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.
Check out Mark Bellhorn's 2005 home/road splits -- a point recently brought up by Peter Gammons -- Home: .168 Avg., .247 OBP, .307 SLG. Road: .260 Avg., .398 OBP, .411 SLG. While I've never been a big believer in the positive or negative effects that fans can have on player performance, it would seem that Bellhorn was negatively impacted by the regular booing he received at Fenway. The fans over-reaction to his strikeout totals and lack of appreciation for his ability to not make outs (on-base %) may have led to his eventual demise in Boston. Do you think this is true and are there other players who seem to be overly susceptible to negative fan reaction?
Matt, San Diego
A: Matt, this doesn't come as a revelation to me, I raised this issue on June 25 in the Globe, and I raised it with Bellhorn. "Get past the whiffs, and there's nothing more startling about Mark Bellhorn's performance this season than his home-road splits. On the road, Bellhorn is batting .280 in 36 games. At Fenway Park, Bellhorn is buried below the Mendoza line, his .162 average 86 percentage points below the .248 he hit at the Fens last season. Bellhorn, who has not allowed his slump to affect his steady fielding, acknowledged yesterday he might be feeling the pressure to perform at home in front of fans who audibly groan after many of his strikeouts. "I try not to, but maybe I do a little bit," said Bellhorn. "It's easier to relax and play on the road. Subconsciously, it may bother me. On the road, there may be some ugliness, but I can usually find a way to block it out.
The weirdest thing is that when you're not doing well, it's louder. When you're in the zone and locked in, you don't even hear it. But everybody, you hurt [when you get booed]. Maybe I just need one little streak going on the road, and carry it over back home."
By his own admission, Matt, the booing affected his play. Last weekend, Jason Varitek referred to Bellhorn being booed out of town, and hoped that the same did not happen to Kevin Millar. Players are impacted by negativity, some to greater or lesser degrees than others. Look at Rafael Palmeiro this past week in Toronto, sticking in ear plugs to block out the boos.
I read several articles blaming the fans in part for Bellhorn's demise in Boston. Varitek warned the fans to stop booing Millar because he's important to the team. The guy is hitting singles when he's supposed to be a power hitter. He can't field and he can't run so exactly how is he important to the team? Don't fans have the right to boo? I don't remember this talk in the past. It's a bit ridiculous I think...what do you think?
A: Barbara, sure, fans have the right to boo, but do you reject the idea that booing increases the pressure on a player, and some players crack under that pressure? Does it surprise you when players like Varitek appeal to people to lay off one of their teammates?
Sure, fans have the right to boo, but frankly, I've never understood the inclination to boo the home team, unless it is for lack of effort. Some people would argue that it shows fans care, and others would contend that it helps in a way by holding players accountable, and I suppose there's an element of truth to both, but I've got to tell you, I'm glad there aren't people lined up outside the press box booing me when I've written a clunker.
What is with Bronson Arroyo: Is he spending more time with his music career then his baseball career? He is going down fast.
A: Bronson Arroyo is hearing exactly the same kind of criticism Johnny Damon would have heard had the Sox center fielder gotten off to a bad start after his Hollywood winter. No, I don't think Bronson's ineffectiveness has anything to do with his guitar; it has more to do with the flattening out of his breaking ball and the lack of command of his fastball, but perception often trumps reality, and I think Bronson's handlers have had him scale back some of his performing to alter that perception some.
Hello. I was just wondering about Damon's hand status. I haven't heard a report on it yet and was wondering if you knew. He seemed like he was in a lot of pain after being because he just walked off the field. We can't afford to lose for the stretch run. Kapler's hitting has also really gone down the drain. I really hope it's just a bruise or something minor.
Michael, Allentown, Pa.
A: Michael, the initial diagnosis was that Johnny had escaped with just a bruise on his left hand, and the fact that he was able to pinch hit the next night, then play two nights later, would support the idea that he dodged a more serious injury. As for Kapler, one of the toughest jobs in baseball is to be a productive hitter when you are not playing regularly. This has been without a doubt a bizarre year for Kapler. He went to Japan, got off to a terrible start, was eventually placed on the inactive list and thus had not played for weeks until he was finally released and signed with the Sox. He tore it up in Pawtucket, his performance fueled no doubt by the adrenaline he felt at being back, and he hasn't been as bad as you suggest with the Sox. He's hitting .340-plus against lefties and .250 overall entering the weekend. What has been missing is the big hit; Kapler was batting just .136 (3 for 22) with runners in scoring position. But I suspect before this season is over that Kapler will make a winning impact.
Gordon, last week I read the article about Kevin Millar losing his starting job to John Olerud (who is clearly a better player and I'm sure everyone has been waiting for this move since we signed Olerud) anyway, why is it that Millar has been in the starting lineup 90% of the games since he was told he was no longer the starter? Did he get his job back after just one home run? Why does Francona keep putting him in there?
