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We wonder, was that Theo at Starbucks near Wrigley on Saturday morning?
And why was he wearing a ďDiablosĒ cap?
Decision 2012. We can hardly wait to see how it all sorts out.
Hereís the mailbag:
When we were winning championships, it seemed like we always had those guys who were good for 40-plus home runs (Manny Ramirez, David Ortiz). Now Theo seems to think he can get away with a bunch of guys who will hit in the 20s, maximum (even Adrian Gonzalez only hit 27). That might work in the regular season, but it seems like in the playoffs and down the stretch you need to have someone opposing pitchers fear, and they didn't have that this year. Who do you think the Sox could target to get that 40+ HR hitter back in the lineup?
Rory, South Boston
The Red Sox have tried to obtain Jose Bautista in the past with obviously no luck. Who would give up a 40-homer guy? Prince Fielder is on the market and I supposed you could sell him on being the designated hitter if the money was right, but the reality is unless you develop a guy, itís pretty tough. Look at the White Sox, taking the leap on Adam Dunn. That didnít work out too well. Ryan Lavarnway might be the only hope. Just not sure 40 is realistic for him either.
After this meltdown, will the Red Sox think about lowering ticket prices to hold fans on board? The product was generic.
Bill, West Warwick, RI
Havenít heard thatís in the works. Theyíll make a splash with something this offseason that will get you back. Not sure theyíll be losing any fans anyway.
Watching almost every game, there seemed to be zero chemistry between Dustin Pedroia and Adrian Gonzalez. Was it different personalities and they just didn't like each other?
John, Deland, Fla.
Gonzalez is not a leader type. Heís a great hitter, excellent first baseman and just does it in a quiet way. I think thatís one part of his game that will remain pretty vanilla.
Instead of the Sox requesting a player as compensation for Theo Epstein, couldn't they tell the Cubs to take John Lackey (and every nickel of his salary)? In my mind that's addition by subtraction. If they could pull that off, I would then put Bard in the rotation and sign a quality reliever like Ryan Madson to fill Bard's slot. Finally, Kyle Weiland was a lights-out closer at Notre Dame. His skills lend themselves more toward a bullpen role in my opinion. Your thoughts?
Mark, Lynn, Mass.
Good stuff Mark. Wrote last week in a column about trading Lackey with Theo, though not sure how realistic that would be. Thereís a possibility the Red Sox experiment with Daniel Bard as a starter, but only if theyíve re-signed Jonathan Papelbon. And I do believe the long-term plans for Weiland are in the bullpen. The Red Sox just like to stretch them out as starters initially.
You said in last week's column that the "lack of professionalism was startling." Beyond the alleged beer drinking by the Sox pitchers and lack of conditioning, what specifics prompted you to make that statement? Thanks.
Thomas, Grafton, Mass.
Things like not getting back on the field unless youíre 100 percent physically. That happens way too much with this team. Youíve got to get out there at 70 percent or 80 percent. Show that you want to play. Show some passion in what you do for a living. So many guys take their God-given talent for granted. Youíve been given a gift Ė use it. Guys who donít run out ground balls drive me crazy. Say what you want about A-Rod. Do you see how hard he runs down the line on every ground ball? Derek Jeter? Jorge Posada? Johnny Damon? Have a pulse and at least give the fans and the team everything youíve got.
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I enjoyed the Rays and Yankees defeats, but believe that was caused by the reduced state of both teams competing in the grueling AL East. Adding another wild card would just cheapen the regular season, much like the NHL. The best teams would not win the World Series as in the distant past before wild cards, just the team that is playing the best at that time of the year.
Jim, Spencer, Mass.
I agree with what youíre saying, but I believe baseball needs this. Baseball has to be important deeper into the season for the sake of TV ratings and attendance. I think baseball is in a bit of trouble long-term because the sport isnít popular in all areas of the country like football is. Having more teams involved in the playoffs helps keep that interest up even when college or pro football starts.
There seems to rumors that scouts are quoted as saying that Jesus Montero could be put in a deal for one of Gio Gonzales, James Shields, Trevor Cahill or Matt Cain. Could Ryan Lararnway bring one of them, perhaps with Lowrie and who ever is needed, or is his value not anywhere near Montero? Would the Sox have any interest in Josh Willingham?
Tony, Hillsboro, Ore
I donít think Lavarnwayís value is as high as Monteroís right now. Montero stepped into the big-league situation and wowed everyone. Now he didnít wow them with his catching, because he did very little of that, but the names you mention are all guys the Yankees could obtain for him. I doubt Tampa Bay trades with the Yankees. So the answer is no, I donít think Lavarnway gets you the top pitchers you just listed. Not sure Montero alone does either, but a better chance of it.
