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 know that you have probably heard this question repeatedly but, what are the Red Sox going to do with MIKE LOWELL?! I know that he's getting old but I honestly think that a three-year contract world be perfect. He is so valuable to this team and I can't imagine the team without him right now.
A: Denise, that is probably far and away the No. 1 question posed by Sox fans. Mike Lowell has thrust himself into the middle of the MVP race with the year he's having -- fourth in the league in RBIs, fifth in batting average, stepping up when Manny went down to carry this club in the leadoff spot. I think everyone had conceded the award to A-Rod, who probably and rightfully will win, but what if the Yanks miss the playoffs and the Sox win the division? That should work in Lowell's favor, maybe not enough for him to win, but certainly for him to gain support. That said, he also has made the Sox decision going forward a lot tougher. Lowell will be 34 when the 2008 season begins. We have seen that the Sox have made the right decisions in regards to other aging ballplayers, like Pedro and Johnny Damon. But the Sox decided that the calendar should not be the deciding factor in keeping Jason Varitek, and perhaps they will be persuaded to do the same in Mike's case. But because of the year he is having, his price has gone up, and he's likely to find a team willing to give him a three-year deal, which I'm not sure the Sox would do. But let me stress that I have no idea what the Sox are thinking in regards to Mike; they have not broached the subject of an extension with him -- at least up until very recently -- and have been very close-mouthed on the subject publicly.
Why don't the Sox employ a 6-man rotation the rest of the regular season? This way Buchholz can get some more ML experience while taking some of the burden off the rest of the starters. It would be ideal to have Schilling, Dice, and Wake fresh and healthy going into the postseason and it also wouldn't hurt to take a little of the burden off Beckett.
A: Jimmy, there is definitely merit in your idea, one that has been proposed by some other 'Baggers as well. I don't know if you noticed, but Tony La Russa of the Cardinals has announced his intentions to do so for the next couple of weeks. With Daisuke coming off the start he had Monday night, renewing concerns that he may have hit a wall fatigue-wise, and with the Sox determined to limit how much Buchholz is able to pitch the rest of the way, it certainly is a legitimate issue to raise -- and I intend to do so when I get to the ballpark tonight (Tuesday). Thanks for the suggestion.
Without rancor and "should they/shouldn't they,'' what could the Red Sox expect to be able to receive for Manny should they shop him in the off-season? Who might be interested?
A: Swordfizh, I like the way you framed the question. It eliminates the hysteria. The Sox, as always, have another intriguing off-season ahead of them. Ellsbury, clearly, is ready to play and will be integrated into the lineup just as Pedroia was this season. Coco has played fabulous defense, and has played hurt, but his offense has been up and down. Do you try to move him while his value is high? J.D. Drew has had a disastrous season; do you try to move him, even if it might mean eating millions. Manny has not put up Manny-like numbers this season -- his slugging percentage is down over 100 points, and after a huge July, his performance slumped again (.750 OPS) in August. But he remains a formidable threat in the middle of the Sox lineup, one that the Sox cannot easily replace. Again, I harken back to the questions the Sox face this off-season: Do they re-sign Schill, do they get involved in the A-Rod sweepstakes, even if they pass on A-Rod, do they look to deal for another power hitter?
And of course, I realize I haven't even answered your question. You ask a narrow question "what could the Sox expect to get, who might be interested" and I give you a lot of hoohah. I really haven't given a great deal of thought to the off-season needs of clubs going into next season, but with Manny still due $20m next season, the list of teams interested is likely to be a short one. The Dodgers were killed this season by not having a big bopper in the middle of their lineup; they talked about Manny last winter and could easily revisit those talks again this winter. The Sox wanted three or four of L.A.'s best prospects last season; with just a year left on his deal, the asking price necessarily would have to drop. Would the Cubs, especially if they fell short this season, be willing to add Manny to their lineup? They spent lavishly last winter, they might do so again. How about the Mets, or the Angels? Those are the teams that come to mind as possible destinations for Manny, who I think would probably get the Sox a top prospect or two back.
