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Ask Amalie: What's up with Beltre, Beckett, and the 'hanging Sox' caps?

Posted by Amalie Benjamin  August 31, 2010 12:20 PM

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beltre.jpgIs this the end? Are the Red Sox done?

While the Red Sox kept talking about their belief that they're not out of the race yet after dropping two of three to the Rays this weekend, the math makes that a stretch. The Red Sox headed to Baltimore down by seven games in both the division and the wild card race with 31 games to go. Is it possible? Sure. Is it likely? No.

The Red Sox, of course, have excuses. It would have been hard for any team to survive the devastating run of injuries that the Red Sox have had. It was simply too much for them to lose four of their starters for the season (Kevin Youkilis, Mike Cameron, Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia) in addition to a slew of pitchers and position players of varying roles and importance. So this might be the end. If it is, I think the Red Sox had a good run for what they've gone through. It just wasn't enough.

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You might be surprised to see the mailbag so soon. After all, there was one just last week. But we're trying a new thing here at Ask Amalie. Instead of 10 questions answered every other week, we're going with five answered every week on Tuesdays. I hope that keeps the questions fresher, and keeps you coming back for more. Let us know what you think of the new format in the comments. And, as always, feel free to comment on the questions and answers there as well. Enjoy.

Rob from Fort Myers, Florida asks: Amalie, I was wondering if the Red Sox had any team options for Adrian Beltre in 2011? My understanding is that he has a player option but am unsure if the Sox have any control on whether he becomes a free agent again. Given his track record of inconsistency, I wouldn't give more than a 3 year deal even though he's a great fit in Boston.

Answer: There is no team option in Adrian Beltre's current contract. There is only a player option that will be bumped up from $5 million to $10 million once he hits 640 plate appearances this season, which he is likely to do. So the Red Sox don't have any control over whether he becomes a free agent, which he will do at the end of the season. I agree that he has been a great fit in Boston, despite all those broken ribs, fitting well in the clubhouse, in the lineup, and on the field.

My sense is that the Red Sox will attempt to make a deal with him, but the sticking point could be the number of years that Beltre wants. The Sox are generally loath to sign free agents to extended contracts, though they have done it. Beltre, who will turn 32 in April, has definitely put himself in a great position to be a free agent, and should command a pretty nice deal for himself, whether that's with the Red Sox or with another club. In case you missed it, I wrote recently about Beltre's future with the Red Sox.

Here's what he had to say on the matter: "We'll see what happens," he said. "It's obvious that I like it here, I like the teammates, the team's obviously going to be a team that's always going to be contending and I like that. Let's see what they want to do and let's see what my options are after the end of the year."

Brooks from Kawasaki, Japan asks: I wonder if Beckett's problems are partly due to Varitek's injury. I wonder what his ERA is with Varitek catching compared to Martinez. Varitek was doing the catching back in '07, and Beckett did a great job.

Answer: Josh Beckett certainly has better numbers with Jason Varitek behind the plate than he does with Victor Martinez. That being said, I'm not sure that's the major reason for Beckett's struggles this season, though I'm not quite sure that anyone has gotten to the bottom of just why Beckett has had such a difficult time this year.

But on to the numbers. With Martinez behind the plate, Beckett has a 6.17 ERA, which is obviously higher than his career 3.95 ERA with Varitek catching. But if you look at the numbers this year, they have flip-flopped a bit. Pitching to Martinez in 2010, Beckett has given up a .256 batting average against, .309 on-base percentage, and .809 OPS. Pitching to Varitek, Beckett has given up a .301 average, .372 OBP, and .851 OPS. All those numbers are higher than his career totals, indicating to me that it's not really a matter of Beckett throwing to one catcher over another. It's more about what Beckett has -- or doesn't have -- on the mound this season.

Dennis from Danbury, Connecticut asks: On August 27th, Nick Cafardo, tweeted that the Sox had placed Buchholz, Lester, Bard and Okajima on waivers, intending to pull them back if someone acted on it. Assuming it's true, why would the Sox list someone on the wire, they had no intention of actually letting go?