What do you see as the most pressing needs for the 2012 team? My thinking is they need a leader in the clubhouse as manager. As you mentioned, Bobby Valentine would be a great choice, or maybe Tony Pena, or Sandy Alomar Jr? Also, I have been thinking as a possible DH , why don't the Sox look at trying to re-sign Johnny Damon? He would bring a leadership and looseness to the clubhouse that was sorely missing this year. In right field, Josh WIllingham would be great, or you could move him to left and get Carl Crawford out from in front of the monster and move him to right, where he would have more room to run and roam?
I believe a strong manager is the best choice and I have already endorsed Bobby Valentine. I donít think he will get the job. I love the Tony Pena idea. I think heís perfect. The Sox did try to get Damon back last year and he didnít want to leave Detroit. Heíd love to stay in Tampa Bay to end his career there and get his 3,000 hits. But youíre right, his clubhouse presence is amazing. Any team should want to obtain him down the stretch for that alone. The Red Sox messed up letting him go to the Yankees, because they felt Coco Crisp was the better alternative. As for Willingham, I know they like his bat, but donít believe he can handle right field at Fenway. Crawford has a terrible arm and would be a liability in right, not because he wouldnít track a lot of balls down, but baserunners would take advantage of his weak arm.
Is pitching coach Curt Young still around? When I look at the pathetic performance of our starting pitching, they went maybe five innings, and seldom six innings, before they had to be removed, and that damaged the bullpen. I think we should have heard something about or from Young. What benefit was he? Why is he not gone?
Bill, Hamilton, NJ
Iím guessing he wonít be retained, but I donít know that. Heís on hold for the new manager to make that call. The staff didnít go forward this season, though the decline began last year under John Farrell.
Why isn't catcher Jason Varitek being considered for manager? He knows how to manage the pitching staff and is a hard worker and loved in Boston.
Stephen, Columbus, Ga.
Hard to name Varitek manager this soon because 1.) he has no experience and 2.) there's not enough separation from his teammates. Thatís why you just donít see it. Five years from now, when all the current players have departed, that might be different. Take the case of Joe Girardi. He played with Posada, Jeter, and Rivera, and heíll tell you how tough that is to have been teammates with players youíre now managing. And he was far removed from it, really, by the time he got back to New York.
What do you think of the Red Sox' use of defensive metrics to measure their fielders. Some of the standard metrics like UZR measure some of their fielders with past success, like Carl Crawford, as being much worse in 2011. Do you think the team was worse at defense in 2011 than 2010, and how much of the blame would you apply to the team and how they evaluate defenders?
Aspy, Cambridge, Mass.
I think they use metrics similar to UZR, probably using similar formulas. I think itís useful in measuring defense, and ballpark factors are important in those measurements. I canít blame them for Crawfordís defensive shortcomings because nobody saw that coming. I know Fenway takes some getting used to, especially in left field and I think he was also getting used to Jacoby Ellsbury in center, who took some of the balls that Crawford would normally go after when he was playing with B.J. Upton in Tampa Bay. I donít blame them for evaluating him as a Gold Glove left fielder, because that was his track record. None of us, let alone them, can figure out what happened to Crawford in all phases this season.
Why haven't we heard a single word from a single player about the "epic collapse"? Not a tweet. Do any of them feel like this September turnaround is entirely their fault? Have any of the players whispered they'll work their butts off to be sure this never happens again?
Jim, St. Johnsbury, Vt.
Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz and Kevin Youkilis have all weighed in, but for the most part theyíve pretty much hidden from it. There arenít many standup guys on that team.
Who do you think will be starting in right field in 2012, and will Daniel Bard be in the rotation like Lou Merloni and others suggest?
Ted, Geneseo, Ill.
Great question. Would like to see them bring in a righthanded hitter. Michael Cuddyer might be a nice fit for a couple of years. One of our readers suggested trading John Lackey to the White Sox for Alex Rios. I used to think Rios was going to be a superstar, and I was so wrong.
What are the chances of the Sox going after Andre Ethier? I hear he won't re-sign with Los Angeles and wants out of there.
Ed, Loudon, NH
It would have to be a trade if they went after him this offseason, because heís a year away from free agency. The question would be do the Red Sox have enough prospects in their farm system to give up for him? And the Dodgers would like to sign Ethier to an extension. So not sure this could be a realistic scenario.
Since taking over this franchise, how much money has been spent on players no longer here but to whom money is owed.
Ken, Belchertown, Mass.
Well, most of the dead money has been paid out to Edgar Renteria, Julio Lugo, Mike Cameron, and Matt Clement. Thereís nothing left right now, but who knows if John Lackey might be added to the list.
