Will Coco stay or go?
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.
What starting pitchers do you see the Sox making a run for? Would (Mark) Mulder and (John) Smoltz be at top of that list? What relievers would the Sox be making a run for? Is Vernon Wells a viable option? Or would the Sox want to give Coco Crisp another year to see if he returns to form?
Rene Pastor, Woodbridge, N.J.
A: Rene, there are issues with the three players you name as possible acquisitions. The Braves hold an $8 million option on Smoltz for next season. Smoltz says he wants to stay, and I suspect the Braves will exercise the option and keep him. If not, then of course the Sox look at him. Mark Mulder just had surgery to repair a tear in his rotator cuff and doesn't expect to be ready by Opening Day. He is a free agent, but a risky sign to be sure. If the dollars are rational, maybe you take that risk, but I'd think you'd want a little more certainty. Vernon Wells is under contract to play for the Blue Jays next season at $5.6 million. They plan to discuss a contract extension with him this winter, and if they decide they can't re-sign him at a price they're willing to pay, then the Sox would be crazy not to be interested. For now, though, Wells said the Blue Jays are his first choice and everyone else is second. The free agent pickings for a reliever are very slim, especially with Bob Wickman already having agreed to return to the Braves, so the Sox may have to explore trade avenues there. Coco Crisp? I think the Sox will listen to offers. They'll also closely monitor the progress of top outfield prospect Jacoby Ellsbury, who will be playing in the Arizona Fall League.
Why would anyone in the Red Sox front office or would any Red Sox fan complain about Coco Crisp? As any intelligent baseball fan knows, Coco Crisp's hand has been hurt nearly all season. Do the complaining Red Sox fans have to BE TOLD that he is hurt before they can see for themselves that this is the reason for his "poor" numbers? (By the way his defense has been nothing short of Hall of Fame. And you can. Quote me on that. Everyone that is a true Red Sox fan realizes that, if healthy, he will be back next year as strong or even stronger than ever. I fear too many Red Sox fans suffer from stupidity, well the ones who were dull enough not to see that Crisp's hand has been injured all season, thusly his batting production has been suffering. If you see Theo, tell him he will be making a grave error in trading Crisp.
Dave Braveraven, Sarasota, Fla.
A: Dave, maybe it's to Coco's credit that he didn't bring up the finger as a reason for his sub par performance for much of the season. But no one else in management used it as an excuse, either, which suggested to some people (including myself, so we won't debate the intelligence factor you raise) that the injury was not a major reason for his decline. For me, it was more a matter of bad timing-getting hurt at the start of the season, coming off a terrific spring training, then maybe pressing too hard to play at that level when he came back-and also an adjustment period to a new team, new city, new expectations. That and the fact that maybe he was a little oversold to us as a guy who could slide into Johnny Damon's place seamlessly. I would beg to differ with your description of Coco's defense being of Hall of Fame caliber. He's made some wonderful catches, to be sure, but he's also run some funky routes and as we all know, can't throw.
Why haven't the Sox given Carlos Pena more of a look in September? He looked very promising to me, but his lack of playing time lately tells me that the Sox feel otherwise. I thought he would fit into their plans perfectly, as in the past; they have shown the appreciation for a good lefty first baseman to come off the bench. Not only that, but he is a local Bostonian! Do you see Carlos Pena being a part of the Red Sox future?
Jeff Gil, Springfield
A: Jeff, I'll be honest with you, I've been a bit puzzled myself. It's an issue that's received scant attention here-I wrote about it last week, but it hasn't gotten much other discussion-but I thought we'd see more of Carlos, for no other reason than the Sox could make a few assessments about where he might fit into things next season. I don't see how you conclude anything but the fact they don't envision Pena, who is a free agent, will be back next year, even though he said he'd love to stay. I could be dead wrong, but I see no evidence to suggest otherwise.
I can't help but feel the Sox (over)reacted to the rash of injuries in August and effectively threw in the towel pre-maturely. Especially since most of the walking wounded were slated to return in Sept. Going into the Twins series, if they had just won three more games, just three, they would be in a position to close to within 1 1/2 games of a wild card spot with a sweep at Fenway. But nobody seems to want to talk about that ... your thoughts?
Mike Lessard, Nottingham, N.H.
A: On Aug. 31 the Sox were eight games behind the Yanks in the East, and 6 1/2 games behind in the wild card race, with both the White Sox and Twins at least six games ahead of them. Manny was out, Papi's heart was being checked, Jon Lester was diagnosed with cancer, the team was reeling from every direction. The Twins had a 88-61 record entering their series against the Sox. The Sox could have won 15 straight games from Aug. 31, when they were 72-62, and they still wouldn't have caught the Twins. Do I think Theo made a mistake to deal Wells? Hardly. He addressed a pressing need the Sox had, to find a young catcher who might one day succeed Jason Varitek, in George Kottaras, in that trade. Besides, sometimes just when it looks like you're throwing in the towel, it has the opposite effect. Look at the Phillies: they really threw in the towel when they traded Bobby Abreu and Cory Lidle, and as I write this they're tied for the wild card in the NL.
