- heck, maybe even in Lunenburg--that there may one day be a vacancy.
Hey Gordo, Good job with the mailbag and other Sox coverage. I've noticed throughout the
season that Jon Lester has been running up his pitch count early and having
trouble in the fifth or sixth inning a lot of times. Do you think it makes
sense to put in a long reliever in the fifth to: 1) protect Lester's arm and 2)
give opposing batters something different to look at. I know Lester will soon
be a top of the rotation guy and Tito Likes to get his starters through the
fifth inning to be eligible for a win, but we can't afford to give away games
trying to stretch pitchers out when they are having a rocky start. Besides,
Snyder did a good job in long relief of Wells the other week and he is just
rotting in the bullpen now.
Jesse Wells, Montgomery Village, Md.
A: Jesse, Curt Schilling is the only Sox starter in the last 17 games to go seven innings. That's a problem. It puts much too great a strain on the bullpen, and there's a ripple effect that impacts the entire staff. Terry Francona doesn't leave his starters in for five innings so that they can qualify for a win; he wants them to get at least six more outs after that, and Lester would be the first to tell you that he can't be throwing 100 pitches in five innings. It may be a question of trying to be too fine, but Lester will learn to trust his stuff and go after hitters. It's all a part of the education of a young pitcher.
Gordon, is the analysis a little overboard as to how much Sox pitchers
miss Varitek behind the plate? Isn't it a disservice to any other catcher to
act as if Varitek's game calling and presence is that much better than anyone
elses as if these other guys are incompetent? Pitchers that were struggling
when Varitek caught are still struggling. I don't buy the "Jason Varitek:
Pitcher Whisperer" thing, do you?
Michael Cummings, Austin, Texas
A: Michael, that's one of the better lines in 'Bag history---the "Pitcher Whisperer.'' All I can tell you is that from Pedro to Schill to Lowe to Papelbon, they all swear by Varitek, his game preparation, etc. And as I'm hearing Dave McCarty say even as I'm typing this, there's a comfort level the pitchers have with Jason that can't be duplicated by a guy parachuting in in August. But I still love the line. People might be getting a little giddy.
Gordon, I love what you say, but have a bone to pick. I could swear
that before Tuesday's game you said that Jon Lester has four pitches--fast ball,
curve, slider, and changeup. Then I watched the game, in which Lester threw 105
pitches in five innings. I saw maybe one change up and absolutely no more than 9
curves. So I'm telling you that Lester is almost as much of a Johnny-One-Note
(fastball in, fast ball out, fastball up, fastball down) as Josh Beckett, only
Lester's comes in at 90 or 91. He threw maybe 30 percent sliders, but he sure as heck
doesn't have more than those two pitches. Given that fact, I thought it was
little short of miraculous that he held the Royals, bad as they are, to 4 runs.
I honestly believe that he is living on borrowed time and does not have major
Creighton Abrams, Springfield, Va.
A: Creighton, I hope I'm not popping into your dreams, because I can assure you, I didn't pop up on your TV screen Tuesday night. I was not in Kansas City, I suspect that was my esteemed colleague Nick Cafardo you heard evaluating young Mr. Lester. Lester is primarily a fastball-slider pitcher, but he does have a curveball and changeup in his repertoire. He said after the KC game he didn't have command of any of his pitches, which is why his secondary pitches appeared so infrequently.
With Fidel Castro ailing and the future of Cuba in doubt, what if anything, are the Red Sox and Major League Baseball planning to do about all the baseball talent that may soon be available?
Alan Paine, North Dartmouth
A: Alan, you are most assuredly way ahead of the curve on this one. I imagine there have been some discussions on the subject, but there is so much uncertainty about what the landscape of Cuba will look like post-Fidel-especially since no one knows what kind of shape the man is in at the moment-it's hard for me to imagine MLB could have gone too far down this road yet. But obviously, if there is reform and greater freedom of movement in Cuba, obviously MLB teams would be anxious to get their hands on some of those terrific players we saw in the WBC, and the kids still developing on the island.
Gordon, Looking ahead, what available free agent closers (and set up men, for that
matter) will be out there in the offseason, in case the option to move Papelbon
into the rotation is exercised? This could be more enticing than overpaying for
another Matt Clement.
Mike Dymek, Charlotte, N.C.
A: Mike, it's shaping up as a soft market for closers this winter. Eddie Guardado? Bob Wickman? Five years ago, I would have taken either guy. Now? Don't think so.
