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Touching All the Bases

Sunday Mail: I Can Think of 3 Good Reasons Why The Red Sox are Getting the Benefit of the Doubt

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Just look at Pedro, carrying that trophy on his left shoulder. I say he still has a comeback in him as a 40-something righthanded Mark Buehrle-type, right after his Cooperstown induction next summer.

Anyway, if you need any evidence of why the Red Sox's mostly lousy sequel to last year's World Series victory is being greeted with relative tolerance and perspective, there you go.

Three trophies in 10 years.

Buys a franchise a lot of leeway when just one seemed unattainable for generations, you know?

Oh, I could have also dug up pictures of the three giant red banners that have been draped over the Monster. But I figure you probably have this ...

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... or this ...

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... hanging on a favorite wall in your home.

So trophies it is.

Whoops, looks like banners-it-is as well.

Look, I get where Dan Shaughnessy is coming from in his column this morning. For the most part. The Red Sox stunk in '12 and were in last place at the break last year. If they don't make the postseason, it will be five years in six in which they haven't won a playoff game.

There are recurring frustrations and underachievements. Not much has worked. All true.

But they won the World Series last year. Just nine months ago, actually.

They won the World Series again.

Keeping that in mind during a follow-up bummer of a season doesn't make Red Sox fans "soft" for not reacting like they did in '78, when the season actually concluded with a devastating loss.

It makes them rational. It makes them -- well, not entirely fulfilled, but fulfilled enough to accept when a season isn't going the Red Sox' way. Especially when we just watched a season in which all of the breaks found them.

Rather than going into Fire Joe Morgan mode then spending the rest of this lovely Sunday proactively updating my resume, I'll instead fulfill the stereotype of the non-reactionary media member or fan. I'll hum Sweet Caroline softly and go to my happy place ...

... right after I file these three friendly counterpoints:

1) The vast majority of fans I hear from are ticked off that management lowballed Jon Lester and will be furious if he is not re-signed. I think they are just waiting to see if the Red Sox ultimately do the right thing before unleashing the wrath.

2) Red Sox fans do not "fall in love with the hype of every young player coming through the system." I must have different demographics from Dan in my readership, because all I've heard about the last two weeks is that Xander Bogaerts could be ruined by the dueling horrors of moving 35 feet to his right and seeing Stephen Drew in person. And I haven't found a lot of fans willing to wait for Jackie Bradley Jr.'s bat to come around, either.

I've written this recently, but I'll reiterate it since that seems necessary. It's not that the Red Sox prospects are overrated. It's that, in a small way, they're overexposed before they get to Yawkey Way.

We know Blake Swihart is the top catching prospect in baseball. We know Mookie Betts would have rated in Baseball America's midseason top-20 if he hadn't been called up. We know Henry Owens's repertoire even though most of us have never seen him pitch. There's so much more information available now than there was 20-30 years ago about prospects, and that's a great thing. It's one more enhancement in the way baseball is covered. But it also leads to heightened expectations when they do arrive, and often, expectations are not reasonable. Sometimes, because of their familiarity, we see them as fully-formed big leaguers when they get to Fenway, and they are not.

Some will make it. Some won't. But there will be growing pains for just about everyone. Bradley has had them at every level of his career before adjusting. Xander Bogaerts, so brilliant last October and looking like an All-Star early this June, is in the first prolonged slump of his career, and it's been ugly. But it happens to the best of them. It's part of the process. Yeah, I suspect Ben Cherington knows that.

We can start saying the Red Sox overvalue their prospects when an opportunity comes up to trade some of their quality prospect redundancy -- such as they attempted to do with their proposed blockbusters for Felix Hernandez and Roy Halladay 4-5 years ago -- and they refuse to do it. But they won't refuse to do it.

And it's neither the fans nor the organization who are putting out the public ratings and plaudits of the Red Sox' prospects and farm system. Farm director Ben Crockett does not self-publish a newsletter titled The Awesome Organization I Have Built.The praise these players get that makes them so familiar once they arrive comes from scouts and reporters who have seen them time and again along the way.