A: Brendan, Olerud had a problem with his hammy that kept him out at least one game, and Millar will continue to play against lefties and in certain matchups. His two homer-game this week will no doubt also encourage Francona to keep using Millar in certain situations, although Olerud's two-homer game the next night shows his value to this club as well.
Why is it considered a fait accompli that Olerud and Mueller won't be back next year? Olerud is a Gold Glove 1st baseman with plate discipline, a great swing and a history as a great hitter-made for Fenway Park. I like Yuke but can he play defense like Mueller? Can he hit around 300? And as a switch hitter, it adds value to the line-up. I can't believe he would break the bank to renew for two years. I know Yuke has earned a chance but maybe it could be with another club. I hate the thought of these two guys not being with the club next year.
Jim, Savannah, Ga.
A: I think the reason no one expects Olerud to be back is that he is 37 years old, and the Sox do not project him as an everyday player in '06. I think you'll see them making a bid to acquire a major impact player at that position, a Mike Sweeney or a Paul Konerko type, although I will tell you that no one in the Sox organization has thrown out such names to me yet. I share your appreciation for Bill Mueller; he has had a terrific year, offensively and defensively, and is a tremendous team player, a consummate professional. I would also agree with you that he wouldn't break the bank -- he's only making $2.2 million now. But Mueller will be 35 by Opening Day next season, and the Sox believe that Youkilis is ready, and will be productive, and is cheap. Maybe Mueller will continue to be a productive player for another couple of years, but I think he illustrates the philosophy that it is better to make a change a year too soon than a year too late.
Wade Miller ????? Secondly, do you think that there is a possibility that the Red Sox could pry David Wright away from the Mets when making next year's Manny transaction. As the locals here in Brooklyn get offended at the thought -- as they see him as the future of their organization. Packaged with Youlkilis and then getting their other young promising prospects -- forget Cameron -- I say go for the real thing? Lastly, does it annoy you when people package three questions in one? If so, just answer the one you'd like.
Joe, Brooklyn, NY
A: Joe, I'm not easily annoyed. Frankly, I can't imagine the Mets parting with David Wright; he seems to me an obvious part of the club's future. I do think the Mets will make another run at Manny, and I would think any deal would have to include Milledge, the Mets' prized outfield prospect. As for Wade Miller, I suspect the Red Sox wish he had decided to have shoulder surgery last spring, and planned on coming to camp fully healthy next year. As it is, he remains a major question mark for '06, and a possibility that the Sox will non-tender him in December, unless they are convinced he can be healthy. He had a $1.5 million base salary this season, and is a year away from free agency, so he remains under Sox control for next season; the decision is the team's whether they want him back.
First the Yankees take on Alan Embree. Now they acquire Bellhorn. Any chance of them taking Millar and completing the trifecta?
Keith, Fall River
A: Naah, Keith, the deadline has come and gone. Plus, the last time I checked, the Yankees had a guy named Giambi playing first base, and he was doing OK.
Gordon...being a Rule V pick, if healthy, does Adam Stern have to be on the playoff roster? I don't think management would want him there, which is why I'm asking. I certainly wouldn't want him to be the winning run in the bottom of the ninth against the Yankees in the ALCS, and get picked off first base by Mariano Rivera. Thanks
A: Jim, No, the Sox won't be obligated to include Adam Stern on their playoff roster, and whether Stern is on the postseason roster depends on how the Sox want to construct their bench.
Projected playoff roster:
Catchers (2): Jason Varitek, Doug Mirabelli
Infielders (7): David Ortiz, Kevin Millar, John Olerud, Tony Graffanino, Edgar Renteria, Bill Mueller, Alex Cora.
Outfielders (4): Manny Ramirez, Johnny Damon, Trot Nixon, Gabe Kapler.
Last year, the Sox went with 10 pitchers for the division series, 11 in the ALCS. With the uncertain state of the staff this season, Terry Francona may decide he needs 11 pitchers in the first round, too.
That leaves one roster spot open, to be contested among Kevin Youkilis, Roberto Petagine and Stern.
Baseball has always had a lot of swtch hitters (at least two on the Red Sox right now). Has there ever in the history of baseball been a switch PITCHER? It seems like it could be very useful to have such a player, but so far as I know, none has ever existed.
Jim, Cambridge, England
A: Greg Harris, who pitched for the Sox as a natural right-hander from 1989-94, is the only pitcher in modern baseball history (since 1900) to throw with both hands in a major league game. He did so in his last big league season, on Sept. 28, 1995, for Montreal against Cincinnati.
The ambidextrous Harris worked a scoreless ninth inning in a 9-7 loss. Using a special reversible six-finger glove, which had two thumbs, Harris faced four batters, two right-handed and two left-handed. He allowed one runner, on a walk.