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He's got mail

Posted by Chad Finn, Globe Staff  July 20, 2009 01:49 PM

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Mail has been piling up over the last few months. Comments, too. Probably about time to start sifting through the mountain . . .

Why does everyone call Theo "The Boy Wonder?’’ He should be "The Boy Blunder." Cases in point: 1. Freddy Sanchez for Jeff Suppan. 2. Bard and Meredith for Mirabelli. 3. Edgar Renteria. 4. Not re-signing Alex Gonzalez. 5. Signing J.D. (Nancy) Drew. 6. Signing Julio Lugo. Need I go on? Eric Gagne anyone? He has had more misses by far than hits. We would not have Beckett and Lowell if he wasn't pouting for a spell either. The series in Toronto has proven even more that we need a bat. Let's see what transpires between now and the 31st. The Yankees and the Rays are coming and we are not ready, not by a long shot.
- Russ

A: Russ, Legitimate criticisms there for sure. Epstein’s career hasn’t been perfect by any means, but we could say that about any executive in the game. Heck, you might even add in the fact that, under Epstein, the Red Sox tried to get rid of Manny Ramirez (more than once) and had David Ortiz playing behind Jeremy Giambi. Still, any executive is best critiqued in the aggregate -- and the Sox have won during Epstein’s tenure. That is always the bottom line. If we wanted to compile a list of his best moves here -- Ortiz, Jason Bay, the entire farm system -- we could make an equally compelling argument that he has been nothing short of brilliant. On the whole, he comes out ahead.

I recall that the Red Sox have an out (so to speak) with J.D. Drew's contract. Is this true? If so, do you think that they will exercise it? Thank you for your time and consideration.
- Fred

A: The Red Sox do indeed have an "escape" from Drew’s contract, but it only applies if he has a specific shoulder injury related to a pre-existing ailment he had before the deal. At the moment, there is no indication that Drew is suffering from a shoulder problem, so he should be here through 2011.

A question regarding Buchholz's recent outing. On his second pitch of the game he shook off Varitek's sign. I found it odd that he and Jason were not on the same page from the very first batter. Doesn't Vartitek, and all MLB catchers, formulate a game plan with the starting pitcher similar to an NFL's first 20 plays on offense?
- Jeff

A: Jeff, the pitcher and catcher do not "script" the first 20 pitches of the game. While they do devise a plan, the pitcher always has the right to shake and there may be more than one option at any given time. For example, against a lefty, if the idea was to pitch away, Buchholz might have chosen between a two-seam fastball and a changeup. I also find it a little odd that Buchholz was shaking that early, but let’s not read into it too much yet. Still, part of his problem last season was that he shook off way too much.

Joe Maddon to be booed mercilessly next time he visits Boston for not pitching Wake [in the All-Star Game]?
- Paul

A: Was a little surprised to see people grow so adamant about this issue given the factors now in play. Last season, Terry Francona nearly ran out of pitchers in an extra-inning game ultimately won by the AL. Before the game, Maddon informed Wakefield that he would be the emergency pitcher in an extra-inning game, which means Wakefield was the last line of defense. If Wakefield was OK with this, shouldn’t we all be? Also, remember that Maddon picked him to the team in the first place. He didn’t have to do that as there were other worthy pitchers, too.

I was at the Sox game recently for Nomar's return and it got me thinking about his talent compared to this team's current roster. As the Sox are constituted now, would you say there is no one player as talented as Nomar was from 1997-2000? I look at the positional players the team has now and, from top to bottom, there is greater overall depth than any of the teams Duquette pieced together, but no one individual stands out in overall ability like Garciaparra. No?
- Brian

A: Hadn’t given this thought, but you’re probably right. Of course, if you were to compare the Garciaparra of 1997-2000 to any play, you’d probably be hard-pressed to find anyone with the same resume. During that four-year period, Garciaparra was probably as good as any player in Red Sox history, including Ted Williams. Back then, we all believed he was headed for the Hall of Fame.

I know Aaron Bates had been ripping it up in the minors, but do you think Lars Anderson [was] passed over here? Or is Bates simply having a better year? Or maybe it is a righty bat versus a lefty tonight?
- Steve

A: At the time, the righty bat was certainly more important. Beyond that, Anderson hasn’t had a great season and the Sox are not necessarily into rewarding players who are struggling. Anderson still figures into their plans, but Bates was the better at the time. More than anything, the move indicated that the Red Sox were banged up and a little desperate with both Mike Lowell and Jeff Bailey (among others) on the disabled list.

