Ask Nick: What now for the Sox?

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There were several inquiries in this week’s mailbag concerning Jason Varitek becoming the manager of the Red Sox. I think you know how I’m going to answer this: no chance.

Varitek will be a good manager someday, but I think we’re looking at 2015 and beyond. There’s so much of a difference between playing and managing it’s mind-boggling. The player must rid himself of being a player and that can’t happen over one offseason. The player has to go coach somewhere and then manage somewhere in the minors. Does everyone have to do this? No, of course not.

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I’ve talked to Jason about the possibility of managing some day and he’s lukewarm right now on the idea. He has made a lot of money and certainly doesn’t have to worry about a career beyond baseball. Is he a guy who could do it? Of course. He has the work-ethic and the preparation skills to pull it off successfully, but he also needs to learn to deal with players as the guy in charge and not just as the catcher.

The rest of it was opinions on the Terry Francona firing, who will succeed him and what Theo Epstein’s future might be.

So here we go:

Nick, I enjoy your reporting. After looking at Theo’s record since coming to the club, it appears to me that he does not have a very good record. Lots of money has been wasted on has-beens and not enough on young players with a future if given a chance, a la Justin Masterson. Tell me who in the organization have come on board from the draft that have amounted to something. My personal opinion is Theo should go and the Sox should get someone that can buy talented players or do better with our drafting. I am a Red Sox diehard fan for over 60 years and hate always admiring how the other teams pick up players that are cheap and can really play.
Frances, Bradenton, Fla.

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Theo is a smart guy who did a great building this franchise. Had he had some tough times with free agents? Yes. I think the fans and media worry more about the wasted money than John Henry does. He gave Epstein the go-ahead to sign these guys and take chances and he did. They haven’t worked out. He has made good trades, and signed very good undervalued players. I’m not going to sit here and trash Theo Epstein because the body of work is two World Series championships and an organization that is in the hunt every year. Let’s not forget, given everything that happened, they missed by one game. Does Theo feel, like Franocona, that perhaps a new direction is needed? That’s what we’ll find out in the next few days.

What do you think about these moves for 2012: Outfielder: Cleveland’s Grady Sizemore for right field/left field or Philly’s Raul Ibanez for RF/LF?
Jim, Saugus

Interesting names. Obviously Sizemore is a physical risk and I would think they would want a righthanded hitting OF if they’re going in that direction, but I’ve always enjoyed Sizemore’s game when healthy. Ibanez might be a little too long in the tooth.

Given Jacoby Ellesbury’s shabby treatment by the Red Sox and the near incompetence shown by the Red Sox medical staff’s care of him in 2010, do you think there’s any chance to sign him? He seems to have taken the high road in 2011 and not said anything about 2010 when asked at the beginning of the season. Any chance he’s just waiting to walk? (I would)
Old Duffer, Westford

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Disagree about your assessment of the medical staff. In fact I’ve never seen a more thorough staff. They have great doctors at Mass General and they also farm out things to the best specialists in the country. That perception is completely wrong. The Ellsbury situation was an aberration. He had five broken ribs and one went undetected for a while. Three other specialists didn’t see it either. One did. Ribs heal on their own. There’s not a whole lot you can do anyway. So “incompetence” is a pretty strong word. Ellsbury has never been treated shabbily by the Red Sox. In fact, they overpaid him this season. They could have gone to arbitration and won at almost half of the $2.4 million they paid him. Ellsbury is a Scott Boras client, and he’ll go where the money is and I think they money will be right here.

Nick, I’ve been an out of state Sox fan for 50 years limited to watching all Sox games on satellite for the last several years. My question has to do with 30+ Sept. 30 responses to a Chad Finn article about the insightful analysis one always gets from Dennis Eckersly as opposed to what the viewers receive from Don Orsillo and especially Jerry Remy. My personal feeling is that it is painful listening to either of them but particularly to Remy who’s primary contribution is to tell the viewer what he has just seen with his own eyes. I was disappointed to learn of Remy’s contract extension last year. My question is: Are the Red Sox brass in the dark about what a gem they have in Eckersly or do they really think Remy is the best color commentator available?
Bill, Elliston, Va.

Everyone has a different opinion about announcers and color analysts. The bottom line is that Remy and Orsillo are extremely popular with the majority of the viewership. The ratings are very good. There’s no reason to make any changes. I think continuity is very important with announcers and the Orsillo-Remy team works very well. Eck is terrific as well. Everyone appreciates his candor. Eck also has a nice gig on TBS.