With the Devil Rays blocking the trade of Adam Stern to Baltimore, how
does this hurt the Red Sox? I would think it would only be hurting the Orioles
since they have to wait until the end of the season to get him now. Why didn't
the D-Rays put in a claim for Javy Lopez? That would have hurt the Sox more
directly. Is this because they possibly could have gotten stuck with Lopez and his
salary and everything? I know teams can pull back a player if he is claimed by
an unwanted team on waivers but is there any penalty or drawback to a team
claiming a player just to block him from going to another team? I assume there
must be or you would see players being blocked all the time and no trades
happening at all after the July 31st deadline.
A: Brian, lots of trades do get blocked by clubs putting in claims for players they don't really want, and there is no penalty for doing so. You're just running the risk of getting stuck with a guy you don't want or can't afford, like when the Padres claimed Randy Myers to keep him from going to the Braves, as I recall, and wound up stuck with him and his bloated contract. That's why the D-Rays, as you surmised, didn't take Javy--they didn't want to be stuck with that money. And you're right, the D-Rays claiming Stern doesn't really hurt the Red Sox; the Orioles are the team that will have to wait for his services; it was just a way of sticking their tongue out at the Sox, like when they played Sweet Caroline at Tropicana after their walkoff win Sunday.
Gordon, From the outset of this year, I have always had the feeling that
Theo and the baseball operations staff looked as 2006 as merely a transition
year. The team would roll the dice with what it had, rather than do whatever it
could to win a championship this year. How do the Red Sox justify this position to
fans who are paying the highest prices in baseball and want another World
Championship now rather than sometime in the future?
Steven Richard, Providence, RI
A: Steven, I disagree. You don't have a 100-million plus payroll and plan to be in purely rebuilding mode. This is a tough stretch the Sox are going through, and you don't lose two position players, plus two/three fifths of your starting rotation (Wakefield, Wells, Clement) without scuffling at times. You know, I've been one of those saluting the Yankees for playing so well without Sheffield and Matsui, but let's be real, people, no team can compete with the Yanks' depth, which only got deeper when they laid out even more dough for Bobby Abreu, Craig Wilson and Cory Lidle. I think it's a disservice to Theo to suggest he wasn't trying to win it this season. Besides, if that was the case, Schill would have shown up outside Theo's office in full combat gear. That said, I can assure you that there is already some grumbling about the fact the Sox didn't make any moves at the deadline, and with the team struggling, that grumbling will increase.
I have the feeling that a lot (and I can't quantify how many constitutes
a lot) of Big Papi's home runs are when there's no one on base. I wonder if that
feeling is any where near accurate, and if it is, why it is.
Might it be because opposing mangers are more inclined to pitch to him when
there's nobody on base, or does it perhaps represent a weakness in the batters
that precede him. I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts on this.
Carol Wolf, Sacramento
A: Carol, you definitely piqued my curiosity with your question. You aren't imagining things. Twenty-three of David Ortiz's 41 home runs have come with the bases empty. Eighteen have come with runners on. I went back to his previous seasons, to see what the splits were. In 2005, it was 29 bases empty, 18 runners on, 2004 23/18, and 2003, it was a startling 23 with the bases empty and 8 with runners on. In '03, of course, Ortiz was not yet Big Papi; presumably teams would be pitching him tougher now with men on base. I looked at a few other sluggers as well. Manny, after homering with a man on Wednesday night, had hit exactly half of his 32 home runs with the bases empty (16), and 16 with runners on base. The previous season, however, 32 of Manny's home runs came with men on base, and only 13 with the bases empty. In 2004, it was 25 with the bases empty, 18 with runners on, and in '03, there were 23 with the bases empty, 14 with runners on. Albert Pujols? Split down the middle this season, 17 apiece. Last season, it was 21 bases empty, 20 runners on. In '04, it was 26 empty, 20 runners on, and '03 it was 22/21. Ryan Howard this season? Nineteen bases empty, 20 with runners on. Jim Thome? Sixteen bases empty, 18 runners on. What does it all mean? I suspect it falls within a standard statistical deviance that has very little to do with pitch patterns, although the big difference with Ortiz in '03, I suspect, has to do with the fact that he was hitting in the 5-hole behind Manny, and now hits in front of Manny. Interestingly, Manny had 20 or more so at-bats with the bases empty than with runners on, while Papi had more at-bats with runners on. I looked at the career numbers of McGwire (306/277), Bonds (427/296), and Sosa (317/271) and all had more home runs with the bases empty. The simple explanation for that was more AB's, but maybe there's a stathead out there who could offer a better explanation.
