Boston Globe baseball writer Gordon Edes checks in every week (usually 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, If the playoffs began today, what would the Red Sox rotation be, and who would be in the bullpen? Would Timlin be closer and Papelbon the set-up guy? Would Foulke be left off the roster?
Shane, Concord, NH
A: If the playoffs began today, the Sox might be calling Bret Saberhagen, Pete Schourek and John Burkett out of retirement. I'm responding, of course, the day after back-to-back meltdowns by Matt Clement and David Wells has the Sox rotation looking in tatters. A big game tonight by Curt Schilling, who was excited after his side session the other day, is an absolute must, while Tim Wakefield has lost just once to the Devil Rays in his career. With the race going down to the wire, Terry Francona is unlikely to have the luxury of setting up the rotation for the playoffs. The way things stand now, Wells, Schilling and Wakefield would face the Yankees, in that order, the last weekend of the season. That would leave either Matt Clement or Bronson Arroyo to pitch the playoff opener. I would have said a couple of weeks ago that would be a no-brainer, but Clement has been knocked around in his last three starts, and if he doesn't pitch well in his last two starts, Francona will have a tough call to make. But right now, I think it would be Clement. Yes, in my view, Timlin will be closing and Papelbon will be setting up, though based on his spectacular debut yesterday, Craig Hansen will wind up in the setup mix. Foulke? If the Sox go with just 10 pitchers in the first round, like they did last year, Foulke doesn't go, IMO. The five relievers would be Timlin, Papelbon, Myers, Bradford and Hansen. If the Sox advance, Foulke is not guaranteed a spot, not if the Sox decide they need another lefty.
Can Craig Hansen help this club down the stretch? Could he possibly make the playoff roster?
A: Hansen could be a difference-maker, based on how well he threw in his debut Monday, when he threw 95-97 m.p.h. fastballs and showed off a nice slider, too.
The Red Sox bats have fallen silent, and I don't think it's any mystery why -- 30 games in 30 days will wipe anyone out. Heck, I sit at a desk, and if I had to work 30 days straight, I would be wiped out. I know they lost a day off to a makeup date with the White Sox, but what is MLB thinking even scheduling a team to 29 games in 30 days? Cleveland and the Yankees have both had 2 days off since the last time the Sox have had a breather. Also, do you think their day off will help energize their batteries for the stretch run?
Mark, Shelburne, Vt.
A: Mark, the Sox had a day off scheduled 8/22, 9/5 and 9/22. They had four scheduled days off in April, two in May, five in June, four in July, two in August and two in September. That's baseball. Here's what David Ortiz told me last night when I asked him if guys like Edgar Renteria and Jason Varitek were tired: "I don't know, those guys played a full season before. I don't know. I have no answer about that. I can tell you about myself. I might be tired in the morning but whenever the day goes to 7:05, I'm ready to go. That's it. At this point of the season, you want to do whatever it takes to be ready for the one game.''
I like Francona as manager, but I really get frustrated with the fact that far too often he leaves pitchers in well after they have lost it. Clement clearly wasn't fooling anybody Sunday, but Francona left him into the second, when Clement gave up 3 more runs. The bullpen is actually very well rested right now, plus the Sox have expanded rosters, so it just doesn't make sense to me. Why does he let them go so long before he takes them out?
Mike, St. Petersburg, Fla.
A: Mike, at this stage of the season, you can't afford to spot the opposition a big lead, especially since the Sox aren't swinging the bats the way they were earlier in the season. But it's a measure of how little confidence Francona has in his bullpen that he elected to give Clement a chance to work out of it. Maybe it's time to try Foulke as a long man, see if he can give the club anything. That problem will be resolved in the playoffs, when Francona can move Arroyo to the pen.
I am wondering why the decision was made to put Ortiz at three in the lineup and Manny at clean-up. Not that I question the decision, because it is obviously working perfectly, but I'm curious about the information leading to the decision. Sabermetric logic? Manny's pride? Or was it as simple as "Manny has been better for longer and has always had the spot ?" Thanks for your help, I really enjoy your column.
Jack, Washington, DC
A: Jack, at the time, it was done to try and jump-start both players, especially Ramirez. Manny was hitting just .246 in the No. 3 hole, Ortiz .289, which of course isn't a big difference from where he is now. Ortiz made it no secret he preferred hitting in front of Ramirez, while Manny has hit in the 4-hole virtually his entire career, and the move gave the Sox lineup even better lefty-righty symmetry.