These next two questions, I put together, and I had others expressing a similar sentiment:
I am an 80-year-old mother of sons, two of whom have followed the Red Sox avidly since childhood. I have started following them now too. That said, I do not see the point or need of your saying "he was a different guy than the one caught stealing some laptop computers from middle school while he was in college." Was it necessary to put that in a front-page article? I think it was lousy.
Gordon, did you really feel it was necessary to drop that dubious piece of "reporting" that Buchholz (allegedly) swiped some laptop computers when he was in middle school into your story? I mean, what on earth relevance does that have to what he did last night and to what kind of ballplayer he obviously is? You taking a page out of the Shaughnessy stick-it-to-the-Sox-whenever-possible school of Boston sportswriting? Cut it out *now*. Thank you.
Dee Forsythe, North Andover
A: I don't take it lightly when I'm called on the carpet by an 80-year-old woman, especially when she has a number of angry readers lined up behind her. I understand the sensitivity that would cause some readers to conclude that it was a cheap shot to make mention of such an incident in a story about Buchholz's no-hitter (though there is no need to attach an "allegedly," Dee -- it happened, he admitted to doing so when caught by the police). Here's why I felt it necessary to include mention of it. Buchholz was making only his second big-league start; many Globe readers knew very little about him, unless they read Amalie Benjamin's feature about him a couple of weeks earlier. Had it not been for the incident, the Sox might never have gotten him. Other teams passed on him because of it. Theo Epstein mentioned the night of the no-hitter how he and scouting director Jason McLeod "interrogated" him in the Fenway Park outfield before drafting him; they wanted to hear from him that he deeply regretted the incident and that it would not happen again. So, the event is very much a part of his history, and a not-insignificant one, and while it isn't something that has to be revisited every time he pitches, I felt it warranted inclusion on this occasion. In many ways, you could even argue that the whole story represents a triumph over adversity and shouldn't be thought of as a negative at all. I can envision Buchholz one day talking to young kids and telling them, 'Look, I made a mistake when I was young, but it doesn't have to be the end of the world."
I really enjoy your column and the way you try to temper all the negativity from some fans. My question concerns Carlos Pena. Why on earth did Boston give up on this guy? He's having a monster year and Boston just let him walk. I remember he showed some promise when the Sox called him up last September. His 34 HRs would be tops on our team.
Ruth Kaplan, Newton
A: Ruth, don't forget, the Yanks had him, too, last season, and let him go. And all 30 teams passed on offering him a contract last winter. The D-Rays offered him a minor-league deal and invited him to camp as a nonroster player; he made the team in the last week of camp, only because Greg Norton got hurt. He may rank as the No. 1 surprise of the season, and it couldn't have happened to a nicer guy.
How come my name has been kept out of the media all year despite doing what just got Rodney Harrison suspended 4 games?
Gary Matthews Jr., Anaheim, Calif.
A: Your day may be coming, Gary. The feds may have had more proof with Harrison than they did with you, but I wouldn't be getting too comfortable, just yet.
I will not be the only one to say this, so please feel free to use anyone else's words. To me this week in the Bronx was a revelation, even though it was just 3 games out of 162. The Sox, who blew away the other Sox in Chicago, should have been up, and the Yankees, who played Monday night in Detroit, where they lost 3 of 4 before flying home, should have been down. I love the comment by Eric Wilbur to the effect that the poster child for the 2007 Sox is J.D. Drew, who plays with the passion and excellence of a doorknob. He's only one guy, but his nonproduction seems to be infectious. I'd sit him and let Ellsbury play in his place because he at least acts like he's excited to be a Red Sox. That won't happen, of course. You know what I find a little amazing about the Sox organization's ability to pick players? They were forced to take Mike Lowell, who does play with both passion and excellence, in order to get Beckett. But, according to you and others, the Sox will dump Lowell in the offseason and of course be forced to keep J.D. Drew (and keep playing him because of his $14 million/year salary). If you're up to it, I'd love to hear your defense of these Sox and how you think they have a chance in the playoffs, assuming they get there.
