Boston Globe baseball scribe Gordon Edes weighs in on the Olde Towne Team in this edition of the Ask Edes mailbag.
Gordo- with the Red Sox-Yankees pennant race going down to probably
the final weekend do you think the sox should go all out in the last days
to hopefully catch the Yanks or with the wild card probably clinched,
wouldn't it make more sense to get their rotation set? I would much rather
have them be the wild card with Schilling and Pedro rested than waste them
against Baltimore to win a division, which will give them home field advantage.
Which do you think is more important ... thanks
A: John, dropping 2 out of 3 to the Bombers over the weekend makes your question problematic; anything less than a sweep of the Bombers in Boston this weekend, and the Sox have little shot of winning the division, and even a sweep might not do it. The way the rotation is set up now, with Schilling scheduled to pitch tonight, Sunday and a week from Friday, and Pedro going Friday and next Wednesday, the rotation is already set up for the first two games of the playoffs, with Pedro pitching the opener and Schilling Game 2, Pedro with extra rest, Schilling on regular rest.
With the team looking so deep it seems like there really is going to be a numbers crunch come playoff time ... Who do they leave off the playoff roster (should they make it)?
A: Jim, here's my playoff roster. Catchers -- Jason Varitek, Doug Mirabelli. Infielders -- Kevin Millar, Doug Mientkiewicz, Pokey Reese, Mark Bellhorn, Orlando Cabrera, Bill Mueller, David Ortiz. Outfield -- Manny Ramirez, Johnny Damon, Trot Nixon, Dave Roberts, Gabe Kapler. Your last spot comes down to Kevin Youkilis or David McCarty, and given Mueller's knee issues, I think Youkilis is on the club.
What relievers do you feel will make the playoff roster? How effective do you think Williamson will be with only a few weeks left in the season to get his strength back?
A: JT, It's a question that preoccupies a good portion of the Nation. I think the Sox will go with 10 pitchers in the first round: Keith Foulke, Mike Timlin, Alan Embree and Mike Myers are gimmes. You'll have either Tim Wakefield or Bronson Arroyo to serve as a long man. Scott Williamson would be a lock if Terry Francona thinks he'll hold up healthwise; otherwise it's a coin flip between Ramiro Mendoza and Curtis Leskanic.
I can see where some fans may find the "Yankees Suck" chant to be somewhat offensive, where it is mostly young guys and girls getting really into the game and having fun ... but I can't stand when some talk show people ask why they chant that especially where the Yankees are ahead of the red sox in record standings ... because it has nothing to do with that. What they mean is that they suck in general because they spoil our fun year after year, not because they are not a good ball club. What are your thoughts on the chant? As a pretty knowledgeable, classy guy, do you find it offensive or just part of the fans just getting into the game?
A: Nicole, The way you ask the question puts me in a funny spot. If I'm the classy guy you say I am, can I really put my stamp of approval on a chant that a fair percentage of the population deems vulgar and offensive? Conversely, if I say, yeah, chant away, does that make me less classy than you thought? A question like that can keep a guy up for weeks. Here's my question, if it's not a straight putdown of the Yanks, but a reflex reaction to the way they spoil the Nation's summer every year, why give them the satisfaction of knowing how much they ruin your days? Does it always have to be about the Yankees, regardless if we're in Baltimore or KC, or playing the Mariners on a Thursday afternoon in the Fens? Yankee fans are amused by the Nation's obsession with pinstripes. You rarely hear them saying anything about the Sox capacity to inhale vigorously. Offensive? Unimaginative is my greater objection. It's kind of tough to sell the offensive argument in our culture, when even little kids on TV routinely say the word during the so-called "family hours." Hey, my answer might not have been classy, but at least it was long-winded.
Why doesn't someone tell Kevin Millar that while the open stance is
great, provides a better look at the ball, you've got to then step out
toward the pitcher, really commit to it, instead of waving with the left
foot in that direction and then pulling it back in the bucket? When he was
going good, that's what he was doing. Otherwise, too many harmless
grounders to the left side and pop-ups into short right. Thanks
Jay, New York City
A: Jay, I don't give Millar too much advice these days; he's done pretty well without me --.321. 12 HRs and 44 RBIs since the All-Star break, .311 in September entering play Tuesday. But have you noticed his home/road splits: .352 at Fenway, .238 on the road. Mercy. But of course, your point on general principle is exactly right: We've been told since Little League not to step in the bucket, right?