Red Sox fans are sure showing a premature cockiness in the midst of a very tight pennant race ... talk of a Yankees elimination party, etc. Folks, we are only 2 1/2 ahead of the Yanks, and 1 1/2 ahead of the Indians. If they both overtake us, we are the ones who are going home for October. Without much of bullpen, that is very likely. Don't you, Gordie, that we've gotten a little overconfident?
A: I guess I shouldn't be surprised that someone named Roxie would call me "Gordie," but I'll tell you, it's been awhile. Roxie, things as you know have tightened up considerably since you dropped us a line, and you're right, the way this thing could play out, Yankee fans may be the ones gloating when this is all over. I think David Ortiz put it best Monday night when he said the Sox should have been 10 games ahead by now, and lamented that the Sox didn't take greater advantage of the Yankees' earlier woes.
Do you think Terry Francona has any kind of time limit on the wide eyed dream he has of Keith Foulke returning to his glory days? It appears to me that Tito's unbending loyalty to Foulke has really gone on too long, and it's time to set the bullpen the way we need it for the postseason. If Foulke blows a game that ends up seeing the Yankees overtake us in the standings, Francona will need armed guards to escort him out of the city. He can take Dale Sveum along with him too ... actually Sveum can leave now ... I'll coach third, and I'll do a better job.
Lee, Pasadena, Calif.
A: Lee, I think Francona long ago set aside whatever loyalty he felt toward Foulke. Right now, he wouldn't trust him with his takeout order at McDonald's, never mind a one-run lead with three outs to go. Foulke, I confess, is an absolute mystery to me. How he could have suffered this dramatic a dropoff after being so good, not just last season but the three previous seasons as well, is beyond my comprehension. Opposing hitters, like Frank Catalonotto of the Blue Jays, point to his drop in velocity, which usually suggests an injury, but his comments about how much he hates it in Boston, all the attention, etc., seem so self-absorbed at a time when his disappearance has been probably the single biggest reason for the Sox not winning this thing handily this year.
Appreciate your column, Gord! Has anybody noticed these strange stats about the Sox?
1. Our pitchers seem to give up more 2-strike hits than anyone; 2. We have certain hitters (Manny, Millar, Edgar) who ground out to the left side more than anyone; 3. We have a muscle man (Kapler) who has a hard time getting the ball out of the infield when he plays; 4. We have a manager who believes in giving players a chance at the expense of losing games (latest example of bringing in Foulke in Toronto in a 6-3 game). Is there any truth to the above?
A: Don, I went to the numbers on your question about two-strike hits, and you're onto something. Sox pitchers have given up more hits than the league average with two strikes.
Here's the breakdown:
0-2 -- Sox 95, league average 77
1-2 -- Sox 163, league 147
2-2 -- Sox 145, league 140
3-2 -- Sox 115, league 113
As for your observation about hitters grounding out to the left side, I can't offer you a quantitative breakdown, but we all know Millar is a dead pull hitter, while Manny and Edgar both hit the ball to all fields.
Kapler? You wrote, of course, before he ruptured his Achilles tendon, but he does demonstrate how pure strength doesn't necessarily translate into balls flying over the fence, and Foulke, I've addressed at length earlier in the bag.
Gordon, you have stated a number of times that you do not understand why some fans think they have an inalienable right to boo poor player performance. The short answer is that fans do, indeed, have this very right. Baseball is an entertainment medium. Players are essentially actors with bats. If you pay $10 to see what you expect to be a good movie and it ends up being garbage, you should feel cheated. Also, if you pay $50 to go to a Red Sox game, just to see Bellhorn swing a flaccid bat and Embree throw meatballs down the middle of the plate, the players aren't doing their job to properly entertain. When they do their job well, we cheer. It's a two-way street. Sure, if I perform poorly at work, I don't have to deal with booing. What I do have to deal with, however, is getting fired. Which do you prefer?
A: Ryan, these guys have to deal with being fired, or traded or released or nontendered, too. I don't think I've ever questioned a fan's "right" to boo; I've just questioned why the fan would want to boo a player on the home team for anything other than lack of effort. I don't know, people invest a lot in their kids, too. Do you boo your kids when they fail because you feel cheated and didn't get a return on your investment? I know I'm comparing apples and oranges here, but I guess I'm sympathetic to a player mindset that says, I hope fans understand that in baseball, even the best hitters are going to struggle at times, I'm out here busting my butt, and your support means a lot to me through good times and bad.