Answer: When a team puts a player on waivers, it doesn't necessarily mean that there's a desire to see that player go. Many players go through waivers, and often no one even hears about it, including those players. In fact, if another team claims a player on waivers, the original team can pull him back off waivers with no consequences (other than that he can't be put back through waivers for 30 days).

There are a number of reasons why teams might put players through waivers, even though they have no intention of trading that player. Honestly, first, there's no reason not to do so. As I mentioned, those players can be pulled back because the trade waivers are revocable. Also, if they're not put through waivers, they can't be traded in August. So many teams want to leave themselves that possibility, even if there's almost zero chance that they'd take it. Teams can also get an idea of which other clubs might be interested in their players, perhaps for a trade later on. That might be the case with Mike Napoli. The Angels put him on waivers and he was claimed by the Red Sox, though the sides didn't reach an agreement, nor had they expected to do so. But talks could be revisited this offseason, when presumably the Red Sox would still have an interest in Napoli.

Stephen from Longmeadow, Massachusetts asks: Amalie: May have missed the rationale, but did the team do away with the hanging socks hat that was worn on Friday nights last year? If so, why? You and the gang @ the Globe do a great job covering all the teams, and the colleges and locals! Travel safe and keep up the good work.

Answer: Thanks so much, Stephen. Like you, I've noticed that the Red Sox haven't been wearing the "Hanging Sox" caps at all recently. I can't even remember the last time they wore them. So I checked in with executive vice president and COO Sam Kennedy on the topic yesterday. He said that there's no set policy regarding when the Red Sox wear those alternate caps, nor is there a set policy regarding when they wear the alternate jerseys. (The alternate uniforms have been worn on Fridays.) Kennedy wrote in an email that they work with the clubhouse to ensure that the alternates are worn from time to time, so it's entirely possible that the Sox will be wearing those "Hanging Sox" caps again in the future.

Al from Stoneham, Massachusetts asks: Amalie, have a prospect question for you, considering you're so plugged in in that regard. What has happened to Bryce Cox? A few years ago I remember him being considered the next name to keep in mind when looking at up and coming power relievers in the Sox system. Clearly he was passed by Daniel Bard, but has his stock dropped so precipitously that we may see him go the way of Edgar Martinez (the former Sox minor league reliever, not the outstanding former Mariners DH)?

Answer: Great question, Al. Bryce Cox burst onto the scene a couple of years ago, and was looking primed to be a setup candidate in the majors. But he has fallen off the radar a bit of late. He's actually been having an interesting issue, and not one that the Red Sox have to deal with a lot in the minor leagues. He's had trouble maintaining the arm action that he developed in college, the one that led him to the success in the first place. If you recall, Cox has had a very short windup in the Sox system. For reference, it looks a lot like Keith Foulke's, almost like he's pushing the ball rather than going through a full wind-up.

I asked director of player development Mike Hazen about Cox this morning, and he said that the pitcher has been having this issue since about a year or year and a half into his tenure with the Sox.

"He's worked really hard on regaining the specific arm action he had when he signed," Hazen said. "That's kind of what's led to some of the inconsistencies. We're working really hard on that right now. That's why he's dong more work on the side than pitching in games. The arm action's gotten a little longer than what it was. It's just been a little more of a challenge to maintain. It's there in spurts and not in others. He's working to lock that in to be able to maintain that consistency. It has an effect on the stuff. He gets a little more run on the ball than true sink. It relates to the overall action on his pitches. That's why we need to take these steps now."

So it's not exactly like Cox has lost what he had, he gets it sometimes, but not consistently enough. Hazen said that the 26-year-old Cox still has a chance to make it because "when that arm action's in the right spot, he's got big league stuff." He added, "With Bryce it's this one little trigger within his arm action. That's where it's sort of unique. We don't traditionally do a ton of coaching with arm action. He had created this arm action in college, was a little longer and shortened it up. Don't usually see this with a lot of pitchers."

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