A few random thoughts on the Red Sox on this December day . . .
• A right-handed hitting right fielder wouldn’t hurt. But the Red Sox need not spend a penny more on their offense and it will be fine in 2012.
The Sox had the best offense in the game in 2011. That was with Adrian Gonzalez, Dustin Pedroia, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Kevin Youkilis coming off surgery. Carl Crawford had the worst season of his career and they got terrible production in right field. Mark down the offense for 875-900 runs next season.
• Heard on the radio yesterday that Jarrod Saltalamacchia was a “below average catcher” and “nothing special.” Being a curious guy, that seemed worth checking out.
Salty hit .235/.288/.450 and that doesn’t look very good. But his OPS of .738 was fifth among catchers in the American League with at least 350 at-bats. Only Mike Napoli, Alex Avila, Carlos Santana and Matt Weiters were higher.
Salty’s 16 home runs were eighth in the AL as were his 56 RBIs. So at worst he was an average catcher in the AL if not slightly above average.
Salty hit .182/.212 /.394 over his final 36 games. That was a function, I believe, of his playing more games in the majors than he ever had before in his career. Saltalamacchia played 103 games in 2011, all but three of them behind the plate. His previous career high was 84 games in 2009. He should be better prepared to go the distance in 2012.
• It was interesting during the Winter Meetings to talk to people from ESPN, including Steve Berthiaume, Karl Ravech and John Kruk, and hear what high regard they had for Bobby Valentine as both a person and a baseball man.
That doesn’t necessarily make him a great manager. But those guys spent an awful lot of time with Bobby over the last two years.
• Josh Beckett’s pride has helped make him a great pitcher. Call it arrogance if you want because he does. But where does that line get drawn? According to Valentine, Beckett was “pissed off” about Valentine saying on ESPN that he worked too slowly and let him know it over the phone.
He does work too slowly. Anybody who has watched Beckett knows that he’s better when he’s in a good rhythm and not standing there on the mound playing chicken with the batter over who will call time first. Valentine didn’t dream that up.
That aside, who takes a call from their new manager and lectures him right away?
Beckett was at the center of the clubhouse misconduct that led to Terry Francona leaving the team. But he has so far passed on every opportunity to explain himself. If that day comes, it will likely be in spring training when other matters should be paramount. At this point, he has missed his chance to stand tall like Jon Lester did.
• Still have to believe that some combination of Jed Lowrie, Josh Reddick, Lars Anderson, Luis Exposito and a prospect or two can produce a No. 4 starter.
• Daniel Bard was on NESN’s Hot Stove show on Monday and said “heaven forbid” when Don Orsillo asked whether he could return to the set-up role.
It’s understandable that Bard wants to start because that is where the money is. But the last two seasons have prepared him to be the closer and that is what he should be. Bard has the stuff, the disposition and the experience to do that job. There are far better odds Bard becomes a strong closer than a strong starter.
Then ask yourself this question: Is Bard more valuable to the Red Sox as their closer or as a starter in the back end of the rotation with an innings limit? The Yankees botched up the career of Joba Chamberlain by trying to make him something he was not. The Red Sox should be careful not to make that same mistake with Bard.
• The Sox are filling cracks this winter because of previous expenditures. But if they have one big-money move up their sleeves, could it be for Cuban defector Yoenis Cespedes?
• Why does Ben Cherington get a hard time from Red Sox fans about his relative lack of action and Brian Cashman doesn’t from Yankees fans? The Sox spent a lot of money last year. Hence, they do not have as much to spend this year. It’s not hard to understand. Can we give Ben more than a few weeks before judging him as a GM? Let the guy do his job and see what kind of team takes the field in April.
• It really doesn’t matter who Valentine’s bench coach is. Let’s be honest, does Valentine strike you as somebody who wants a lot of strategic advice? But the Sox need a strong pitching coach. Curt Young was like a substitute teacher last season after John Farrell left.
• Tough call for Jason Varitek. Either he goes to another team as a backup or retires having spent his entire career in the major with the Sox. There is something to be said for retiring with dignity and cementing your legacy in place. But the desire to play can’t be denied.
The Sox are treading lightly, not coming right out and saying the captain is gone but letting their actions talk. There is no easy way to show a player like that the door.
Regardless of what happens next, Varitek will go down as one of the best players in franchise history given his influence on the 2004 and ’07 titles. Plus he gave that clown A-Rod a smack in the face. Any bar worth going to in New England has that photo hanging somewhere.
A few non-baseball thoughts . . .
• The best comedy on TV or radio right now is listening to football “experts” backpedaling after being so wrong about Tim Tebow. Every time he wins, it drives them nuts.
• Vacationing from writing about baseball means going to watch football and I’ll be at the Pats game on Sunday in Denver with my brother in law. We picked the game over the summer and now we’ll see Tebowmania up close. Should be a blast.
• Finished off “The Wire” a few weeks ago. Just tremendous and easily in my top four shows of all-time along with “The Sopranos,” “Friday Night Lights” and “West Wing.” Omar Little has to be one of the best characters in television history.
Any other suggestions? Need something to get through the winter. No BBC, please.
• Saw “Moneyball” finally. It was so full of basic flaws and mistruths that it was hard to buy as entertainment. Did they really expect people to believe that a GM would fly to Cleveland to meet with Mark Shapiro about a relief pitcher? Philip Seymour Hoffman as Art Howe was the worst casting ever.
• My advice to you would be the following: Never buy auto insurance in Massachusetts. Never drive to New Hampshire and let somebody hit you. Never make a claim. Never bring your car to get fixed and never believe a word anybody tells you during that process.
• Saw “Spiderman” on Broadway over the weekend. It’s fun to see, if only because Spiderman literally flies around the theater. But the music was disappointing, especially given that it was done by Bono and The Edge.
• Bruce Springsteen is touring again next year. So if I disappear for a few days during the season, you’ll know why.
• Can college sports start over again? There’s widespread corruption, alleged child molesters hiding behind the prominent coaches, fighting on the basketball court and a bowl system so absurd that it costs some teams money to participate and no true champion is determined.
• Finally, a few fun Twitter feeds for you:
@SteveMartinToGo is the actual comedian and he’s still really funny.
@richarddeitsch is a Sports Illustrated writer with varied interests who always links to stories worth reading.
@the_ironsheik is the former wrestling great. He’s amazingly profane and so, so wrong. But you’ll laugh.
@chrissyteigen is a swimsuit model with a wicked sense of humor. Plus photos.
I’m on Twitter at @PeteAbe.