Ask Nick: Do Red Sox miss Victor Martinez?

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As you’ll detect, there’s a lot of anger among fans concerning this team, and with good reason. This has been an abysmal month and even if the Red Sox are able to sneak into the postseason, there’s not a lot of faith they can do much.

Obviously, winning the nightcap of the doubleheader last night has taken some of the sting away. Most of the questions submitted arrived when the team couldn’t win a lick. Not that one game cures all, but last night sure helped the team’s mindset heading into the final Baltimore series.

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When things are going bad, a lot of folks want people fired.

I will say this, I don’t believe there’s any link between the regular season and the postseason. They are mutually exclusive. There are plenty of examples of teams weathering a bad September to excel in October. The Red Sox can do that. Maybe Adrian Gonzalez’ recent comments about how the Red Sox are a team nobody wants to play in the playoffs will ring true. It was just said at a time where absolutely no one can understand or believe what he’s saying.

Here’s the mailbag:

Are the Sox missing a locker room leader like Victor Martinez during their struggles? He was such a positive voice during the year and a half he was here, one of the reasons why last year’s team overachieved and this year did not.
Lloyd, Philippines
Tremendous observation, Lloyd. I think they do miss it. Victor was very outspoken and became an instant leader. A very effective player on and off the field. Understood the moment. He was worth the expenditure of players when they acquired him and unfortunately they chose to draw the line on his salary.

Manager Terry Francona has been given credit for winning his 1,000th game. Our players work their butts off trying to win, and I don’t understand why he should get the win. Correct me if I am wrong, but he certainly has lost a lot of games for us, and I mean a lot of games, just by leaving the pitcher in too long, maybe even causing them to go on the disabled list for being overworked. Watch all the other teams, they keep their pitchers fresh, not tired.
Sheila, Brookline, Mass.
I detect that you’re not a fan of Tito’s. Every manager gets credit for games they win on their record and they also get credited their losses. I think that’s pretty fair. Every manager is subject to criticism and even a guy who has won two championships gets it. I just think in his case, he should decide when the end is the end. I think he’s earned that.

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I agree that the Red Sox need to be a better conditioned team. If they were younger as a team, they would potentially have less injuries. That is why I would prefer more homegrown players and less free agents. I also dislike the resulting higher prices that this naturally causes. On the September roster, I would allow each team to carry on recall up to a total of 40 players, but as in the NFL, only be able to have 30 active on a daily game basis.
Jim, Spencer, Mass.
I think there’s something to what you say. One of the problems with big contracts – teams have to deal with this all the time – is the complacency that sometimes takes place when a player feels too secure. Many of these players are millionaires many times over, so the hunger isn’t there like it would be on a team like Tampa Bay. It’s always preferable to grow your own players, but I also understand that big market teams have to win and can’t afford to struggle with the young players. That’s why the Red Sox, if they can, try to trade for young established players and hope to get their prime years. I don’t mind teams “going for it” and by “going for it” sometimes you deal top prospects. The Phillies have done that and they realize they have a certain window to win with their superb pitching rotation. So they don’t mind trading their young players.

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When it doesn’t work, it looks horrible because it leaves your farm system decimated. But if it works, the reward is great. On the roster situation, as Doug Melvin pointed out in my Sunday notes column, he’d just like to see one set number. I agree with that. Everyone’s roster should be the same. Theo Epstein has subsequently told me he agrees with Melvin. The roster on day of game concept is also a good solution.

Why have the Sox not given Tony Pena Jr., Brandon Duckworth or Chad Fox a try? They keep running Weiland, Lackey and Miller out there when we know none of them can get anybody out, but yet haven’t given those three guys a look. Why keep trying what we know won’t work and not given any of those guys a try?
Chris, Kennesaw, Ga.
There are obviously roster considerations. The players you mentioned aren’t on the 40-man, so therefore you’d have to cut someone to make room. Pena Jr. was intriguing, because he has been a major league shortstop who made great strides both as a reliever and starter and wouldn’t be overwhelmed by the major league atmosphere. Duckworth and Fox had good seasons and are more seasoned than Kyle Weiland or Felix Doubront. But these are decisions the baseball operations people get paid to make. They feel they know which of these guys has the potential to impact their team the best. They also decided that Kevin Millwood could not help their major league team. This organization doesn’t make too many poor decisions. They have excellent people working in these capacities. It doesn’t mean we have to accept every decision they make, but overall they do nice work.

