Ask Nick: What will happen at first base?

First of all, thank you for all of the responses on the Ryan Dempster/Alex Rodriguez incident.

My position was that Dempster was in the wrong and cost his team a game just to make a point, whatever that point was. He fired up the Yankees at a time when he was leading, 2-0.

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There were hundreds of emails in support of the stance that it was the wrong time and the wrong thing to do. There were two emails supporting the decision to throw at A-Rod and one of them was sophomoric but consistent with the way this emailer thinks.

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The Red Sox are out West in San Francisco and are coming off a much-needed strong performance from Jon Lester in a 7-0 win Monday. They’ve been losing series recently (Kansas City, Toronto, New York), and Tampa Bay is winning again. This is going to be quite a race to the finish.

The West is never a great place to turn things around, but the defending World Series champion Giants are a shadow of themselves, and the Red Sox should clean up.

The Red Sox have decided their righthanded-bat acquisition is going to be Xander Bogaerts. They need help against lefty starters, and Bogaerts, 20 years old, will be the one chosen to help that.

More questions this week about the “future” at first base, concern that Mike Carp isn’t playing enough, and future legal issues with A-Rod.

Here we go:

How do you see the 1B situation shaping up next year? It seems that Napoli has had a good enough year to get a decent contract, but perhaps not good enough for a multiyear re-sign. Do you think that they stay in-house with Nava/Carp or even Middlebrooks? Or will they make a splash by making a trade or going all in on Abreu?
Ben, Phoenix
My guess is they stay in-house. A lot depends on Middlebrooks and how he finishes off the season. If he finishes strong and with power, he could move to first because he does a lot of work there before games. That would allow the Red Sox to move Xander Bogaerts to third and re-sign Stephen Drew. That’s one scenario for sure. If Bogaerts stays at short and Middlebrooks at third, then Carp/Nava is probably in play. If the Red Sox could find a power-hitting righthanded first baseman, they’d do it. Not feeling a Napoli return right now, but that could change as well. He tends to get hot in September.

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Can your organization start a legal action saying that if A-Rod loses his appeal, all the games that he played since he started his appeal should be forfeited? If he loses the appeal, that means he was playing as an illegal player. Why is the A-Rod appeal taking so long? Just publicizing A-Rod forfeited games would be great.
Jimbo, Mililani, Hawaii

You can start legal action against anyone anytime if there’s a valid reason. I’m sure there will be legal action outside of this arbitration process, but I doubt it would have to do with the forfeiting of games. The appeal process was bargained by the union and the players and MLB. It’s in the CBA. But other legal issues could arise. There’s too much money at stake — $34 million. The appeal isn’t taking that long. There are time constraints. I believe the whole process from the hearing to the decision is 45 days.

If Napoli is down for a while, why would they not just play Carp? He seems to have been consistently good at 1B and at the plate. Is there any reason he isn’t being given the chance to play more regularly?
Jason, North Stonington, Conn.

Carp should get more playing time, I agree. He’s a really good hitter. Not sure why they spot him like they do. It would be good to see him over a long stretch to see how he handles it and also to see if he might be your future full-time first baseman.

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It seems like Clay Buchholz is not only injury-prone but one of those players who doesn’t know the difference between pain and injury. With the club fighting for a division title and others players playing hurt (Pedroia comes to mind), doesn’t this kind of thing cause division on a ball club?
Charles, Boxford
He seems to be feeling better. Unfortunately, they have these guys on “throwing programs” and these things are like watching paint dry. The throwing progression is painfully slow, but management has to stick with them because it’s a way to measure and document the progress of the pitcher. The documentation part is important; in case of reinjury, the pitcher could have a claim against the team.