Looking back at the Josh Bard - Mirabelli trade, I am wondering what your thoughts are in regards to why the Red Sox could not have made it work with Bard. For example, Bard struggled with Wakefield so why did the club not have Varitek catch Wakefield and give Bard a shot at someone else in the rotation that didn't have a butterfly in their arsenal? 'Tek has caught Wakefield before and was a lot more familiar with him than Bard ever would have been and by assigning Bard to someone else in the rotation it would have still enabled 'Tek to get his rest. Of course this is all in hindsight and bringing Mirabelli back was exciting when it happened but then you step back and you realize Bard is 28 years old, making $350,000/yr, and hitting .319 for the Padres and this isn't even mentioning the other player they sent over to the Padres, Cla Meredith has an absolutely insane ERA of 0.86 and is only 23 years old. Do you think the Red Sox gave up on Bard entirely too soon? Was the situation with Varitek catching Wakefield ever considered that you know of? I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts!
Mike Letowski, Plymouth
A: Mike, I think you could have gotten 30 general managers in a room, asked how many of them thought Josh Bard would hit .300 this season, and not a single one of them would have raised their hands. The same with 30 sportswriters, or 30 fans. Maybe I missed something, but there was nothing to suggest he was capable of putting up the kinds of numbers he has with the Padres. Cla Meredith-believe me, Theo obviously wishes he hadn't given him up, because remember, it was Theo and his development people who thought last season that it was worth summoning Meredith from Double-A to help out. I don't recall a single word of criticism at the time the deal was made; Meredith, his confidence obviously shaken, pitched poorly last season in Pawtucket. Meanwhile, the whole idea of having the backup catch Wakefield is to lessen Varitek's burden. Having your No. 1 catcher chasing Wake's knuckler once every five nights is no way of giving him a blow. Bard obviously had no shot of catching Wake, so the Sox turned back to Mirabelli. With Wake on the shelf for nearly two months, Mirabelli's value also diminished, and only underscored his struggles at the plate.
I'm born in Cambridge in 7/5/1970 and lived there until August 1981,when I was there my father was bringing the family a lot of weekends to Fenway, what a nice memory, I have pictures of those games of Rice, Yaz, Lynn, etc. Oh, by the way and how can I forget and Remy. Here, I never stop being a Red Sox fan, I can see a couple games every week of Red Sox and couple games of other teams by cable or navy channel afn or buying DVDs and from a company in Switzerland and from the states books, yearbooks, VHS, DVDs about baseball the present and the past because I like the history, when I start to learn to use the computer every day I like to read Boston.com, about the Red Sox it's been a big frustrations because after they been KO'd by the second massacre, they're been not able to get up and fight to go to the playoff, I can understand about all the disabled list on the roster but, c'mon everybody foget the ALCS 2004? Did you see game of Dodgers last night about the beautiful HR by ex-Red Sox player Garciaparra at the bottom of 10? That's the way Red Sox should play. Correct me if I'm wrong. But one thing I can say that the Red Sox would never have a team like 2004. Too bad after that season and another, all those players went away. Ciao. (See Gaeta. It's a beautiful place.)
Angelo di Biase, Gaeta, Italy
A: Angelo, with all due respect, I guess when you go back to the mother country the English skills get a little rusty, no?" But your passion for the team and the game come across loud and clear, and the 'Bag is happy to include Gaeta among the far-flung places from which we've received e-mails. I find that pretty cool, myself. And yes, I was watching on my computer when Nomar took our old friend Rudy Seanez deep to win one of the most incredible games I've ever seen. Four home runs on seven pitches in the bottom of the ninth? That's insane, but wonderful. What's really insane, though, is the Dodgers have lost to the last-place Pirates twice since that game. Go figure.
I'm a transplanted Sox fan as of four months ago. Obviously it's a bit more difficult to get information in North Carolina. Can you give me Jon Lester's status. I know he has a curable form of Lymphoma but what are his chances for a full recovery both on and off the field?
Rob Gray, Charlotte, N.C.
A: We're getting in very sensitive territory here, and understand, doctors can only offer percentages and the like. Many of you know I lost my wife to breast cancer 10 years ago. At the time she was diagnosed, there was no lymph node involvement, usually interpreted as a very good sign, and doctors told her there was a 90 percent chance there would be no recurrence. She was dead within three years. I share that not to be pessimistic about Lester-doctors say his is a treatable, and curable, form of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, and I have friends, including Herald columnist Karen Guregian, who have beaten that type of blood cancer-but only to remind folks that even the best doctors can't guarantee outcomes. That's why some of us also pray, and offer support in any way we can, to young Mr. Lester.
