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Ask Nick Red Sox Mailbag

Ask Nick: Will Bobby Valentine be back next year?

Posted by Leonard Neslin August 22, 2012 12:02 PM

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I think I've heard the word "communication" about enough. As far as communication issues go, it's important to have it, but once players hit the baseball field, they're playing baseball. That's where they play the game. They are not running into each other, not knowing what they're supposed to do. They know what to do ó pitch, hit, run, field. There's no "communication" involved with that other than hitting cutoff men and reading signs.

Having communication problems is a nice way of saying "We stink."

The Red Sox stink on the field. I have a hard time believing that $17-$20 million a year players can't play baseball without good communication. It's such nonsense.

I don't agree with Ben Cherington that it's not necessarily the personnel. I think it is. If they haven't learned by now it's that the personnel has to be changed after three years of finishing out of the playoffs, don't think the lesson will ever be learned.

Otherwise, it has been a big week in Boston for changes on and off the field. Carl Crawford is headed off for his Tommy John surgery (Thursday) and Bob McClure has been fired. The last two pitching coaches ó Curt Young and Bob McClure ó haven't worked very well. Maybe they should hire a righty next season.

Randy Niemann was hired as the interim pitching coach. I must say that Niemann did a good job in McClure's absence for family issues earlier this season. It seemed the staff had a decent run during that time period. Niemann was the assistant pitching coach. At one point Niemann was told he could no longer be in the Red Sox bench per order of Major League Baseball which only allows five coaches to be in uniform. But usually the only way this is enforced is if someone (usually another team) complains.

I've always thought Rick Peterson would be Valentine's best choice for pitching coach. He's got a history of turning pitchers around and I'd bet he would have good results with Jon Lester and Josh Beckett (if they choose to keep him). He's not concerned about whether he's popular with the pitchers. He's tough, he has his own ideas on how to do things. He did a great job in Oakland with Barry Zito and Mark Mulder in particular. Currently the Orioles' minor league pitching coordinator, he takes a biomechanics approach to pitching and is tied in with Dr. James Andrews. Seems like a no-brainer.

Now to the mail:

Now that Brad Mills had been fired, how likely do you think it is that he will replace Bobby V this offseason. I don't think his record in Houston is a reflection of his ability to manage, the Astros have practically had a minor league roster for the past two seasons.
Stephen, Niceville, Fla.

I think Brad Mills is excellent. I've always been a big fan of his style and work. He was Terry Francona's enforcer. I just don't think Bobby V is going to be replaced. I think the owners are reasonable enough to know there are many other issues they need to deal with. The manager is way down the list and the players, for the most part, play hard for Valentine. The results just haven't been there.

For years, I have been writing to professional baseball writers; congressmen; presidents and others who could spearhead a necessary movement to have a legitimate salary cap enforced in major league baseball. I find it hard to believe it is not talked about more often. There is no parity because of it and the New York Yankees, for example, virtually ensure themselves of a wild card slot every year. Money is of no consequence to them so a financial penalty for a violation is a farce. Other major sports caps are legitimate. It is hard to understand; year after year it continues and there is not anybody (to my knowledge) complaining about it.
James, Quincy, Mass.

I've heard this for many years, but I like the way baseball is structured. It's a true free enterprise system. If you can't compete, then don't buy a team. I like the fact that teams can spend as much as they want. The only I would like to see is a minimum cap. You have to spend say, $70 million and adjust it every year. I also don't like revenue sharing. It seems small market teams can pocket $30-$40 million per year and seldom use it to improve their major league which is the spirit for which it was intended.

In a recent radio interview, Johnny Damon spoke about a negative atmosphere after leaving spring training in 2002; and it was guys like him and Millar who helped liven things up. Maybe there is not enough of that now. Those teams seemed to complain less, have more fun and win. Who are the goofy gung-ho guys on this roster?
Bill, Bronx, N.Y.