The excitement the Red Sox' best prospects is legitimate. It's not organizational hype. And it's why this doesn't feel like 2012 -- there was little on the way then, which is how we got acquainted by the Quadruple A likes of Pedro Ciriaco and Mauro Gomez.

You don't worry about the Sox overvaluing their prospects. You just hope they properly value the best of them when it comes time to decide which ones to keep and which half-dozen to send to the Marlins someday.

3) The Royals haven't made the playoffs in 29 years. The Red Sox haven't won a World Series since October.

On to ..,

THE MAILBOX

Do you think this is the team the Celtics go into the season with? Starting to look that way.
-- Phil

Chad, If you'e the NBA outpost known as the Timberwolves, wouldn't you take Andrew Wiggins and run? Doesn't seem they will get a better return for their soon to be departed Love. be
-- Guest

Stringing these two questions together because the answer to the former is largely dependent on how the latter plays out. Trading Love to Cleveland for Wiggins and stuff (including Anthony Bennett, who despite all the raves from Summer League still looks out of shape to me, not that I should judge) makes all the sense in the world for both sides. Minnesota gets one of the most promising prospects in years, a great return on a player who says he's leaving and already took at least once springtime visit to get acquainted with a potential suitor. And Cleveland becomes an instant contender. LeBron ain't that young anymore; he turns 30 in December. The Cavs have to seize that opportunity to win now.

As for how that relates to the Celtics, well, they're still clinging to some shred of hope that Cleveland and Golden State (currently behind Door No. 2) somehow fail to trade for Love, and a beaten-down Flip Saunders finally wheels him to Boston for a half-dozen first-round picks and the usual array of players. Once Love's destination is determined -- providing it isn't Boston -- then the Celtics will get down to business in shaping the roster. Remember, the KG deal didn't happen until the baseball trading deadline in 2007. There's still plenty of time to send Rondo to Sacramento for Ben McLemore and Jason Terry. (Trade machine says yes to this, by the way.)

I must say if Jon Rish and Steve Lyons are the Sox announcing team next year, my Spanish is going to get a lot better. Buenos noches amigos.
-- Guest

Is that you, Jerry? I don't think it will be, though NESN was annoyed that I wrote in my admittedly cryptic appreciate-what-you-have-in-Orsillo column that I actually dared to mention his contract terms. There's mounting evidence that Joseph Maar, the vice president of programming & production/executive producer to the regional manager at NESN, favors the personnel he hired himself. That's certainly his prerogative, and some hires, such as Jamie Erdahl and Gary Striewski, have worked well. But he's alienated baseball broadcast teams at past stops, and I don't think it takes much time watching a Sox broadcast this year to realize that there are too many foolish bells and whistles. It's funny, I hear from viewers who are annoyed at the Orsillo/Remy foolishness from time to time. To me, because of their institutional knowledge and professionalism, they're the ones who prevent it from devolving into even more Wally Waves and all of that.

Did you happen to catch Tanguay's attempted takedown of Rondo last night? Is he one of the most unfairly treated players by the media in the last 20 years? I get that he's difficult for the media. He keeps them there late after games, etc. But all we hear from Rondo is how he trusts Ainge and that he wants to stay in Boston, yet he's treated like some malcontent. Why is this? He's one of the most competitive players the Celtics have had in years, he raises his game in the biggest moments...Boston sports media should embrace him. Why does CSN allow Tanguay to spew such garbage based on what is clearly info he heard from Donny Marshall who got the Ray Allen side of Rondo stories.
-- Mark