Creighton Abrams, Springfield, Va.
A: Creighton, I don't think I have to offer any defense other than to point at the standings, a day after Labor Day. The seven-game lead speaks for itself.
Just a little rambling about J.D. Drew so i can blow off some steam. I e-mailed you 6 to 8 weeks ago and said Drew would finish with 12 homers and 65 RBIs. I wasn't happy with those figures but it looks like he won't even do that well. This guy is a disaster and I can't believe the fans at Fenway aren't giving him a harder time. It's time to start booing him the minute he steps onto the field to take batting practice. Do you think if it gets real ugly toward Drew in September that might make Theo and the management team work harder this winter to try and dump him? I really don't want Drew back for another year.
Robert Lowell, Portland, Maine
A: Robert, I assure you that any decision the Sox make on J.D. will not be predicated on how the fans treat him this September. I think they believe he will be better next season, and besides, how are they going to find someone to take that contract off their hands, even if they eat a lot of it.
In 43 years I know more about baseball than golf. I can't believe nobody can figure out why the Yankees' Joba Chamberlain threw at Kevin Youkilis. Youk hit that two-run homer off Farnsworth the night before and whooped it up pretty good, did he not? Thanks.
Cory McEwen PGA club professional, Gramling, S.C.
A: Cory, the way so many hitters now admire their home runs, I honestly don't recall Youks doing anything after his HR off Farnsworth that would warrant him being thrown at the next night. Maybe you were watching more closely than I was and saw something; you may well be right. But I think Youks is a somewhat easy mark because of the intensity with which he plays, and how demonstrative he is on the field. That could have rubbed someone on the Yanks the wrong way, and they may have planted the seed with Joba. But that was a foolish thing to do, in a game they'd already won handily.
I wanted to know what exactly is the infield fly rule. I've heard it used recently in games and looked it up (librarians rule!), but I wasn't sure what number it was under the rules. Not to mention they are so easy to read!
Kelly Shand, West Haven, Conn.
A: Kelly, I agree with you. The rulebook is hardly an exercise in literary clarity. Anyway, the infield fly rule applies to a very specific situation: With less than two outs, and runners on first and second, or with the bases loaded (runners on first, second and third), the batter is declared automatically out by the umpire on a popfly he deems would be caught with ordinary effort by an infielder. The reason for the rule? To keep infielders from dropping the ball, or letting it drop, in order to turn an easy double play. It does not apply to line drives or bunts. There is also another rule that comes into play to prevent fielders from deliberately dropping popups when there's a runner on first. It's rule 6.05 (l) and states in part: (l) An infielder intentionally drops a fair fly ball or line drive, with first, first and second, first and third, or first, second and third base occupied before two are out. The ball is dead and runner or runners shall return to their original base or bases;
APPROVED RULING: In this situation, the batter is not out if the infielder permits the ball to drop untouched to the ground, except when the Infield Fly rule applies.
I don't have a question this week (you answered my letter about the WBC a few weeks ago; thanks!) but I would like to offer you a compliment, specifically on your writing. Your prose is very smooth and your articles always interesting, never seeming routine or bearing the mark of always having to generate content. You seem to write as a fan but do not let that turn each contribution into some overblown encomium. You also strike a nice balance between on-the-field and off the field matters. Maybe best of all is your devotion to the correct use of "fewer" and your always spot on use of semicolons and colons! Kudos! Lame message, I realize, but I wanted to you to know that your readers do take note and appreciate this dimension of your work. I do suspect that you deserve the credit, as I've seen some pretty putrid stuff coming out of good publications whose editors obviously do not intervene on these kinds of points of style.
Dan DiPaolo, New York City
A: Dan, "Lame" or not, I'll take it. Besides, Mrs. Brockelman, my freshman English teacher back in Lunenburg, will be happy to know that I was paying attention when she taught us the proper usage of colons and semicolons. Thanks so much for the good words.
