Realized the other day that it's been about three years since I last pulled together a mailbag. Not sure why I got away from it -- they're always fun to do, and I'm inexcusably awful at staying on top of email these days, so I figure this is a good way to catch up on some of it. Other questions arrived via Twitter as well as outtakes from the Friday chat. We'll do another one before 2016, I promise. In the meantime, let's get to it, and keep the questions coming ...
Beyond the fact that it is creepy do you have a problem with sportswriters jumping all over themselves to document the increase in body mass of Bryce Harper and Mike Trout? I get that it is a "story" in the sense that these are two of the biggest stars in baseball, but at the same time if these writers were reading stories written in this manner that were published back in 1998 there would be a chorus of "we should have known betters". Are "BEST SHAPE OF THEIR CAREER" stories really that enticing? Or just that easy? -- Neil (DC)
"Best shape of their career" is of course one of the great recurring cliches of spring training, at least unless you're talking about Felix Doubront, aka Southpaw Guapo. The guys at "Hardball Talk'' especially have a great bit of fun with that particular spring-training narrative, and it's understandable, but in the case of Trout in particular, it's actually a worthwhile storyline. He came in at 241 pounds, which is huge given that he's a rangy center fielder and one of the most electric and efficient basestealers we've ever seen. For someone coming off a historically brilliant rookie season, it's a bit jarring to see him make such a drastic change to his physique. His first year was so incredible that it's a reasonable to ask whether he will ever have a better one. If he slips a bit this year -- and as Baseball Prospectus's Ben Lindbergh writes today, it's reasonable to expect that he will -- there will be questions about his offseason workout regimen, whether that's fair or not.
Chad, the likelihood of all the things you say in your Unconventional Preview column today that need to happen for the Red Sox to be a winning team actually happening is remote. Like winning the lottery remote.
-- Your Name
Sure. But I don't think all of those things -- everyone staying healthy, the Victorino/Napoli/Drew newbies bouncing back, Buchholz and Lester thriving -- will happen. But I think it's reasonable to expect that, oh, half of it does. And if Lester finds his old form but Buchholz can't stay healthy, Victorino hits like he did in '11 while Napoli needs a walker by midseason, Ellsbury is an MVP candidate while Papi gets hurt, that sort of split -- they still have a chance to be pretty good.Everything went wrong last year. They won 18 of their final 60 games. They lacked more than talent. They lacked competence. They will be much better in both regards this season.
Hope you're right with your prediction of 87 wins [for the Red Sox]. Maybe it's the pre-2004 in me popping up, but I'm not so optimistic. I'm old and old-school when it comes to baseball, and a shortstop who can save 50 runs a year really appeals to me. I should not judge Stephen by J.D., but I drew my conclusions by watching the former No. 7 and having him on a few Rotisserie teams. Except for the grand slam [in the 2007 ALCS against the Indians], of course, almost as big a hit as David Ortiz's homer in the first inning of Game 7 vs. the Yankees.
-- Peter S.
If Iglesias saves 50 runs over the course of a season, he will be the greatest defensive shortstop in the history of baseball, bar none. Brendan Ryan -- a decent comp for what Iglesias might ultimately become -- led the majors in Defensive Runs Saved by a shortstop last year ... with 27. Iglesias's sensational defense simply will not compensate for his wet noodle bat at this point. Give Drew a chance. If his ankle is right, he'll be capable at shortstop and an asset in the lineup.
I agree with your feelings on a trade involving either Paul Pierce or Kevin Garnett for guys with questionable attitudes. It's just incredibly frustrating as a Celtics fan to see this team continue to fail to get a decent true center. Garnett doesn't count. He's told you he's really a 4; and at age 36 I think he might collapse from exhaustion banging around at the 5, basically by himself. I like Danny Ainge, but am I crazy to say he has completely failed in this regard? The best center we've had since Perk has been a 39-year-old Shaq. Is it really that hard?
-- Bob P.
You know ... it kind of is that hard. The results haven't been great, but given how challenging it is to fill in a roster already dotted with highly-compensated stars, I have no problem with the process. Trying to wring a little more high-quality play out of Shaq, Rasheed Wallace, and even Jermaine O'Neal as complementary players to the Garnett-Pierce-Allen-Rondo core made a lot of sense. It was something Red would have done, and did, with players like Pete Maravich, Bill Walton, Scott Wedman, or the Lakers with a guy like Bob McAdoo. It just didn't happen to work, but because it's so difficult to find a decent big man -- I mean, Michael Olowakandi was a No. 1 overall pick, Todd Fuller went ahead of Kobe Bryant, and on and on -- that it seems the best way to go is to take that risk on a player who actually has accomplished some things.
No longer sold that Jose Iglesias is the shorttop of the future. He is more likely the next Rey Ordonez. I say let Drew man the job until Xander Bogaerts is ready, because he is the SS of the future. Or until they convert Will Middlebrooks to 1B and Bogaerts to 3B, when Deven Marerro is ready at SS. Either way, Iglesias is not the answer. If he can't hit AAA pitching after 2 years, he's a lost cause.
