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Touching All the Bases

Sunday Mail: How Do We Fix What Ails the Skidding Red Sox? Hey, We're Open to Suggestions

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Mike Napoli to the DL? Sheesh, and just when I was starting to semi-seriously wonder whether he might be able to catch once in a while. Let's get to the questions before I lunge for the panic button or have any more stupid ideas ...

THE MAILBOX

A few short months ago they said the Red Sox had never been in a better place. They were stacked in the majors and minors. Now they have all these holes in the lineup. How long before the young catchers are ready? Any big sluggers in the minor leagues who can actually hit a home run? That Henry Owens looks like the real deal....when could he contribute? Great way to enter the Memorial Day weekend.
-- Michael H.

You say "they." I say "me," since I wrote a column or two around that premise over the winter, when there was no October hangover and the farm system was drawing among-the-best-in-baseball raves. I still think they are in a really good place with the farm system, especially with Mookie Betts developing into a fascinating prospect. (I'm not a huge Owens guy. He's walking roughly a batter every other inning at Portland, doesn't throw smoke, and I think his deception/changeup won't consistently dupe experienced hitters.) The problem, obviously, is that pretty much anything save for a David Ortiz/Jon Lester/Dustin Pedroia injury has gone wrong for the big club. Shane Victorino can't stay on the field. Napoli is hurt. Important secondary contributors such as Daniel Nava and Mike Carp have done nothing. Clay Buchholz is awful and getting hit harder than any pitcher in the AL.

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Jackie Bradley Jr. hasn't hit at all. A.J. Pierzynski is a smirking tree-sloth of a catcher. I mean, you know -- pretty much everything that went right last year is going wrong now. And Farrell seems to be having 2012 Blue Jays flashbacks with some of his tactical decisions.

Along the same lines ...

Tell me where I'm wrong. Absent a holy #@&*( trade the only thing for the Sox to do is ride this out. They've committed to Bradley so let him work through it and either Clay Buchholz/Jake Peavy will sort it out or they won't. Maybe I'm crazy but I still think they are OK. The division is pretty bad, 87 wins might be enough.

I ... I actually agree. I think you even need to stick with Pierzynski, who looks like a logical scapegoat right now. Christian Vazquez is ready defensively but he's hitting .248/.301/.328 without a homer at Pawtucket. As for Bradley, I do think sticking with him is the right approach. The defense gives him some value. Just stick him in their in the ninth spot and hope he comes around. It's more important that the guys who are here primarily for their offense start contributing now.

So how many tweets or messages did you get from people after the news broke of Stephen Drew's signing?
-- Mysterious Lurker

Hi Chad, thank you for the chat. Due to recent acquisitions and court decisions, can you tell your readers where you and Mr. Drew have registered? Have you kids picked out a china pattern yet? And how did you break this to your family (esp. your WIFE?)
-- Cam3x

Oh, you guys are funny. Yes, it's nice to be reunited with Stephen. Actually, we have a pretty nice little Sunday planned, we're going to go to Home Depot. Yeah, buy some wallpaper, maybe get some flooring, stuff like that. Maybe Bed, Bath, & Beyond, I don't know, I don't know if we'll have enough time.

Between Twitter and email, the messages hit three figures. Funny thing was I had no idea for a couple of hours that they'd signed him. I was at NESN interviewing a few people for my media column Friday. Last person I talked to was Tom Caron, and even TC didn't mention it.

Speaking of NESN ...

Chad, can you talk about the editorial freedom you enjoyed, or didn't enjoy, in writing that well-done piece on NESN Friday? Did you feel you had to soft-pedal some of the issues that you have raised before in your chats and columns (namely, NESN's unwillingness to pay to retain on-air talent, low production value of telecasts, every sentence uttered by Jim Rice on the air, etc.)?
-- Warrior

Thanks for saying it was well-done, W. I was anxious as hell about it, for obvious reasons. Ultimately, I just stuck to the assignment -- it's NESN's 30th anniversary, write about how they got here. It wasn't the time to bring up some of their curious personnel decisions or anything like that. I do that often enough at appropriate times, I think. The only thing that was added to the story was a line noting that John Henry also owns the Globe and Boston.com. An obvious oversight on my part. I turned the piece around pretty quick -- transcribed hours of notes and wrote it all Thursday afternoon. And that left me with a few things I wished I'd had more time/space to touch on. More Bruins history, for example, a little more on some of the people who were there at the beginning, and maybe a chance to catch up with Tom Larson, Bob Rodgers and other familiar faces through the years. But ultimately, I thought it worked out OK.

ryanloganfinn523.JPGAre you as excited as I am to see the Pats' defense this season?
-- Brad

Absolutely, and not just because they signed Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner and will get Vince Wilfork and Jerod Mayo back (hopefully). I'm looking forward to seeing the progress of Logan Ryan and especially Jamie Collins in their second seasons. Wouldn't surprise me if Chandler Jones took a big step forward in Year 3, and remember, he had the same number of sacks as Jared Allen last year. And I don't get the people who gripe that Dominique Easley was a "future" pick. He could be a beast by the end of the season, and he's exactly what they need on the D-line -- a versatile, fast, just-plain-mean dude. Could end up being the best defense they've had in years.

Any favorite of the "lesser" Spurs to watch? Personally, I love watching Danny Green run in circles, find an open spot and then bury a catch and shoot three. His annual postseason heat checks are about as fun it gets.
-- Neil (DC)

Green is a good one. You have to admire how they identify and bring in players -- flawed players in a lot of cases -- who fit a role in what they're trying to do. Boris Diaw is another -- if you saw that video I posted the other day, one of the things that jumps out is just how creative he is as a passer within their offense. For me, though, it's Matt Bonner, for completely biased reasons. I worked in Concord, N.H. from 1994-2003. Matt, his dad, brother and sister all reffed and ran the scoreboard for the men's hoop league that I played in for years. I've known him and his family since he was in eighth grade -- first time I remember meeting him was when I was the gym and he and his dad came up to me to show me a Tony Gwynn autographed baseball that he had gotten somewhere. Great family, great kid, and like everyone who is from that area or even lived their for a brief time, I'm proud of what he's become. And man, did he ever end up in the perfect situation.

Do you think Mike Trout has completely warped everyone's expectations of prospects? Some of these takez on Bogaerts are insane.
-- Jackie Treehorn

Absolutely. I mean, I don't know anyone with any perspective can be disappointed in Bogaerts at this point. He's struggled at short -- anyone who saw him on the way knows that was a distinct possibility. Yet the power is coming around, he's leading AL shortstops in on-base percentage, and he's on pace for an offensive season that will equal or surpass what Manny Machado did last year. Mike Trout was a once-in-several-generations rookie. He may well be our Willie Mays. Bogaerts is 21, has a World Series ring that he earned, and has done nothing to dispel the perception that he will be a superstar. Just because it's not instant doesn't mean he's at all disappointing. Hell, Trout had a .672 OPS in his first 40 games in 2011. Not even Mike Trout was Mike Trout! at the beginning. (Mike Ehrmantraut, however, was awesome from Day 1.)

I just want you to know that I was at the Sox game the other day and I stood up before Xander's first at bat and loudly announced that I, "Came for one thing and one thing only. To see Bogaerts go yard!" and then he promptly hit one 450 feet. After the applause died down I was left there standing and someone yelled. "You saw what you came to see. You should probably leave now!" They were so right.
-- Erik

I like your style, Erik. If only you could do that for the other eight guys in the lineup.

And on that note, the mailbox is closed. Exit music, please.

Seems like the right vibe for this weekend. I feel like I've been to half the bars in this video. And still, I move on back to Maine.