I have a suggestion that I think would improve the clubhouse situation immediately. With the return of Jason Varitek questionable, how about making Dustin Pedroia team captain? Talk about a role model! I think it would send the right message to the team as to the type of effort and player all the Red Sox should be. Also, I too, was heartbroken over the Sox collapse during the month of September, but just think if they had limped into the playoffs, the current clubhouse problems would never have come out. Better to clean house and get a fresh start. Lastly, why didn't anyone seem to be aware of these problems in spite of all the scrutiny the team is under? Thanks again and keep up the great work.
Bob, Washington, DC
Iím not big on putting ďCĒ on anyoneís jersey. Every player should lead and be accountable. Pedroia is the heart and soul and everyone knows it. I actually think he would feel funny having it and we still donít know whether Jason Varitek is returning or not, so it would be difficult to strip him until heís ready to hang it up. In terms of the ďproblems,Ē I think we all could see the overweight pitchers, the lack of passion on this very vanilla team. But I think you have to let things play out and point those things out when they become pertinent. I first wrote about the conditioning issue a couple of week before the end of the season. As far as the beer-drinking, I donít believe any of us knew about that, but once the team failed to make the playoffs there were people willing to discuss those issues off the record and the Heraldís John Tomase did a nice job uncovering that.
Didn't Tony Pena have a major outburst while managing the Royals? Do you think Theo's leaving?
Barbara, Lowell, Mass.
Tony had a messy personal matter that was dealt with, but it cost him his job. But he was a very good manager in terms of motivating his team and getting the most out of them. Allard Baird, who is currently Theo Epsteinís top talent evaluator, hired and fired Tony, but holds him in high regard. He understands the Red Sox culture having played here and heís certainly had a big role with the Yankees as their bench coach. Donít think he would be overwhelmed by the situation. Heís also a tremendous catching coach and has made a huge impact on Yankee catchers, who are very good. Would love to see Pena in Boston.
I've heard many names being bandied about for the manager's opening. I realize Ryne Sandberg's dream job is with the Cubbies, but I think he'd love a class organization such as Boston's. He appears to meet many of the requirements, other than possibly prior big league managing gigs, but that isn't that high of a priority from what I see. Sandberg's a very accomplished former player who's from the old school but still young enough to connect, I believe, with the players across the board
Peter, Fairhope, Alaska
I agree. Love what this guy has done in terms of going back to the minors and having success there. Heís a Hall of Famer willing to go back and learn a new craft. Heís a very serious guy who is trying to achieve his next dream. I know the Red Sox were considering him for the Pawtucket job last offseason, but Sandberg chose Lehigh Valley and led them to the playoffs. I think there might be some mutual interest in at least discussing the job.
I can't help but think there may be an opportunity in right field for a Jason Bay return to Boston. Is it a dream?
Probably a dream. I believe theyíre stuck with Carl Crawford for a long time. Could Bay return as a DH? Possible I suppose. But the Red Sox and Bay both messed up when they had their mutual parting. Bay was perfect for Red Sox and vice-versa. A lot of garbage got in the way. Now Bay is a shadow of himself after the concussion issues, Hopefully, he can get through it.
Not a question, but a suggestion that Lou Merloni should be the next manager for this team.
Gene, Gloucester, Mass.
Great man. I would never argue with that.
In the Oct. 4 mailbag, you wrote: "It's a very vanilla team. No personalities to speak of." It begs the question, what's your definition of personality? Dustin Pedroia? Jonathan Papelbon? David Ortiz? They may not have been the "idiots" of 2004, but c'mon, "vanilla"? No one cared about that stuff when they were winning. Is it possible this team was just not that popular with the media, as Pete Abraham wrote recently that it wouldn't hurt to have more guys speak after losses? Is it possible this team was just not that popular with the media? Sometimes I think you guys would be happy with a bunch of guys, regardless of on-field performance, who were good quotes. In your opinion, what's the right amount of "personalities" on a team and what does it have to do with winning baseball games. It must be somewhat, maybe even very, important for you to have published the question and the answer it the way you did.
Tom, Ridgefield, Conn.
Youíre missing the same thing that theyíre missing Ė passion. It has nothing to do with whether they speak to the media. I could care less if they speak to the media. The ďvanillaĒ stems from their actions on the field. Show some heart. Play when youíre a little bit hurt. Run out ground balls. Iím always amazed at people who blame media for what went wrong. And Pete was right on the mark with what he said. Stand-up guys show accountability, which was sorely lacking.
Given where the Sox are financially for 2012 and the need for at least a fifth (more realistically fourth and fifth) starter, does it make more sense to put Alfredo Aceves in the rotation and search for an set-up man or middle reliever depending on the Papelbon situation?
Wade, Goodlettsville, Tenn.