What are the chances Theo takes the Cubs job and then hires Francona as manager? Do you think this is something that could happen?
Anonymous

Wouldn’t shock me. But I doubt it.
Hi Nick, I am sure I am not the only one and will likely change by spring but at this moment after 60 yrs of following them it is the least I’ve cared for the team ever. Just too many of them who don’t care enough to win. It’s a shame what they did to Tito.
Tony, Hillsboro Oregon

I hear this a lot Tony and I can’t disagree. It’s a very vanilla team. No personalities to speak of. I think they set out to build this type of team and they succeeded. It seems they couldn’t wait to break up the Idiots in 2004, but that team had passionate characters like Johnny Damon and Kevin Millar and players who really cared. In selecting future players they need to do a better job evaluating intangibles.
Nick, Regarding Jon Lester, I thought he was “crying” (i.e. stared in at the umps or turned around quickly making a face) too much about pitches he thought umpires squeezed him. He seemed to be less effective when this happened. I got the feeling he needed to adjust to the calls, shut up and pitch instead of griping. I never noticed this about him till this year. What do you think?
Barry, Burlington, Vt.

I think you’re right. There’s a lot of griping about calls and when that happens, the umpire doesn’t give you the benefit of the doubt. Lester is a really good pitcher and he’s not part of the problem. Was he has dominant as I thought he could be? No. But he had a good season.
What about Jason Varitek as Sox new manager?
Mike, Seattle

Maybe in about five years after he’s had some experience. Awfully hard to go from player to manager. Not sure Jason wants to do it anyway.
This needs to be Pedroia’s team, but that’s not going to happen until Tek and Youk are gone … It might make sense to bring back Tek on a one-year, low-cost contract, but what about trading Youk now? I know he plays hard and wants to win, but he’s missed a lot of games in the past two seasons and his body-type doesn’t suggest that he won’t continue to break down. His trade value may not rise any further than it is right now. What potential matches might there be? He’s said he’d like to play in Cincy.. I know Middlebrooks is in the wings, but that’s at 1-2 seasons away.. PS.. Can’t wait to see a Middlebrooks-Inglesias-Pedroia-AGon infield…
Gary, Asheville, N.C.

I don’t see what Youk and Varitek have to do with Pedroia. If Pedroia wants to lead, he can lead no matter who is there. He’s a former American League MVP. He has the credentials to be the leader.
Dan Shaughnessy claims that Terry Franconna was fired. However, Mike Fine of the Patriot Ledger claims that TF resigned. I am inclined to believe Mike. What’s your opinion?
Bill, Braintree

I’ve written they both got sick of each other.
Why did the powers that be not see that the pitching was the major weakness before the season started.it was obvious that it was going to be a problem but they seemed not to notice this.these people are paid vast sums and yet could not see what we all knew was the problem, yet Terry Francona is the one who takes the fall.great management lads.
Christopher, Birmingham, Great Britain

I didn’t think pitching was going to be a problem. With Beckett, Lester, Buchholz, Lackey and Matsuzaka on paper that looked pretty good compared to most teams. They also had Wakefield and Aceves as depth. Really, if you could have seen that coming you’re a tremendous evaluator because most baseball people felt Boston was pretty strong which is why so many of us in the media picked Boston to win the whole thing.
Nick, do you have any perspective or comments on Jason Varitek’s role as team Captain in 2011 and what he may or may not have contributed as a leader when the team was both winning and losing? Thanks!
Matt, Dover, N.H.

From what I understand, not a vocal leader. Just a guy who works his butt off every minute and shows himself to be a gamer. Guess it didn’t rub off on too many guys.
J., Westwood

Varitek/Wakefield/Lester should and of course numerous other players could immediately tweet or e-mail a trusted member of the media with a version of this:
“It was an honor to play for Terry Francona, the best manager in Sox history. I feel terrible about his departure. Mr. Francona and Sox fans deserved better results this year.”
Anonymous

That would be classy.
Terry Francona’s big mistake is that he treated his players as men when in fact they were just little boys.
Do you agree?
David, Mountain View Calif.

I think that approach worked well for most of his eight years. Just didn’t work this year. But as he put it, “you have to be true to yourself.” That’s his style and he didn’t want to change it.