Why do you, Jerry Remy, and Tom Caron answer the same questions
sometimes in the same week. Last week Jerry and Tom has the same question from a
guy named Jon about Matt Clement. This has happened before, I even saw one week
when you all three answered the same question. I am sure you both get a lot of
questions so why are you picking the ones from the same people. It has happened
more than once.
Roberta, Columbia, Md.
A: Roberta, Jon promised each of us dinner at the Capital Grille, so none of us could resist. Truth is, TC, Rem and myself do our mailbags independently and we're often not aware of overlaps. I'm sure the crack webmeisters at Boston dot com filter some of the overlap, but they may miss one once and awhile. I'll be curious if your letter appears in everybody's bag this week (and thanks for the gift certificate).
Hey Gordon: I'm a long time Sox nation member now in the overseas branch (Thailand). Since I'm out of visual range, I really enjoy reading your column to keep me informed. I'm wondering that given the fact that the Sox didn't elect to part with any of their prospects at the deadline and decided to go with what they have, why don't we see more prospects being called up? At this point, why not give them a chance to get some valuable experience down the stretch. By now it must be obvious what guys like Johnson, Tavarez etc. can or in this case can't do. Why not give Breslow, Siebel and others their shot? Is it a money issue or what? Thanks again.
Kevin Gruver, Krabi, Thailand
A: Kevin, great to hear from the Nation/Southeast Asia Division. Believe me, if the Red Sox were stocked with all kinds of big league-ready kids in Pawtucket, we'd be seeing them already. But they're not, and the Sox already are pushing the envelope with three kids playing key roles in the pen: Manny Delcarmen, Craig Hansen and Jonathan Papelbon. I've been a little surprised that Breslow hans't gotten a look, given that he's been pretty solid for the Pawsox, but I suspect they think his stuff is short. When rosters expand Sept. 1, you'll see kids like Dustin Pedroia, Alejandro Machado and perhaps David Murphy get a callup.
Hey GE, When coming to Boston, Beckett was rumored to be a hot-head on the mound. It
seems to me that when the game begins to slip, he begins throwing fast balls in
a "road rage" fashion to the point where he loses focus and can no longer pitch
with quality. I think maybe he should talk to ARod's shrink instead of a
pitching coach. What about you?
Daniel Tartarelli, Plainville, CT
A: Daniel, given A-Rod's ups and downs this season, I'm surprised you'd be recommending his shrink to anyone. But the way things are going for the Sox on this trip, there may not be enough couches to go around. In Beckett's case, I think that may be simplifying things a little bit. Sure, we've all seen times when Beckett decides to try to overpower everybody when he gets in trouble, but I think part of it stems from occasions where a lack of confidence in his ability to throw his breaking ball for strikes, especially in crunch time. He threw his breaking ball well in Kansas City, and I still think this guy will prove to be a stud when it's all said and done.
A quick comment from a huge fan in Rochester, Ny. I went to see Keith Foulke vs. our
hometown Redwings. The guy is all class. I brought an SI framed cover of the 2004
champs and he came right over and gave me his autograph. I asked him if he was
going up on Friday and he said he didn't know and he didn't sound real convinced
he would. He pitched one inning and didn't look good at all. Even the outs were
hard hit balls. Velocity was around 84-87 mph. God, I hate to see this, I mean this
guy won us the World series. I know he's taken some heat from fans and media but
I just think back to those October nights when he saved us time and again and
it's just a shame he'll never be the same.
A: Rick, thanks for sharing your experience with Foulke; nice to hear he was as gracious as he was. But as for his pitching, I'm sure the Sox are hardly encouraged by the results in your neighborhood. I suspect the Sox will add Foulke to the roster, but their expectations are minimal.
I think you missed something with the waiver process. It no longer goes based on leagues. The lowest winning percentage regardless of league now gets the claim. I think this went in to effect 2-3 years ago.
Jeremy Sutka, Aliso Viejo, Calif.
A: Jeremy, I respectfully would disagree with you. American League teams get first call on AL players, and NL teams on NL players; in both leagues, teams choose in reverse order of the standings.