After reading some of the letters in your mailbag over that last couple of weeks I can see why so many fans of other MLB teams say that us Red Sox fans are a bunch of whiners. Here we are with the best record in baseball, fortunate enough to have ownership and a GM who give us an entertaining and competitive team year after year, yet several fans are not content. We currently have a manager who owns the highest winning percentage of any Sox manager, our team leads the AL in all of the major pitching catagories except saves (3rd) and we have a lights out closer -- this tells me that our offense has won enough games by large enough margins so Tito does not have to overexert his bullpen. The numbers seem to agree. The Sox are currently 2nd in on-base percentage and 3rd in runs scored and slugging percentage. I like the way that the team is coming around at this point in the season. Most teams that have success in the post season are the teams who get hot during the last month of the regular season. Lighten up, Sox fans, and enjoy the ride.
Randal Dahl, Geneseo, Ill.
A: Randal, well-said, sir. And the ride looks like it might last deep into October.
I just laughed myself silly at the ending of last week's mailbag, "Closed due to happiness." ... It was great to read some positive feedback and others who agree that the fans should stop whining ...Thanks for publishing all the positives ... Sometimes all the negative letters gets to me ... So thanks for the laughs and keep up the good work.
Joanna Beebe, Fremont, N.H.
A: Joanna, glad I gave you a smile. It was refreshing for me, too, to hear a different vibe from Sox fans.
Why didn't you mention Mike Timlin's faith in your recent article? Channel surfing, I ran into an interview with Timlin on one of the Christian cable networks, a long interview where he talked at length about the role his faith has played in his life and career. Your article doesn't mention this. I just wondered in MT is quiet about it to the mainstream press, or what. I've always disliked hypocritical athletes who wax on about God, and to tell you the truth, I've often cringed at MT's pitching the last few years, watching him get in trouble then struggle out of it in a way that doesn't show up in the box. But I've grown to respect the guy, I have to admit. And if part of what has sustained him is his faith, I think you should have mentioned it, (unless he asked you not to, I guess). If the bad stuff like juicing and dogfighting, etc., are all over the press, it'd be nice to hear a guy saying he's at least trying to go the other way with his life and career, and it shouldn't be ignored in a retrospective about how he has come to achieve 1,000 appearances, a rare feat.
Pat Gilfillan, Santa Monica, Calif.
A: Pat, I've addressed the role Mike's faith plays in his life in other stories, and while I didn't highlight it in this one, I did allude to it in this quote from Kyle Snyder: "He's the true glue in the bullpen. He's our leader, and a man of faith who's not afraid to talk about it. He assumes the responsibility of bridging the gaps between guys, teaching him about their roles. He knows that that's part of what he can give back."
I have done all I can not to write to you. There is a fine line between optimism and delusional. You can quote me all the stats you want because I'm a CPA. Did the Mariners win it all when winning 116 games? I have followed the Sox for 37 years. This team is waiting to lose just like in 2005. There is no grit, heart, and determination on this team. They fall behind constantly and can't rally. There is no power hitting on this team at all. World Series champs hit with RISP, this team is anemic in this category. The bench is awful. I write this as I listen to a 45-year-old Clemens no-hit this anemic offense for the first five innings. If I am wrong about the postseason, I will be the first to admit it.
Kenneth Mitchell, Southington, Conn.
A: Kenneth, it is demonstrated time and again that the best team does not always win in October. Often, it is the team that is playing best at that time that wins. Did anyone really think the White Sox pitching staff would run off all those complete games in '05? Did the Mariners become dogs because they lost to the Yankees in the ALCS in '01? Were the Cardinals failures because they got swept by the Sox in the '04 World Series? For a team "waiting" to lose, the Sox have put themselves in great position for the October tournament. Are they guaranteed to win? Of course not. But I picked them to win it all this spring, and I'm sticking to that now.