Have you had the chance to see Peter Gammons' recent article regarding the
evolving nature of "Money Ball" in its development of better qualitative
analysis of fielding and baserunning? If so, what do you expect its
application to the current Sox position players will find and how will that
play out with fielding a squad next year? Also, what is Bill Mueller's
Jack, Portland, Maine
A: Jack, I did see Peter's piece and it was very useful in demonstrating how the Moneyball philosophy isn't just wed to a single stat, OBP. The Sox, as Peter pointed out, are far ahead of the curve in trying to quantify defense, but I don't see it having a huge effect on next season's club, other than to have a greater awareness that having baseball's most prolific offense and good pitching isn't enough to win; you've got to be able to catch the ball, too, and you don't need a stat sheet to figure that out. The Sox have some huge decisions to make this winter, with Jason Varitek, Martinez, Derek Lowe, and Orlando Cabrera all prospective free agents. Some, if not all, of those decisions will be bottom-line driven, although you certainly can make a case for paying a premium for Varitek and Martinez. But the Sox payroll is already over $80 million in guaranteed salaries next season, so there are limits to what Theo Epstein can do. But do I think he'll weigh Cabrera's defense and its impact on the team's overall play? Obviously. I feel like I've given a superficial answer to your question, but there's only a couple of areas in which the defensive analysis can come into play for next season's team. You'll be happy to know, I'm sure, that Doug Mientkiewicz is a signed player for next season, and probably will be given a chance in spring training next year to beat out Millar for the everyday job. Well before the trading deadline, I'm told the Sox had talked to the D-Rays about swapping Millar for Jose Cruz Jr., and the D-Rays didn't want to do it. If true, the Sox caught a break on that one. The Sox hold a $2.1 million option on Mueller's contract in '05; I can't imagine them not exercising it.
How do you feel about the Millar-Mientkiewicz platoon at first? It seems
to me that Millar is playing much more, when he should be only playing
against lefties. Doug is an incredible fielder, and I think he saves more
runs in any given week with his defense than Millar produces. I think in
our run to the playoffs it is more important to give Doug M. as much time
at first and hope he finds his swing (he is normally a .300 hitter) since
he must be our starter at first in the playoffs. What are your thoughts on
Matt DeStefano, Providence, RI
A: Matt, Millar has been too important to the offense since the break (check numbers in an earlier letter) for him to be sitting on a regular basis. Mientkiewicz hit .300 or better in two of the last three seasons, but he was having a down year in Minnesota splitting time with Justin Morneau and he's been a victim of circumstance here. I do expect him to compete for the regular first-base job next season, and might even be the favorite, with Millar splitting time between DH and playing behind Nixon and Doug M., but we're getting way ahead of ourselves. Millar has proven in each of his two seasons here he can do it with the bat, and it's a luxury for Francona to have a player of Mientkiewicz's skills to come off the bench as a defensive replacement.
Do you think we will see more of Trot? With Roberts playing good in right field, what do you think Tito would do?
A: Sawan, I think he wants Trot to be his right fielder, if at all possible. He's a potential game-breaker. Roberts and Kapler are nice players, but Nixon's the one, if he's healthy.
When will the Red Sox go to a four-man rotation? It appears that
the good teams/batters just wait for Wakefield to take the mound, and if
the wind isn't blowing just right, his knuckleball is like batting
practice. Why not put Wakefield in the bullpen and go from there?
Patrick, Lake Monticello, Va.
A: Patrick, the days of the four-man rotation are over, especially for a Red Sox team sensitive to Pedro getting enough rest. Hey, there are times when watching Wakefield is maddening, when it appears impossible for him to keep the ball in the ballpark, and he's going through one of those stretches now. A 6-5 record and 6.14 ERA since the All-Star break simply isn't going to cut it. But we've always seen him when he's unhittable, and remember how big he came up against the Yankees in two ALCS starts. He has two starts left to get things worked out; if not, he's almost certainly in the pen and Bronson Arroyo gets the ball for Game 4.
Simple question, is Dale Sveum done at the end of the year? Sure like most situations, people only focus on the bad but this guy manages to get these guys to run into some of the most dangerous situations. Sending Ortiz to home on a throw is ridiculous, and now he's hurt. It's not like Ortiz even knows how to slide, it's painful to watch
from TV as we've seen him attempt to dive on a number of occasions this yr,
all of them looking really awkward. That being an observation of mine as a
fan, should seem obvious to a major league 3rd base coach! Now the guy is
hurt cause he tried sliding on a close at home and if you saw the game, you
wonder what was Dale thinking!?!?!?!?
A: Bones, I think Sveum will be back. The focus has been on the handful of plays that cast him in the spotlight, but he does other things that are vital for this team, like defensive positioning and working with some hitters, most notably Varitek. That play with Ortiz admittedly was ugly, and sure you need to proceed with some caution when it's Ortiz running, but the player has to bear some responsibility, too -- you can't assume an injury on a play, either.
Gordon, I enjoy your work and usually agree with much of what you write,
but you're off the mark with your Sunday's Notes commentary on Buddy
Bailey. Having viewed eight PawSox games this year, I can tell you his
managing over the last few years has been brutal to watch. With the
rotating talent at Pawtucket this year, it's shameful that the team didn't
make the playoffs. Many games were lost because he was too slow with the
hook, didn't pinch hit, and was consistently outmanaged down the
stretch. What are the team's plans to set the proper winning tone at the Triple-A
Tim, North Providence, RI
A: Tim, Obviously you saw far more of the PawSox than I did -- I didn't get to McCoy this season and saw only a couple of games on the tube -- so I have to consider your judgment. And perhaps your view is closer to that of Ben Cherington, Bailey's boss, than mine is. But other people I talked to in Pawtucket strongly disagree with your analysis, and say Buddy did an excellent job. This is a guy who was named International League manager of the year in '03, and remember, he's given a lot of direction from on top who to play and when, probably more so this year than in the past.