When do you see the Red Sox coming into the playoff picture?
-- Eddie, Waterford
My initial thought as spring training is about to start is theyíre a year away. I reserve the right to change my mind. But as Iíve learned covering baseball since 1984, spring training can be deceiving either way. We get into the habit of writing and observing in what great shape players are in. And usually thatís the norm because theyíve spent the offseason working out so itís silly to base success of a player or a team on what great shape theyíre in. This is an interesting time for John Farrell because heís going from one train wreck in Toronto to another in Boston. This isnít like Terry Francona in 2004 inheriting a team that went to Game 7 of the ALCS then adding Curt Schilling and Keith Foulke and making a blockbuster midseason deal. The players will have to transition to Farrell. New players have to get accustomed to their new surroundings. I just see too many things having to happen for this team to jell enough to be a playoff team.
I have read "Francona: The Red Sox Years'' and think it is as good a baseball tell-all as I have read. Does it match up with what you were aware of the past several years?
-- Bob, Penfield, New York
I was certainly aware of some things and not aware of others. Itís a well-written book. I think I would have loved the outtakes which could be another whole book. We knew thereíd be blasting of the owners, but the book is more than that. Francona took some shots at other people in the game at times. I never agreed with his comment that the owners donít love baseball. In my dealings with them, I think they do.
Any word from the front office about the rumored contract extension for Dustin Pedroia? That story certainly has gone quiet. And do you think keeping the oft-injured Pedroia as the team's "face of the franchise" for years to come is a good idea? At the very least, he is underpaid and deserves a big raise. But for how long?
-- George, Salisbury, Connecticut
This is a great topic. From what I hear thereís still open discussion. Obviously, the Red Sox would extend him for the right price, much as they did when they signed him to his current contract. Is it a good idea to make a second baseman who plays 1,000 miles an hour all the time the ďface of the franchise?Ē For now it is, sure. Itís his team, thereís no doubt about that. Heís taken it over on the field. I resist calling anyone underpaid because he agreed to that contract and he knew at some point in that contract that he might outperform it. Pedroia, with the team option, is signed through 2015. Thatís potentially three more years. Question is, do you really need to do it now?
Now that the Red Sox have signed Lyle Overbay it looks like Ben Cherington thinks the Red Sox have addressed their situation at first base. I think this is a dreadful mistake. I hoped the Red Sox would trade for Justin Smoak, and I am disappointed that Cherington has missed the opportunity to obtain him. He might break out in 2013, and if that were to happen Seattle would not make him available again. I understand the reasoning behind Overbay; I don't agree with it, but I understand it. He gets on base, he's good to give Napoli a day off now and then, he's lefthanded and he can DH to give Papi a day off. Smoak could have done all that as well under the right circumstances, and Smoak is young enough that he might have stuck around long enough to be a big part of the team Cherington is trying to build with the prospects on the horizon. Why not take a chance on someone with some potential to be great?
-- Dan, Felton, Delaware
I donít think itís a huge mistake to sign a veteran player to a minor league deal with the chance to make $1.25 million if he makes the roster. Cherington couldnít find that first baseman of the future quite yet, so why not go with a veteran platoon and buy yourself some time. Maybe they donít think Smoak is the answer. After all, his time in the majors so far hasnít been very good. Sometimes Cherington is accused of not pulling the trigger, but in this case I think heís prudent in waiting for the right guy to come along and going with a pair of veterans, both of whom hit well at Fenway.
Do you think Terry Francona will fit in and adjust nicely to Cleveland, with the players and fans?
-- Ronald, Sherman Oaks, California
I think heíd adjust well anywhere. I just think heíll be frustrated there. Heíll have half the payroll on his roster. He had it good in Boston for a long time Ė unlimited flow of funds. It has to be tough to go somewhere where the financial commitment just isnít there. He may be singing the praises of Bostonís owners before this is over.
Williams, Yaz, Rice, Greenwell, Manny, Crawford ... Jonny Gomes?I am not impressed, Nick. The Red Sox will hit. At least at Fenway, and Gomes is an okay stick. But left field here? Yikes. Overall, do you think the Red Sox can hang with the big boys, or do feel like me that this team is just too iffy?
-- Mike, Milford
They can hang, no doubt about it. I just donít think they have much margin for error and if they start the injury bug thing again, itíll be over quickly for them. Thatís the risk you take with older players. Theyíre definitely bridging toward their youth movement, but breakdowns could be rough on them.
It certainly feels like the Red Sox want to go in a different direction behind the plate. What are they looking for in return for Jarrod Saltalamacchia? What can they realistically expect to be offered for him? I thought Jason Vargas would have been a fair return, but the Mariners chose to flip him for Kendrys Morales.
-- Sonic Boom, Andover
Theyíre probably just looking for a deal for prospects for Salty at this point. Again, I wouldnít be too eager to deal him.