I actually didn't see it, but agree with your general thesis. Rondo's intelligence isn't exaggerated -- I've heard Allen was intimidated by it, actually. Ray's obviously a bright guy, but he cultivated the persona of the intellectual renaissance-man basketball player, while Rondo was more legitimately well-rounded and well-read, and they both knew it. Rondo gets a lot of grief for the same reason Bill Belichick does. He knows more than you, knows that he knows more than you, and only shares what he knows when the mood strikes him; he can make you feel dumb, and no one likes feeling that way, though some of us are more used to it than others. Fairly or not, his aloofness -- which is probably also shyness -- works against him. He gets nitpicked for such silly stuff. I mean, there are fans who complain he doesn't play his best against bad teams. Well, you'd prefer the opposite? This is a guy who scored 44 points in a playoff game against the Heat and was the Celtics' best player the last time they played a meaningful game. I'm OK with trading him if they get equal value back in young players, but anyone who says good riddance when that day comes never paid attention in the first place.

CHAD,IF THE SOX TRADED FOR HAMELS AND TRADED LESTER THEY WOULD GET VERY GOOD VALUE EVEN THOUGH HE IS GOING TO BE A FREE AGENT.THEO GOT A LOT FOR MATT GARZA LAST YEAR AND LESTER IS BETTER.
-- BRINX

edwardsCJfinn720.JPGSorry, just don't have it in me to retype in lower case. I don't know that Theo ultimately got a lot. Mike Olt has been inept save for the occasional longball -- he's hitting .144 with 12 homers. C.J. Edwards is a top 100 prospect -- Baseball America had him as high as 28th entering the season -- but he's frail and has pitched just four times this season because of a shoulder scare. Justin Scott Grimm is Just Some Guy. Beyond that, though, you're probably giving up more to pry Hamels (who is due at least four years and $90 million) from Ruben Amaro than you're getting in return for a free-agent-to-be in Lester. Plus, you'd lose the sandwich pick you'd get if he walks. Not really worth it.

Is there a no-compete clause in John Ryder's contract that forbids him from jumping to 98.5 and replacing/joining Adam Jones at night? At some point The Hub's gotta look at that spot and realize that he's a total 360 on personality compared to anyone else on that station, hub-headliners included.
-- Mike

Believer you meant 180 there, but no, don't believe there's a no-compete clause or anything like that. I'm not sure he had a contract, which is why it was easy to let him go. From what I've heard through the grapevine, may be hearing him do some weekend stuff at ESPN soon, sort of like what fellow WEEI refugee Kevin Winter does.

As the Princess Bride quote goes, "We are men of action, lies do not become us." In this spirit: 1) In removing Xander Bogaerts from SS earlier this year, could the Sox have really believed that he could hold the position again in 2015-beyond? 2) Given there is little reason this year to play anything safe, could the Sox decide there is no harm in taking another look anyway?
-- Andy

Great question, Andy. Better movie. I do think the answer is yes in both cases. The Red Sox have a lot more evidence than we have regarding Bogaerts's defense at shortstop. They know the specific details of his progress over the past couple of seasons, they have their internal advanced defensive metrics to put numbers on his defense, they know the work he puts in, they know the pitchers' frustrations, they know how many runs he has saved or has cost them, they know so much more than we do about how he's fared and how he profiles. I think they have a very clear idea of where he will be playing, and if I had to bet, I'd say it's to the right of shortstop. But there's absolutely no harm in putting him back at short now and giving him a little bit more time to accumulate his evidence that shortstop should be his infield residence, to make it a difficult decision to change his position. Now, no more rhyming, I mean it.

Before we get out here -- I'm headed to Fenway today with my dad and daughter, where I will try really hard to be angry and fail miserably -- two quick call-backs to Friday's chat. One reader asked why he can't sync the Red Sox radio broadcast with his TV feed. I didn't know the answer, but here it is from someone with first-hand knowledge of how this works:

The FM band has a delay - AM is essentially "real time" - so there's no ability to hear it live on 93.7 FM.

So there you go. As for our debate, playing off the Middays at MFB theme, on what hypothetically revamped WEEI morning show might be named, I think we have winner.

How about Stearns, Tanguay and Dickerson. "Waking up with STD"
-- GO

Now that's catchy.

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

Oh, see, I thought you said STP.

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