Ask Nick: Is something wrong with Gonzalez?

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The Red Sox continue to be plagued with injuries as Kevin Youkilis heads to the disabled list. By my count, the Red Sox have $77, 224,000 worth of major league talent on the disabled list:

Here are some rounded-off individual figures:
Carl Crawford – $19.5M
John Lackey – $15.25M
Kevin Youkilis – $12M
Daisuke Matsuzaka ? $10M
Jacoby Ellsbury – $8.05M
Bobby Jenks – $6M
Andrew Bailey – $3.90M
Andrew Miller – $1.04M
Jason Repko – $600,000
Ryan Kalish – $483,000
Chris Carpenter – $482,000

So not exactly the easiest start health-wise for the Red Sox, who changed their medical and training staff in the offseason.

A few other observations:

* Adrian Gonzalez is struggling and we all know he will hit. Just wish he would run hard on a ground ball now and then. Big Papi does.


* My apologies to a reader, Reed from Chico, Calif., He made an observation a couple of weeks back:

“Ownership and upper management do the hiring, firing and most importantly, the signing of players and hiring staff members. So I don’t want to hear that it’s all Bobby Valentine’s fault or just the player’s fault. Thoughts?”

And I responded: “Bobby Valentine was the right hire. This is his 16th season as a manager in the major leagues. You don’t last that long being a bad manager. It’s incredible to me how unfair people like yourself are toward him. It’s 15 games in and you’ve made up your mind. Amazing.”

Obviously, Reed was on my side of the issue. Sorry, Reed.

* It was great working with Don Orsillo on a few of the NESN broadcasts last week with Jerry Remy out sick. Don’t tell him, but he’s really good. We wish Jerry a speedy recovery. He is missed.

* The Orioles come to town and I must say, Dan Duquette has done a terrific job putting that team together, particularly in the bullpen.

* I have received plenty of e-mails regarding my Sunday Baseball Notes column being on the new pay site and no longer on the free site. Content rules are evolving for what’s free on and what will be subscription-only on Senior executives here decided that certain premium sports content should be available only to subscribers. Typically, stories that revolve around individual games will be free. All the work writers here do beyond that — profiles, Globe columnists, notes, major features, etc. — will not be. Advertising just doesn’t pay the full cost of news coverage. So, unsurprisingly, I encourage you to subscribe and get the Globe’s full sports coverage.


Here’s this week’s mailbag:

Am I wrong in thinking that something may be wrong with Adrian Gonzalez? He has dropped more than 40 points in average. The last time I saw him hit a fly ball to anyone was a pop-up to short left field. He doesn’t look comfortable at the plate and is doing a lot of swinging and missing. Please don’t put it all on the weather. Remember it’s not warm in October.
Paul, Waterford, Conn.

Something is amiss with his swing. It doesn’t appear there’s anything wrong with his surgically repaired shoulder. Valentine said he looks mentally tired. That sounds right to me.

I’m interested in the logic behind the following: If a batter hits a foul ball and it is caught, he’s out? except if he fouls tips the ball into the catcher’s mitt on strikes one or two, then it’s simply a strike. But on strike three a foul tip into the catchers mitt he’s out. Why isn’t the rule that a fouled ball which is caught (at any time) is an out?
John, Atlanta
I agree. No logic to it. It’s one of my pet peeves along with defensive indifference.

A couple times in the last week or so, I have seen an opponent slide into second base on a double play that was far away from the bag — not even close. In one instance, Mike Aviles really could have been hurt. Why aren’t these umpires calling interference? Should Bobby V or somebody say something?
Dave, Mattapoisett

Nobody says anything because it goes for both teams. Pedroia slides hard into second as well. A few Red Sox do. They wouldn’t want to take that away as an advantage.


What is Lars Andersons’ role on this team? It seems like Bobby Valentine is putting too much faith in this guy, especially by allowing him to pinch-hit late in games. Are they trying to showcase him as trade bait?
Harold, Boston

Obviously Lars is back down to Pawtucket. They’re trying to find some use for him. Valentine liked his bat in spring training and they’re trying to force him to be an outfielder so they can utilize him. He appears to be trade bait. Obviously last season he was dealt to Oakland for Rich Harden and the deal fell through. They’ve been waiting for Lars’s power to emerge and there were signs of that in spring training.