Bill makes a great point. There are no Johnny Damons on this team with the exception of Dustin Pedroia and to some extent, David Ortiz. I think as they start to manipulate the roster this winter they have to find guys with great intangibles as well as skill. It's tough to do. But that '04 team had that great mix. It was self-policing really. It's a managers dream to have those types of individuals on a team. This roster not only doesn't have it, but it has some sour people, whose careers are on a downward trend. Let's face it, the manager and the GM were changed, but the roster wasn't.

We seem to have a great farm system. Yet the emphasis the past few years has been on mega deals of which some come unstuck. Do you see the Cherington/Valentine era being more about using the prospects and some older guys out of the farm system (like Middlebrooks & Podsednik) to Give the team a lift?
Bill, Melbourne, Australia

I think Cherington will be more protective of the farm system. I think he needs to be because ownership isn't going to give him the blank check they gave Theo Epstein. That proved to be a lot of wasted money.

Ask Nick: Is sending down Daniel Bard the right decision?

Posted by Chad Finn, Globe Staff June 6, 2012 04:45 PM

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The subject of the week is obviously Daniel Bard being demoted to Pawtucket.

Fans had a lot to say about Bardís starting experiment. I remember some twidiots getting on me about Bard needing to stay in the rotation when Iíve been consistent about him being in the bullpen. I agreed with Bobby Valentine that sending him back to the bullpen now would disrupt the flow of the seven pitchers there now and youíd lose one on waivers. So sending him down was the right thing.

If this were a different market with lower expectations, Bard could work out his problems on the fly as he wanted to. But not in Boston. Youíre trying to contend, not develop. You can do both in different markets. I think the Blue Jays were very patient with Brandon Morrow and his transition to the pen, but they could afford to be.

I'm not saying Bard will never be a starter because I think heís going to figure it out, but Iíd be surprised if he comes back to the starting rotation this season. Once Daisuke Matsuzaka comes up, and if he performs reasonably well, itís hard to find a spot in that rotation for him. There may be a stretch where they can go with six starters, but not for long.

Bobby Valentine has made some tough decisions. He sent Mark Melancon back when he was struggling and has done it again with Bard.

Nick, thanks for keeping us in the loop with inside perspective. Did the Red Sox decision-makers totally disregard past performance? Given the minor league history of Daniel Bard as a starting pitcher, please give the rationale on his chances of success as a major league starter. Am I mistaken that Bard's baseball career was in jeopardy as a starter due to extreme wildness? Who exactly were the proponents of his change to starter status with the current club?
-- Bill, Melbourne, Florida

I think Ben Cherington and his baseball operations bought into it. The decision was made before Bobby V got there. He resisted it all of spring training but didnít have much of a choice in the matter. I mean you canít always go by the past. Guys evolve and they thought he had evolved. Like I said, if this was Kansas City or Pittsburgh, heíd have time to develop and work his problems out on the fly.

I have a question regarding Manny Ramirez's 50-game suspension. If he was suspended from baseball through the end of May, why was he allowed to play in the minors? Was this due to a loophole in the rules?
-- Gary, Enfield, Connecticut

No loophole. They are allowed a rehab assignment prior to joining major league team.

The Sox have an excess of lefthanded-hitting outfielders and a righthanded hitting outfielder, Juan Carlos Linares, hitting the cover off the ball in the minors over the last few seasons. Darnell McDonald has proven he can't hit major league pitching and Linares could give them same balance in the lineup. Kids like Daniel Nava and Will Middlebrooks have given this team a big shot in the arm and Linares could help do the same. Why aren't they giving him a look especially with all the injuries they've had?
-- Chris, Atlanta

Good question. I always hear good things about him, but they never seem to consider him. One of those guys just lost in the shuffle. Guys get buried like that sometimes. Thereís a preconceived opinion about what they are by the people who run the minors and itís really tough for players to blast through that.

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Ask Nick: Should Gonzalez switch to outfield?