Is there any thought or talk of the Sox signing Alfonoso Soriano to bad leadoff and play second. I love Mark Loretta but Coco is obviously not the leadoff hitter we were led to believe. He can still lend some speed to the bottom of the order. I still like the core of the team but we simply need pitching and lots of it. Do you really think Pap is going to start next year or are the Sox more worried than they say about his arm?
Mike, Buffalo, N.Y.
A: Mike, shoot, the way Soriano hits home runs, you sure you wouldn't prefer to having him hit in the No 3 hole instead? I haven't heard much discussion of Soriano; the Sox can't openly talk about another player at this stage anyway, but their interest might be predicated on what they do with Manny. If they move Manny, they obviously will need another big bat to take his place; Soriano is younger, faster, healthier and after initially balking, handled a difficult situation-moving to left field after being a career infielder--with considerably more grace than the inscrutable Mr. Ramirez.
Any chance of the Sox signing or getting Joe Girardi to manage next year, before the Yankees get him when Torre calls it quits?
Bob Dixon, Phoenix, Ariz.
A: Bob, the Red Sox have a manager. Guy by the name of Francona. He went to school in your state, the University of Arizona. They like him. A lot. He ain't going anywhere.
Just wondering how much time you set aside to answer the mailbag questions. You might want to rethink your approach because the questions lately are far more entertaining and informative than your answers.
Chris Prajzner, Carlsbad, Calif.
A: Chris, according to the stats mavens at Baseball Prospectus, my VORW (Value Over Replacement Writer) drops dramatically when I don't spend at least a couple of hours selecting letters and responding to them. My boss at Boston dot com, Dave Lefort, might have already summoned a replacement, but the logical candidate, Chris Snow, bolted for the NHL. So, for now, anyway, he-and you-are stuck with me. And is it my fault if my own efforts seem feeble compared to the insights and witticisms of my fellow 'Baggers? Besides, you're in beautiful Carlsbad. Shouldn't you be out surfing or something instead of worrying whether I'm bent over my laptop, 'baggin' it?
Greetings from the Midwest, hometown of Brian Rolston (the guy Ray Bourque was traded for) any chance the we see Julian Tavarez in the starting rotation next season. Since he was put into the rotation he has pitched as well as any #3/#4 starter in baseball. If nothing else he has shown that maybe he can help us next season in some capacity.
Jimmy Jhunda, Fenton, Mo.
A: Hey, Jimmy, being from Brian Rolston's hometown is reason enough for your letter to be published in the 'Bag, though once again, my old colleague Chris Snow backdoors into the conversation. Rolston, of course, is the leading scorer for the Minnesota Wild, and just signed a new contract with the team. Snow probably did some of the numbers crunching on that contract, and will be the guy giving Rolston his lunch money every week. But I digress. Tavarez probably has more value to the Sox as a guy who can give you innings out of the 'pen, while pitching a lot, and we know that the pen can use the help, too. Too bad he didn't get his act together earlier.
Old subject, but do you think character considerations went into trading Arroyo? The Sox have a well-known core of religious players (Schilling, Nixon, Wake, Timlin, etc.) and guys with good character. Meanwhile a few have had questionable judgment in regards to their (ex-) wives: Lowe (gone), Damon (gone), Bronson (gone), Foulke (reportedly derailed in part by a messy divorce). Is there an effort to get that unwanted behavior out of the clubhouse?
Brian Wessels, Westminster
A: Brian, first of all, I haven't kept up with the gossip pages so I might have missed something, but I don't recall Arroyo and the missus having any issues that made it to the public purview. Secondly, of all the players you mention, I think the decision to trade Lowe is the only one that might have been influenced by off-field factors, but none to do with Derek's marital status, I assure you. Theo Epstein considered Arroyo a great friend, but didn't let friendship stand in the way of making a deal he thought was best for the ball club. Damon was admired and respected by everyone from John Henry to Theo to Big Papi. That was a money decision, nothing more. So, now, I think your premise is an unwise one.
Why is NESN subjecting me to Jack Welch? Tonight he suggested we dump Mirabelli. The guy has no baseball expertise. And don't try to tell me he's "The Voice of the Fan." He's not the average guy. In fact, he's best known for being obscenely overpaid.
Colleen Shaddox, Hamden, Conn.
A: Colleen, being otherwise engaged as I usually am, I haven't caught Mr. Welch's segment on NESN. If NESN is casting him as representative of Joe/Jane Fan, I would agree with you that that's pretty silly. Welch has close personal ties with the Sox owners, which I suspect has much to do with him being on the air. But if they're casting it as a segment with a guy who cares a lot about the Red Sox and vents in an entertaining and free-wheeling way, even if might offend a few people (like members of the Doug Mirabelli Fan Club), then I can see where it serves its purpose. Of course, if he starts ripping me, watch me change my tune! (Just kidding there, Jack)