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Why are Kelly Shoppach, Nick Punto, and Darnell McDonald all in the lineup on the same night? They are three weak outs in most games, and with our bullpen on shaky ground, we need our strongest bats in the lineup every night these days. I can see plugging a guy in here or there to give a regular player a day off, but I don’t understand why Valentine has all three of these guys playing in the same game.
Tod, Kennebunk, Maine
McDonald and Shoppach usually hit lefties well. I know at times they don’t. But they’re going by matchups, and they feel this is most advantageous.

For the love of Kennesaw Mountain Landis, Nick, I’ve heard you multiple times on television say “Dodger Stadium is the second oldest venue in baseball”. Will you please correct this? I count Wrigley Field and Fenway Park as slightly older venues.
Brent, Canton
You’re absolutely right. It’s obviously the third oldest stadium. I stand corrected.

If Clay Buchholz continues to struggle, is there any chance he could be sent to Pawtucket to work things out?
Ken, Providence, RI
I see nothing wrong with sending Buchholz down, but the team won’t do it. I will say this, with Aaron Cook around, I think it creates a real competitive situation among the five starters. I think guys have to pitch well to stay in the rotation. And when Dice-K returns at the end of May, they have another big dilemma.

How is the Marlon Byrd/Vincent Padilla reunion going? Big hugs I’m sure.
David, Louisville, Ky.
There was a hug, actually. Seems fine.

Just spent the weekend freezing in Chicago, but the Red Sox wins dulled the cold. I sat along the third base line and watched Kevin Youkilis closely. He seems old and slow. Was it just my frostbitten brain or has Youk’s range drastically fallen off?
Mike, Madson, Ala.
Just think his back was killing him. Hard to move around when your back hurts.

I read that Claudia Williams sold all 800 of her father’s personal belongings at Fenway Park. How can you have a Ted Williams Museum if she took out all of his stuff? It sounds like she even sold his toothbrush. I recognize most of these items being sold, including the Babe Ruth baseball, from the museum.
Todd, Fort Myers, Fla.
Sounds like there’s a lot left where that came from. There’s a still a museum at Tropicana Field.

What happens to the pitching staff once Cook and Matsuzaka are called up? Will Cook be OK with going to the bullpen? He’s been lights-out starting in Pawtucket. Our two best starters so far have been Doubront and Bard. Do you move those guys, or do you move one of your supposed aces: Lester, Becket, or Buchholz?
Paul, Rutland, Vt.
Guess Cook will have to be a spot starter and used when a pitcher needs an extra day. They’ll go with six-man rotations temporarily. Doubront could go to the bullpen when Dice-K returns. He’s out of options, so they won’t lose him on waivers.

Did the Sox purchase an insurance waiver on the Carl Crawford contract for the $142 million? I have heard in the past long-term contracts were insured against injury or failure to deliver on the contract.
Bernie, Belmont
Insurance information is the toughest to obtain, but I’m told parts of the bigger contracts are insured. Usually, the entire contract is not insured because the cost is prohibitive. In Crawford’s case, I have no idea what part is insured and what isn’t.

Which player will have a better offensive year: Carl Crawford or Johnny Damon?
Kyle, South Burlington, Vt.
Great question. I have no idea when Crawford is coming back. Could be up to three months. I’m going to say Damon. I reserve the right to change my mind.

I just read of the passing of Moose Skowron. I loved that guy for his toughness and his love of baseball. I didn’t see it mentioned, but wasn’t he one of the original players who came up with the idea of using the “donut” in warmup circle instead of swinging two or three bats?
Mikey, Dedham
It’s funny how certain players are associated with certain things. Jim Kaat, for instance, invented the slide step for pitchers. I’m not old enough to have watched Skowron, but just got to know him over the years and he was a gentle giant. Tough as nails on the field, but so mellow and generous off it.

Do MLB contracts have provisions for long term injured players? Is Carl Crawford receiving his full salary all this time on the DL? And, in general, if a player receives a career ending injury early in a contract or a long term injury lasting several seasons, does he still receive his full salary?
Dave, Richmond, Va.
Long-term deals are guaranteed. Crawford receives every nickel. Players who sign five year deals and are injured all five years get their money as long as they don’t retire. Sometimes the sides will reach a settlement in that situation.

As much as I love Jon Lester, his starts have always had inconsistent results. Do you think its time for the Red Sox to trade him?
Michelle, Holbrook
I don’t think I’d trade him. He’s a top-tier pitcher who earns a reasonable salary. He’s not breaking the bank. Tough to find someone comparable for the money.