To my knowledge, there are two issues that neither your column nor any other column/article has addressed in regards to Nomar Garciaparra. First, what is Garciaparra's side to the story of what happened with the Red Sox? Second, what happened to Garciaparra the All-Star performer after he left the Red Sox? It is astonishing, baffling, incomprehensible that answers to these questions have not been forthcoming, especially given that he was such a great player for the Red Sox and that he was well-nigh worshipped by the fans of the Red Sox. In short, whaaaaaaat happened? I ask as a fan and writer for a half century.
- Robert Kelley

A: I wish I could tell you we had a simple answer for this, but we don’t. Of course, in kind of breakup like this -- and there have been many in Red Sox history -- the he-said, she-said aspect only clouds the issue. The truth ends up somewhere in between. Garciaparra answered some of these questions during his visit, but I think, ultimately, he erred in failing to accept the Red Sox’ contract offer. He was much younger when he was here, too. His career after Boston deteriorated quickly largely as the result of injuries, and I suspect that maturity and failure have led him to understand that he could have handled things much better here. He probably didn’t understand or appreciate what he had here, but then, Boston was a different place at that time, too.

I just witnessed this 11-10 travesty [at Baltimore last month]. Before you have a field day with this one, can you please print in your next column, if for no other reason than to bring it into the light, what the combined pitcher's stats are when Jason Varitek is catching as compared to when anyone else is catching for the calendar year 2009.
- Rick

A: Wasn’t able to break this down pitcher-by-pitcher, but I did look it Taking Tim Wakefield out of the mix -- after all, he has worked exclusively with Kottaras -- the rest of the Red Sox pitchers have a 3.75 ERA with Varitek behind the plate, a 5.69 ERA with Kottaras behind the plate. Yes, that’s a big difference, but it also skewed by the Baltimore disaster. Take away that one game and Kottaras’s number with rest of the staff drops to 4.98.

You only wrote what Sox brass would like to hear: That Ortiz can't play in the field. I've seen Ortiz use the glove. He's flashy and certainly would have been the first baseman if given the chance. But, there was a ton of money involved because of his superman batting. So, not to pay him added millions they made him the permanent DH. And you rip Ortiz in your column. Pointing out his misplays. Why don't you point out that he didn't play in the field until interleague play. Ortiz is too nice a guy for the likes of Theo and sportswriters who say what Sox brass want to read in the Globe.
- Bill

A: In all honesty, that particular column was meant to be a playful look at his time in the field -- something even Ortiz laughed about. I disagree with your assessment that he is a "flashy" fielder, and the Red Sox would lose a great deal of range if Ortiz were at first base instead of Kevin Youkilis. Remember the play Youkilis made last postseason, sprawling into short right field and throwing out a runner at third? Ortiz isn’t the only first baseman in the game who would fail to make that play; Youkilis might be among a handful who could. Trust me: Nobody likes Ortiz more than me. But he’s a better DH than he is a first baseman.

Let the Yankees sign Bay and Halladay and all the rest -- it’s a mockery that teams like Minnesota and Pittsburgh get drained of players they brought up. I’m getting tired of the major leagues and spending sprees. Bring back the days when any team could possibly win. I know we are Boston and we spend almost as much but hey, let’s develop talent then sign them for millions rather than go to the baseball mall and sign them for millions for what they did for their "previous" teams!!!

- Kevin

A: Why does it have to be one or the other? Why can’t you develop some players and sign others? I really do believe that baseball has trimmed the gap between the haves and have-nots. By the way, have you looked at the NBA recently? The biggest moves this offseason were made by the Cavs (Shaq), Magic (Vince Carter), Lakers (Ron Artest) and Celtics (Rasheed Wallace). Sounds to me like the rich are getting richer there, too -- and the NBA has more salary restrictions than baseball does.