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When will Tito stop playing people who haven’t produced? He is way too loyal to players who have clearly lost it, and it may cost him the playoff berth this year. I wouldn’t be surprised to see J.D. Drew back in the lineup.
Tony, Midvale
Francona has a method to the way he manages and like he said this week, “I have to be true to myself.” He’s trying to be consistent as a manager and in the decisions he makes. He feels if he’s the tough guy, players will see through that. So he manages each day like he always does, whether good times or bad. I don’t have a problem with the boss being consistent and backing his players/employees. I do believe that sometimes you do have to get out of your comfort zone and kick some behind. I think that would actually get the players attention, because he’s not usually like that. As for playing guys who don’t produce, he always thinks that if he stays with a guy one day, two days longer, that guy will snap out of it. To be honest, that’s worked more than it hasn’t worked.
Given the injury hits the Sox have taken over past 75 days (since All-Star break), do you think conditioning in general has played a factor in their demise?
Ken, Orleans, Mass.
Conditioning can be a factor if it’s causing players to break down, especially at the end of the season. And that leads to inferior players taking the field at the most crucial time. I think the Sox owners obviously feel it’s an issue.
It obvious that some players have to move this off-season. Do you think that the Rangers would have any interest in John Lackey? He seems to pitch halfway decent in the hot weather and being a Texas native, he might become motivated and act like a top of the line starter.
Steve, Tarpon Springs,Fla.
Not sure the Red Sox could snooker into anyone taking Lackey unless it was a deal for another underachiever with a big contract like a Carlos Zambrano or Barry Zito. But why do that? I think they can only hope he gets better. And who knows? He might.
This late season collapse proves one thing very clearly. The Red Sox desperately need a legitimate ace in their rotation. With that in mind, would a package of say Lester, Youkilis and Iglesias be enough to pry Felix Hernandez from the Mariners? The Sox could then sign C.J. Wilson or Mark Buherle to fill Lester’s spot. This would give them a front four of Hernandez, Buchholz, Beckett, and either Wilson or Buherle. I also think since Crawford’s salary makes him virtually untradeable, why not see if the Dodgers would deal Matt Kemp for Ellsbury straight up? This would give them a legit righthanded power threat (without sacrificing speed — Kemp has 40 steals) as well as someone who can actually throw people out from center field.
Mark, Lynn,Mass.
You have a good mind for baseball, Mark. I love the Kemp idea. I think the Red Sox have tried so hard to obtain King Felix for so long that they feel they’re banging their heads against the wall trying to make it happen. Doesn’t appear as if the Mariners would deal him because they’ve received some whopper offers and never pulled the trigger. I do believe they will be a player for C.J. Wilson.
How about putting Weiland, who seems effective and has good velocity for a couple of innings, in the bullpen and putting Aceves in the rotation?
Ed, Stratford, Conn.
Amen
Over the course of the season, numerous times with Ellsbury on first and no outs, why don’t they bunt him to second with your No. 3 hitter, a lefty coming up? The manager needs to know the importance of advancing the runner.
Jim, Braintree, Mass.
You’re certainly right. Just not a small ball team, I guess.
Haven’t seen Johnny Pesky around the Sox this year. Is he okay?
Doug, Auburn
Johnny is in an assisted living facility now. He doesn’t get around as well as he used to, but still a wonderful, cheerful human being. Miss seeing him around the ballpark because we’d always chat for 15-20 minutes most every day.
With the release of Moneyball, it seems to me the lovefest for Billy Beane is overboard. He had Hudson, Mulder, Zito, Street, Harden, Blanton and Mark Redman and ended up with some minor leaguers and Jason Kendall. Throw in that he traded Carlos Gonzalez for Matt Holiday and I think it is obvious that he can’t carry Andrew Friedman’s briefcase. What is your opinion of Beane’s performance as GM at Oakland?