Posted by Matt Pepin, Boston.com Staff May 22, 2012 08:26 AM

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Our question of the week comes from Jonathan Lobel, who lives in Frydlant in the Czech Republic. Jonathan asks, "Adrian Gonzalez says he will play wherever the team needs him. Why not put him in the outfield, (Kevin) Youkilis at first base and keep Will Middlebrooks at third base? Seems like these guys are paid enough (and had been playing poorly enough) to be flexible."
This is an interesting topic. Maximizing your offense with this approach would be advantageous for the team. The issue may be whether you really want to take your Gold Glove first baseman, Gonzalez, and keep him in right field indefinitely. I think the answer to that is no. But to do it on occasion? Sure.

I think Gonzalez has no problem with it, and as long as he's enthusiastic about it, it would work. The easiest thing to do here is to send Middlebrooks down to Pawtucket, but I don't think that's fair to the kid, who looks like he's going to be a good player. This team is already down Carl Crawford and Jacoby Ellsbury, and to have more firepower in the lineup would be a good thing, even if some people are playing out of position at times.

In a week, the mood of Sox Nation has certainly changed as the team comes together really for the first time in the Bobby Valentine era. While a players-only meeting seemed to help things, it's really the work of the pitching staff that has been the best cure for Red Sox ills.

This is a big three-game series in Baltimore. As I wrote in a recent On Baseball column, the Red Sox could begin to change the way people the AL East if they can sweep or take the series from the Orioles.

I think we need to cut Bobby V. some slack! He's coming back into MLB after a long hiatus. He only had a short time to get to know his new team. Watching the team the last couple of weeks, I see more smiles in the dugout, I see more enthusiasm, and I think they are starting to pull it together. It can only get better when Jacoby, CC, and Bailey come back. Am I wrong?
Dan, Ocala, Fla.
Good points, Dan. I think the fair-minded fans understand that about Valentine, plus he doesn't have complete say in matters. There are a lot of front-office "suggestions" that tend to get in the way of Valentine being able to be Valentine. But the team is getting used to him. Tough to go from the ultimate players manager in Terry Francona to a guy not known for that. But I think the less warm and fuzzy approach to players will pay off in the long run.

What do the Sox do with Alfredo Aceves when Bailey is ready to pitch? What about Bard?
Bob, Rochester, NY
My guess is if Aceves is doing a great job as a closer by then, he keeps the job and Bailey is eased into things. It'll be a while before Bailey is ready anyway. I doubt they would thrust him into the closer role. As for Bard, who knows? It all depends on what the team needs are when Daisuke Matsuzaka and Aaron Cook are ready to come back. That decision is at least two weeks away, if not more. A lot could change or happen in that time span.

It seems to me that the best outfielder the Sox have in the minors, and the one with the most MLB potential (excluding those not close to MLB readiness such as Bryce Brentz, Brandon Jacobs, Jackie Bradley, etc) is by far Juan Carlos Linares. Why has GM Ben Cherington repeatedly overlooked Linares, who looks like he could help the Sox now?
Paul, Boston
Not sure why Linares gets skipped over. I think he's coming off an injury-filled season after his Achilles tear, and they started him in Portland (AA) to build it back up. Sometimes guys just get typecast even by the people in charge and can't convince them otherwise. It happens a lot in baseball.

Why are we keeping Nick Punto on the team? He can't hit and we have a shortstop in Pawtucket in Jose Iglesias who is hitting well and he can play SS and then we can move Mike Aviles to utility and we would at least have someone off the bench who can play the field and hit.
Bruce, Concord, NC
I'm a huge Jose Iglesias supporter, but Mike Aviles has really surprised me both with his offense and his defense. Are there balls Iglesias could have gotten to that Aviles hasn't? Absolutely. But right now there's no reason to make that move. We'll see if Aviles keeps it up or he suffers any wear and tear because he's playing so much. As for Punto, yes he seems overmatched at the plate. It's awfully tough for bench players to have any consistency hitting because of their lack of playing time. But I think he's a good defensive player and he's a great guy on a team.

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