Sometimes your pieces are ridiculous. Are you really advocating to bring Javier Lopez back? I'm surprised you made it through an entire piece without pining for Mark Teixeira.
- dbb

A: I wasn’t pining for Lopez’s return so much as I was suggesting that the Red Sox could probably use another lefty in the bullpen -- and that they might be able to add that via a minor-league call-up after Sept. 1. As for the Teixeira pursuit, I think the Red Sox got careless at the end of the negotiation. If they lose Bay this offseason, I suspect people will start to understand the true impact of failing to get him.

I keep seeing the Teixeira negotiations referred to as a failure. Why? It's not as if they forgot to mail him his offer or sent it to the wrong address. They didn't "fail" -- they just chose not to offer as much as the Yankees did. If they wanted to offer more than the Yankees, they could have, but they made the decision that he wasn't worth that much money. Again, it was not a failure, it was a decision.
- Chris

A: This is probably semantics, but I disagree. I thought the Red Sox had a chance to close the deal when they visited with Teixeira in Texas – and they failed to do so. They wanted the guy. They didn’t get him. To me, that’s a failure. We can’t sugar-coat everything. Should we start calling sudden-death games sudden-victory because it sounds better, like they do in high school sports? Thanks for the note.

A starting five to match up with any in history?! Oh please. Obviously, every one of the "Big 4 " is on the downside of their careers. These guys will be sucking wind and have tired legs as the season progresses and be out of gas come playoff time.
- Joseph

A: You could be right about that. I was merely trying to suggest that the Celtics’ five best players this season could rank smonb the greatest units of all-time. No one suggested they were better than Bird, McHale, Parish, Ainge and Johnson, though there is the possibility that this group (Wallace, Rondo, Pierce, Garnett, Allen) will have two (Garnett, Pierce) and possibly three (Allen) Hall of Famers. That’s a lot of talent.

I'd love to know why Tony thinks Theo wouldn't have made the Beckett trade. Everything I remember reading during that time frame implied or outright said that while Theo may not have been technically employed he was still an influence on the guys who were there. It seems revisionist history to suddenly say now that he wouldn't make that deal just because it furthers your point that Theo never trades prospects.
- Nate

A: I wish I could give you precise details for my reasoning - unfortunately, I can’t. (Rather, I won’t.) However, if you choose, you’ll just have to trust me on this one. I spoke with many people at the time of the trade and remain 100 percent certain that Epstein was among those who argued against the deal. You can believe that or not. Thanks for the note.

The idea that stolen bases are the same as extra bases from hits is pretty silly. First of all, if a player hits a double they not only get an extra base themselves, but they allow other baserunners to advance farther (which a stolen base, obviously, does not). Secondly, if you are going to credit a player with extra bases for successful steal attempts, don't you have to at least debit them for the times they get caught? And since every reasonable person who has ever looked at this has concluded that a CS is more damaging than a SB is helpful, wouldn't the penalty have to be pretty stiff?
- Ted

A: You weren’t the only person to comment on this topic, and many of the criticisms were spot-on. Obviously, a stolen base does not carry the same weight as an extra-base hit. My point, however, is that measuring a player like Ellsbury with OPS is not fair because he accounts for many of his bases with his speed -- singles become doubles, etc. To me, this improves his value considerably. I was merely trying to offer some way to quantify that.

Tony's Top 5

Favorite blog entries

The final chapter on Teixeira and How Red Sox pitchers work the strike zone Jan. 7, 2009 and July 17, 2009. Some actual reporting – an obsession with Mark Teixeira and the art of pitching.
For 2011 Red Sox, there was plenty of blame to go around Oct. 1, 2011. The disgraceful collapse of the Red Sox stoked the fire in all of us.
Behind Garnett and James, Celtics and Heat are digging in June 4, 2012. Improbably, the Celtics pushed the Heat to the limit.
Thrill is back for Patriots Jan. 30, 2012. Another Super Bowl has even Bill Belichick musing.
You’ve got to believe June 15, 2011. On the morning of Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals, we all had reason to believe.
Updated: Mar 1, 07:24 AM

About Mazz

Tony Massarotti is a Globe sportswriter and has been writing about sports in Boston for the last 19 years. A lifelong Bostonian, Massarotti graduated from Waltham High School and Tufts University. He was voted the Massachusetts Sportswriter of the Year by his peers in 2000 and 2008 and has been a finalist for the award on several other occasions. This blog won a 2008 EPpy award for "Best Sports Blog".

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