Billy, Largo, Fla
I think one of the criticisms of Billy was always that he didn’t win the big prize. He’s developed a lot of talent, though, but part of the problem is as a small market team, he’s had to trade away his top talent and sometimes the return hasn’t been great. But would I hire him as my GM? Absolutely. I think he would do a great job in a place where he could spend some money.
So, after murdering some pretty good pitching (ostensibly), the Rays go to Toronto and get three hits. My question, why does this team of banjos hit so well against the Sox? Bad scouting? Or, are the Sox pitchers directed to be too cute around the corners (even when playing the weak hitting teams) and thus play right into the hands of the swinging teams?
Jeff, Stoneham Mass.
When you throw fastballs down the middle of the plate, why wouldn’t they hit Red Sox pitching? I mean, this isn’t rocket science. You can see that Sox pitchers make mistake after mistake and it never stops.
Recently heard some Fox announcers talking about an interview they did with Adrian Gonzalez. Is there any info available regarding him being hampered by the surgically repaired shoulder as reported. Thanks Submit Submit
Bob, Melbourne Fla.
There’s been some fatigue in the shoulder, but nothing major.
Yankees catcher Russell Martin used harsh words like hate. Why doesn’t he just admit that the Red Sox passed on him because of health issues. I am sure he was willing to come to Boston before Boston said no.
Frances, Bradenton, Fla.
Well, they didn’t pass on him. They offered him a minor league deal with a chance to earn a major league salary. I don’t mind Yankee-Red Sox players going at each other. That’s the way it should be. It’s too civilized. I like the old days better when Fisk and Munson fought.
Which of the following factors do you think is the biggest reason for Carl Crawford’s decline in stolen bases:
a. Not on base as often.
b. Playing in more lopsided games. We’re either 6 runs up or 6 runs down.
c. The hamstring ailment.
d. Not being able to steal bases against the Red Sox.
Scott, Harrisburg, Penn.
Obviously A. He simply hasn’t hit well enough and hasn’t been able to use his skills – namely his speed. I must say he’s been disappointing in the field. I don’t see the Gold Glove guy.
Do you think that the Red Sox would consider a trade of Lackey for Zambrano and a second one of Ellsbury to the Arizona Diamondbacks for Upton, who could balance their righthanded and lefthanded outfielders for next year.
Jorge, Mexico City
Addressed the Zambrano-Lackey thing earlier. You could do it but why? Then you’d have a guy who is tough to control in Zambrano who could potentially be disruptive to your team. You’re better off crossing your fingers on Lackey. Upton-for-Ellsbury would help your righthanded cause. Not sure the D-Backs would do that now. Last winter, the D-Backs wanted Buchholz for Upton and the Sox wouldn’t do it.
Wouldn’t it make more sense for an underachieving bullpen to spend more time watching the game and the hitters, preparing mentally for an appearance, and at least act like they are as interested in the game as the bench players do? I can’t tell you how irritating it is to watch them play spoons and then blow a lead. I spend much money paying for the MLB package, the feed from NESN, and traveling to Texas and Kansas City to watch them and would greatly appreciate the same passion by the pitching staff.
Brian, Denver
Brian, I’m not sure that stuff is unique to the Red Sox . Bullpens tend to do these crazy rituals during games, but I understand what you’re saying. In these times, it’s tough to watch guys goofing around. I know they’re trying to stay loose and they all see it as a bonding time. I don’t care if they do it as long as they perform.
I haven’t been able to get over this one: Why did the Red Sox not acquire both Erik Bedard and Rich Harden on July 31?
Edward, East Boston
I think the answer is simple: at the end of July you just can’t anticipate the breakdowns they have had in September. They took a chance on Bedard, who is a guy who tends to breakdown, and so why take two guys who break down? In both cases you’re trying to find an injury-prone guy who can stay healthy for a few weeks.