I'm not convinced that Hanley Ramirez is all he's been built up to be. His offensive numbers in both his full years in the minors have been Ozzie-ish. I just don't see where we can put this guy in our lineup in the next 2-3 years. Did he even play at all in AAA this year? Since his hyped-up stock potential is high now, I say we trade him for something we need. Renteria is staying, Pedroia is a better hitter and deserves to play 2B, and we're going to need more offensive production in CF than what he has shown. If he stays, where does he play and when?
Mike, Charleston, SC
A: Mike, the plan is for Hanley to start next season in Triple-A, and I would expect it will be at shortstop. He's still a work in progress, but the physical tools are clearly there and he's still very young. Give him some time.
For a team that lives on statistics, am I the only one that looks at Mike Timlin's record with inherited runners. He is great where he starts an inning, but bring him in with men on base and you might as well count the men on base as runs after which he proceeds to get the side retired.
James, Shreveport, La.
A: James, we've noted it numerous times in the paper this season, and I'll gladly update the numbers now for you. Timlin has stranded just 14 of 31 runners this season, a success rate of 45.2 percent, the worst in the AL. I suspect you'd be surprised to learn that Tom Gordon of the Yanks is second worst. It is an important barometer of a reliever's effectiveness, and underscores the fact that Timlin is much better when he can start an inning than when he enters with men on.
One last comment -- for all the happy gleeing of the Yankees losing 11 of 17 to Tampa, BoSox fans should realize the Blue Jays have taken 9 of 14 from the Red Sox in '05. Blue Jays may well determine 1st and wild card in AL East with 5 games left vs. Boston and 6 vs. Yankees. Curioser and Curioser indeed. Enjoy T.O. and probably the last taste of summer this Wednesday.
A: Jack, I just spent three days in Toronto, and could count on one hand how many Jays fans I saw? You're one of the few holdouts. The Jays could have a big say in determining whether the Yanks or Sox stay home in October, but bring a few of your friends to Rogers Centre the next time the Sox visit, because right now, it just feels like another Sox home game.
Why is there not more discussion about Giambi's two month power surge. This is the same guy who had four HRs and a slugging percentage in the .350 area for the first 3 months. Since then he has gained a considerable amount of weight, and has hit 25 + HR in 2 months. Oh yeah, slugging percentage is also doubled. Is MLB's testing policy this easy to beat?
A: Page, we know that Giambi is being tested, repeatedly. We know there are performance enhancing drugs that cannot be detected. After the humiliation and pain he caused not only for himself but others close to him, is it possible Giambi has so little personal integrity that he is cheating again? Sure, it's possible. Can I make that accusation in the absence of proof? No, I cannot.
Can we hire away some of the Jays advance scouts? Clement vs. Jays: 0-2 with a 8.19 ERA. Clement vs. every other opponent: 13-3 with a 3.88 ERA.
Michael, New Braunfels, Texas
A: Michael, I suppose after the way the A's roughed him up Sunday, the Sox will be hiring some Oakland scouts, too.
This isn't a question but a compliment. Being a non-traditional sports fan (over 40 and female), I really enjoy your pregame appearances, mailbag and chats. I don't feel schooled enough to contribute to the chats or mailbag, but I really get lots of great insight not just about the game of baseball but the politics of playing baseball. While I love the game, I'm even more intrigued by whole atmosphere and your comments and perspectives always give me a sense of that bigger picture.
On another note, thanks so much for all you do on the charitable side. It's great that you come up with these great events that help to open up folks wallets. I think it's tremendous that you use your "celebrity" status in such a worthwhile manner.
Keep up the great work !
A: Fran, thank you so much for your kind words. I'm happy to mention again that our charity event in New York, to benefit the Jimmy Fund, raised close to $30,000, thanks to the generosity of so many Sox fans, and the guys who work so hard to put on these events, my friends Paul Ciampa and John Stellato, tell me that we've taken in well over $100,000 this year between Chicago, NY, Cooperstown and some indirect involvement in Bronson Arroyo's event in LA. And I've had the opportunity to meet some really good people, too. Thanks to all.