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Sunday Mail: No matter whether Stephen Drew stays or goes, Red Sox win either way

Posted by Chad Finn, Globe Staff  January 4, 2014 10:11 AM

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LEADING OFF

This week in Stephen Drew's baseball purgatory ...

I don't believe the Yankees will sign Drew. I mean, I don't believe Brian Cashman when he says the Yankees won't sign Drew, because 1) a denial is often his transparent precursor to signing the player, re: Johnny Damon, and 2) all it takes is one of the Sons of Steinbrenner -- pictured here -- deciding they want him to make it happen.

But ultimately, I don't think it does happen, and so Cashman is technically telling the truth in advance of the outcome. Derek Jeter is apparently Shortstop For Life (that's how he signs the card in his gift-basket, REPORTEDLY), and Drew's not going to there to get the stink-eye from Captain Calm-Eyes every time he replaces him in the lineup. Plus, you know, they have Brendan Ryan, who is pretty much what Jose Iglesias will be in seven or eight years.

I do think there's a decent chance -- maybe better than 50/50 -- that Drew ends up with that other team in New York. The story Sunday that the Mets are interested but don't want to go to three years seems like a surmountable hurdle. They'd lose only a third-round pick for signing him.

The Mets seem to want him on their terms, but their terms may be more appealing than returning to the Red Sox for something less than the $14.1 million qualifying offer he turned down. And despite Scott Boras's claims at the winter meetings, there doesn't seem to be much of a market elsewhere.

Meanwhile, the Red Sox sit back and wait, knowing they win either way. If Drew leaves, they get a valuable comp pick in return. And if stays, hey, there's nothing wrong with having one more good player on the roster.

THE MAILBOX

Hey Chad, what does Tom Brady have to do to supplant himself as the greatest quarterback of all time this postseason?
-- Timmy Sanders

Love the way you worded that, Tim. Let's put it this way -- if Brady and the Patriots go into Denver and beat Manning in a year in which he claimed the two most revered passing records, doesn't the debate have to end right there? I mean, it's not much of a contest now if you can think for yourself and don't get caught up in the Manning hagiography. But if Brady plays deeper into the playoffs than Manning this year, with all circumstances stacked Denver's way, doesn't even Archie Manning have to admit that his boy is only the second-best of his generation?

bogaertsxanderfinn113.JPGAre Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr. the only two current Red Sox who have not yet had their best season in the majors?
-- JJ

Really interesting question, JJ. Haven't considered that before, but there are a lot of very accomplished veterans on this team who, while still capable of great things, probably have already had their best season -- meaning David Ortiz's 54-homer 2006 season, or Dustin Pedroia winning the MVP on 2008, or Koji Uehara's historic brilliance last year. But there are a couple of players here who still could be heading toward their peak -- Will Middlebrooks is an obvious one. This is a pivotal year for him, and given his struggles late last season, it's fair to wonder if he'll ever correct the flaws that prevent him from consistency. But he also has legitimate 30-homer power, and fairly scarce talent these days. Another player I believe could have the best season of his career in '14 is Daniel Nava. He hit .336/.410/.479 in the second half last year, and he should be their leadoff hitter against righthanded pitching. There are also a bunch of pitchers who may have their best days ahead, starting with Felix Doubront and Brandon Workman.

Interesting comps for Middlebrooks. All three were considered to have large upsides, and at least two did carry Major Leaguer credibly for a while. Hitters are capable of overcoming either swing-or-miss generally, or that one pitch that kills him, even if they are not always likely to do so. It is the lottery ticket element that makes Middlebrooks intriguing. Bill James projections say as much: Potential stud. The career comps don't even undermine that as much as you seem to indicate.
-- Possum

Tthompsonryanfinn1314.jpgThis is in reference to a question from Friday's chat that suggested the Sox shouldn't trade Middlebrooks because they traded another impatient hitting in Josh Reddick and he turned out well. (He's actually been brutal when he hasn't been hurt for a year and a half, but whatever.) The comps I plucked from baseball-reference were actually for Reddick, and they were, in order, Ryan Thompson (94 adjusted OPS), Dustan Mohr (92 OPS+), and Who Is Karim Garcia (82 OPS+), all below-average players. But if you want to compare those three to Middlebrooks, let's put it this way -- if ends up having a career similar to Karim Bleepin' Garcia, he's a bust without a doubt. I agree the potential is there -- he could become 1977-79 Butch Hobson without the demons -- but there are better ways to point that out than comparing him to three guys who weren't, you know, good at baseball. If you want to make a favorable argument for Middlebrooks, here something that might help: the No. 4 player on his comp list is Josh Donaldson.

Imagine an America where all obnoxious music and fake crowd noises are banned at professional sporting events. You're there to watch a game, folks. The product on the field should be enough to warrant your cheers or jeers.
-- BoKnowsBo

Is this Bob Ryan? I love your idea -- it sounds like sports utopia. And it's neverhappening. The days of purely authentic crowd reaction are over. The hoops diehards who anticipate Brad Stevens drawing up killer inbounds plays or know that Avery Bradley is deadly from the corner are going to go to the games anyway.
The "game presentation" is there for those who may be interested in the game but are generally there to have a fun time. Every time I see a Havlicek- or Bird-era Celtics game on NBA TV ...

... I get melancholy for those Garden crowds who knew exactly when to roar without the scoreboard and some awful music exulting them to do so. But like I said, those days are gone, and Advil is a necessity when you're attending any sporting event these days.

How about that bozo Murray Chass saying he's not voting for Craig Biggio because another reporter speculated that Biggio might have used steroids? Is that everything that's wrong with the HOF voting wrapped up in one self-agrandizing article?
-- Jackie

For an accomplished and supposedly intelligent guy, it sure seems Chass, the former New York Times baseball writer-turned-internet-bridge-dweller, is missing a whopper of an irony. He's become everything he accuses the newer generation of writers of being -- bitter, envious, agenda-ridden, spiteful, selectively informed, and richest of all, a blogger.

As for the Biggio reference Jackie makes, it wasn't even the most offensive element of his most recent blog post. It was this, his final paragraph:

I said �barring a change in my thinking,� this could be my last vote. My thinking has changed, and all of you critics can blame yourselves. How could I relinquish my vote knowing how much it annoys you? I plan to vote a year from now even if I just send in a blank ballot. You would love that.

Makes you wonder what other idiotic points he tried to make through grandstanding, back in the days when he was relevant.

Until next week, the mailbox is closed. Exit music, please.

"Thunder bolts and lightning will light up the SKYYY-YAAAAY."

Now that's music. Beat the Bengals. Bolts. Peyton's next.

About Touching All The Bases

Irreverence and insight from Chad Finn, a Globe/Boston.com sports writer and media columnist. A winner of several national and regional writing awards, he is the founder and sole contributor to the TATB blog, which launched in December 2004. Yes, he realizes how lucky he is.

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