Interesting decision, but I think Aceves will remain in the bullpen because heís so valuable there. Letís see what they do with Daniel Bard and whether they switch him to the rotation.
Which was worse, the 2011 Red Sox or Bill Buckner?
I would never say Bill Buckner because thatís too unfair to him, but the 1986 World Series would have to be worse because it was the World Series and they had the thing won.
If John Farrell stayed in Boston as pitching coach rather than departing to Toronto, do you think the Red Sox collapse would have been as significant?
Jeremy, Glen Gardner, NJ
Hard to tell. As I wrote earlier, I think the pitching decline began last season.
What do you think think of these players for some new faces on the roster? Alexei Ramirez, SS: Trade Scutaro. Scutaro had 12 errors in 109 games and has never hit over .300 in his life. On the other hand, Ramirez has almost the exact same OBP, but had 16 errors in 155 games, which is 46 games more than Scutaro's 109. Carlos Quentin, RF - Trade J.D. Drew. He is too old! He has peaked and now he is declining rapidly. Quentin is a young right fielder that has potential.
Jake P., Rhode Island
Would love both guys, but how do you get them? J.D. Drew is a free-agent and gone anyway. Ramirez is one of the premier players in the game. Hard to get him. Quentin could be had and would fill the bill in right field.
If they do not sign Varitek or Wakefield, they could use the money to keep other top players. They need a healthy pitching or some solid additions to the pitching staff and decide if Papelbon can still be the closer pitcher for the team.
Money is not an issue. What they save on Wakefield or Varitek wouldnít matter if they were willing to sign a big name player. I think they have to re-sign Papelbon.
I have been a huge Wakefield fan for years. I think he's been undervalued. I think his last month wasn't that bad - and he filled a hole with all the injuries. But I am in utter shock how tone-deaf and arrogant his parting shot about what fans "deserve" sounded. Goes against his working-man, grateful for the opportunity image. Something of a "I'm really honored that I got to achieve my goal, grateful to the fans for backing me and hope I can do it again, but I'll think about that later" would have been more like it. Is he really as arrogant and tuned out as he sounded?
John D., Singapore
Probably guilty of poor timing, but nothing more. You shouldnít hold that against him. He deserves your praise and respect. Heís been a good and loyal Red Sox.
The biggest criticism Theo received was not accumulating enough starting pitching options in Triple A. All the while, the Yankees got good results out of Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia on minor league deals. Granted, it's hard to get guys of that caliber if there isn't a legit open spot in the rotation to compete for, which was the case going in. What are the chances the Sox try to sign Ben Sheets, Justin Duchscherer, and Brandon Webb? Their value is at an all-time low due to injuries. But they're still young, are legit top of the rotation guys when healthy, and are better low-risk/high reward options than John Smoltz and Brad Penny were in 2009.
John, Omaha, Neb.
Nothing wrong with taking chances on guys like that, but you canít depend on them. They did take a chance on Aceves, who had a significant disc problem in his back and it worked out.
I've seen Kevin Millar watching a lot of Sox games lately. Is there anyway he wants to get on the manager path starting in the minors? Always one of my favorite players and seems like the personality that can control a clubhouse. I think the Sox missed that kind of enjoyment for the game this year.
Never thought of Kevin as a maanger. Donít think heís interested in doing that. He does well on TV.
Tito is rightly being hailed as the greatest manager in Red Sox history. How big a role did John Farrell play? Does September 2011 happen if Farrell doesn't earn the Blue Jays' skipper job?
Blair, Halifax, NS
Farrell did well. They won the 2004 World Series with Dave Wallace as pitching coach. I think itís about the pitchers more than anything. Farrell is good, but I wouldnít say he was the reason.
Why not try to trade Crawford to Washington for Jason Werth? This would place both players back in their comfort zones (Crawford back to small market and Werth back to a big market with a stronger lineup). Both players struggled this year, and would benefit from the switch. Boston gets the righthanded outfiielder it originally wanted last year, and Washington gets a speedy OF suited for the National League. They have similar contracts, although Boston probably would be responsible for around $2 million a year. Do you think this would work for both teams?
David, Virginia Beach, Va.
Suppose you could. I think it might be too early to give up on Crawford. Letís see what happens this year. Changed my opinion on Werth. Not a big fan.
Now that its over, my feeling on this team is the Red Sox are very statistics minded, and the problem with stat people is sometimes they dismiss the intangibles that players have. J.D. Drew and Carl Crawford are the prime examples. They bring nothing to the table or in the clubhouse, but statistically they wash out better than their actual performance. But character counts. Stat guys think team chemistry and leadership are dispensable, but its clear that when your team is collapsing or in a deep hole, it helps to have tough characters to right the ship. Bring back the "Idiots." They were at least fun to watch.
Bill, Adams, Mass.