Why are we not hearing about Ryan Kalish? What is the time table for his return?
Vaughan, Frankfort, Maine
I always hear sometime in June on Ryan. He’ll have to work his back slowly, so I’m guessing he’s in the minors most of the year after he comes back.

I keep hearing from fans and the media that Bard should be the closer. He has been a very good setup man, but in ?09, out of four save opportunities, he only saved one. In 2010, he had three saves out of 10 chances and in 2011 he was 1-for-6. That’s only five saves in 20 save opportunities in three years. In a whole year, that would equal about 30 blown saves. Am I missing something here?
Roger, Exeter, N.H.
The numbers don’t lie, true, but there’s just a feeling if he had the job, he’d do very well with it. I think Alfredo Aceves’s recent success has quieted that talk a bit, but the bullpen would look pretty tough with Bard in it.

What would be the benefits of releasing Carl Crawford as it would relate to the “cap hit” he would have. I know the NFL has a system that favors teams over players after a player is let go. So, how much, if anything would the Sox save by letting Crawford go, as opposed to keeping him on the DL.
Cmdrflake, Mudville
No cap in baseball. If they release him they eat the remainder of the $142 million on his contract. Don’t think that will happen. Wrong sport.

There is a blond gentleman that sits in the front row behind home plate of nearly every Red Sox home game. I think I saw him on a Red Sox commercial once. Is he a scout for the team?
Mark, Presque Isle, Maine
Probably my good friend Dennis Drinkwater, owner of Giant Glass. He has season tickets in front.

Fans have been quick to drop Kevin Youkilis in favor of Middlebrooks (who, admittedly looks brilliant, but has had few at-bats at the higher levels of the minors), but I don’t hear much about Ryan Lavarnway. Here is a player who does have plenty of at-bats and success at the upper levels of the minors and is clearly ready to move up.
Ben, Phoenix, Ariz.
I agree with you on Lavarnway. He should be up. I think sometimes you waste good performances in Triple-A, and I think the Red Sox are wasting Lavarnway’s ability.

Don’t you think there was something missing at Fenway Park on the 100th anniversary? I understand that Babe Ruth, Cy Young, Tris Speaker, Jimmy Collins, and Harry Hooper never wore numbers when they played for the Sox, but these players all won World Series in Red Sox uniforms and were elected into the Hall of Fame. Yet there is zero recognition of their feats and legacy with the Red Sox or at Fenway Park. Not having a number to retire is not an insurmountable obstacle. In this day and age of no loyalty between players and owners, having a self-imposed barrier such as years of service to the team as a qualifier for memorializing a player is just dumb. I know there are other larger and more controversial issues at Fenway these days, but this just bugs me. If the owners are really trying to cash in on the Fenway nostalgia they’re missing a huge opportunity to show how deep Red Sox lore really goes. I’m talking about Babe Ruth and Cy Young. Their names are synonymous with hitting and pitching greatness. I say the owners should set out to raise some tribute to each of these players as a pre-game ceremony during several games this year. It would be easy, just hang a facsimile of their HOF plaque on the facade next to the retired numbers.
Joe, Hudson
Well done. I will let your note stand on its own. Hopefully someone in the right spot on Yawkey Way takes note of the great points you made.

With all of the trouble in the bullpen and the reluctance to remove Bard as a starter, why not go after the Brewers’ Francisco Rodriguez? Outside of his personal issues I think he would be worth kicking the tires on at least.
Jeremy, Columbia, S.C.
Haven’t spoken to Doug Melvin lately, but I don’t think they would entertain trading him. Melvin is very big on having bullpen depth and even if he struggles now and then, Melvin believes Frankie has a track record and he’ll be dependable when it counts.

Why is Daniel Bard allowed to decide if he goes back into the bullpen for now? Lots of guys wanted jobs as starters this spring and some of them are in the bullpen. Bard is in a position to really help his team by doing something he’s proven that he can do very, very well but he’s talking as if he’ll only do it on a temporary basis. Why is management letting this be his decision? Isn’t it management’s job to decide these things?
Regina, Jefferson
Wish I knew, but nowadays players have a lot of power. They probably don’t want to make Bard uncomfortable by going back to the pen because he clearly doesn’t want to. He’s shown enough as a starter — though he didn’t pitch that well Wednesday night vs. Oakland — to show that he is a good starter.

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