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As it stands now, this team is going nowhere. Half a lineup just won’t cut it facing top pitching in the playoffs. Imagine Napoli, Middlebrooks (unreliable fielding and throwing), Gomes, Saltalamacchia, and Drew actually having to move runners along, get big hits, sac flies when the chips are down against good pitching. They can all run into a ball and send it out on rare occasions, but these guys are all very mediocre players (to be kind). We need to stop the wishful thinking based on the glories of yesteryear. Your thoughts?
Dana, Los Angeles
Well, I think Bill Parcells was right: You are what your record says you are. The Red Sox have had the best record in baseball quite a bit of the season. So I think they’re doing a lot right and the players are performing. I think elite pitching can beat any lineup. For most of the season, this lineup has led the majors in scoring, so while you seem frustrated, not so sure you should be. They have struggled against most lefty starters, so that could be an issue against David Price or Matt Moore or Derek Holland in the playoffs.
After some of our recent losses, I was wondering, if the Sox make it to the postseason, do we have a bullpen that can compete with other contenders?
Rob, Ridgeway, Mo.
I always wonder about having younger relievers in spots down the stretch. As far as the Breslow/Tazawa/Uehara combo at the end, I think that’s as solid as anyone. Workman has looked good. Drake Britton had been excellent until recently. I believe they should have obtained another veteran reliever, but they can avoid this by the starters going at least seven innings.
I was not on board with the Iglesias trade and I’m not convinced about Peavy yet. I understand there was a logjam of prospects at short, but after seeing some of the defensive plays he’s been pulling off for Detroit, I can’t help but feel it was a big mistake trading him, and I think it will definitely come back to haunt us if we have to face Detroit in the playoffs. Do you still feel it was a good idea trading him for Peavy?
Rick, Rochester, N.Y.
You make a great point, Rick. I never criticize a team for “going for it” and giving up what they have to in order to fill a need that could win it all for them. In the long run, it probably won’t be a good move, but if it turns out like Lowell/Beckett for Hanley Ramirez/Anibal Sanchez and it wins them a championship, you would do it, wouldn’t you?
I hear a lot about trading for power hitting and bullpen support, and I’ve got mixed feelings about it. Would I love to see Gomes wrestle a Duck Boat after winning the World Series? Absolutely. But I’m not too sure about trading away bright futures (and possibly more rings) for it. This is a “rebuilding” year and I wonder if we can’t keep utilizing our farm to prop the team up?
Brandon, Dallas
They’ve done a good job winning and not giving up the future – with the exception of Jose Iglesias – so they’re ahead of the game. As I said in a previous post, win when you have a chance to win. They can win now. You don’t forfeit the chance to win because you want to hold on to a prospect for five years from now. Washington made that terrible decision not to pitch Strasburg in last year’s playoffs in a year when they had a chance to win it all, feeling they have enough talent to get back into the position. They have had a bad season, and you just never know what can happen. Sometimes you never make it back. Sometimes those terrific prospects fizzle.
Why hasn’t MLB (or maybe an MLB team) hired Jose Canseco as a consultant with this whole Biogenesis scandal coming out? This is a guy who’s done it, would know the telltale signs, could speak on it, etc. Seems to me like a no-brainer.
Mike, Austin, Texas
Interesting take. You’re right, Jose is the Godfather of steroids. He’s brought all of this out to light. I’m sure he knows a lot about it, but his name seems like poison to MLB, so I doubt there would be any consultations.
I know there is a reluctance to criticize John Farrell when it come to handling pitchers, but recently Peavy struggled all night, was being hit hard, and except for a double play initiated by Napoli in the fifth inning, he probably was on his way out. Then Farrell brought him out for the sixth and he gives up three hits and a run. Why in the world did Farrell wait so long?
Paul, Waterford, Conn.
No, we can disagree with Farrell on pitching moves. It’s just that he usually has a really good reason for taking a pitcher out too soon or too late. He explains his decisions very well. He also knows, better than me, what he has available in the bullpen and what he can expect from those guys. The one thing none of us know – even those of us who are around the team all the time – is if some guy is sick that day, or is fatigued, or isn’t available, or if he didn’t warm up well. They base a lot of that on that information. So I’m always hesitant to make a blanket statement on a pitching move unless I know all of the circumstances.

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