-- Peter G.
I don't know that he's a lost cause. While comparing him to Ozzie Smith or Alan Trammell at the same age, as his defenders have done, simply does not work (Ozzie was in the majors after one minor league season, and Trammell hit .300 at age 22 in his third full season). And anyone who thinks being the next Rey Ordonez is a compliment was familiar with him only from Web Gems. He had a .600 OPS in the majors -- miserable, and yet better than Iglesias's in Triple A after two years. I suppose there's a glimmer of hope in the Omar Vizquel comps -- he had just a .598 OPS in Triple A. But the hunch here is he gets passed by Bogaerts, and with Deven Marrero getting a chance to advance quickly, it's now or never for Iglesias with the Red Sox.
Given the media's recent (last two seasons) predictions of grandeur, why exactly should The Nation listen now that they predict A Bridge To Nowhere?
Depends who you're listening to in the media. Lot of reasonable voices out there who explain their thinking -- PeteAbe, Gordon Edes, Alex Speier, and many others. I try to be among them. The "Best Team Ever'' stuff is the work of headline writers trying to get you to buy the paper. Be discerning in who you read and who you believe. Also, read and believe me, always.
I enjoy your coverage of the radio wars. While I listen to both stations the question I have is why is Jason Wolfe not taking a huge hit for WEEI?s troubles? A lot of this is on him and his decisions.
-- Howard F.
Been getting this question a lot lately, for obvious reasons. Jason played a huge role in WEEI's success, and also contributed to the institutional arrogance that put them into their current position. But I think he is taking a huge hit -- he had to fire Glenn Ordway, someone with whom he had a long, successful, lucrative run, and presumably someone who is a good friend. That couldn't have been easy, and it won't be his last difficult task. If he does survive this, and I actually believe he should, some of the burden should be off him. These recent decisions are on Jeff Brown, Entercom Boston's VP market manager and Jason's boss, and if they don't work beyond saving a few bucks, he deserves as much heat as Jason is receiving.
When I look back on Celts after 1st Big 3, I see Len Bias, Reggie Lewis and a bum lottery ping-pong ball. Can't the Celts hope for better draft luck next time around?
It's certainly overdue -- perhaps sending someone other than M.L. Carr and his lousy just-tanked-for-this-chance karma would be a better idea this time. (Who was the lottery rep in the Greg Oden/Kevin Durant year? It was Wyc, right?) Sheesh, the first time around they weren't even lucky enough to get Keith Van-Bleepin' Horn. But the history of the post-Big Three Celtics is often retold without enough of an emphasis on Reggie Lewis's death. Len Bias was incredible, but given how many players in that '86 draft washed out because of drugs, who's to say that wouldn't have been his fate had he survived past the night after the draft? Reggie, though ... we already knew what we had and what he could be. It didn't go straight from Larry Bird to Dominique Wilkins, you know? Also: Ainge would have totally taken Durant.
Gun to your head, which game 7 are you taking back; Lakers in 2010 or Miami last year? Banner 18 or the chance to say you beat the team nobody said you could beat and that pill LeBron doesnt have a ring. I think I'm taking Miami. Thoughts?
Lakers. No doubt. None. If Perk had been healthy ... if Doc had given Nate Robinson a few extra minutes ... If Artest's cheap-shot on Ray Allen earlier in the series hadn't mess up his quad ... If Sheed didn't run out of gas ... If Artest's heave doesn't drop ...If KG didn't get out-rebounded by 15 by Pau Gasol, and yes, I feel horrible for bringing it up ... those are the ifs you've got to live with. LeBron? I have the utmost respect for the way he plays the game. Game 6 was the pivotal performance of his career, and in retrospect, it's starting to feel inevitable. Plus, that Celtics team overachieved.
RANDOM LaSCHELLE TARVER INTERLUDE
END OF RANDOM LaSCHELLE TARVER INTERLUDE
Are you still convinced the Sox are going to trade Andrew Bailey? I never understood your logic. He was hurt most of last year, and had 7.04 ERA. Talk about selling low.
Not so much, in part because there will probably be attrition, and also because I haven't heard a peep about him wanting to close elsewhere. (Doesn't hurt that Bruce Rondon is hitting 100 miles per hour in Tigers camp, either.) But it still wouldn't completely surprise me -- there were rumors he was headed to Toronto as compensation for John Farrell before it ended up being Mike Aviles.
The Aaron Hernandez deal seemed smart at the time. It was the exact thing they didn't do with other guys (Vince Wilfork, Logan Mankins) that eventually got them into trouble. Doing Rob Gronkowski deal early certainly seemed smart too.
But did they swing too much to the other guardrail with Hernandez? Especially after they already locked up Gronkowski? Should they have waited for it to play out with Hernandez?
If they didn't do Hernandez deal early, he would be going into the last year of his rookie deal this year, at chump change.
What they gave him is more total dollars than it would take to keep Welker at this point, and the $16 million guaranteed dollars Hernandez got is probably in spitting distance of the guaranteed dollars Welker would want at this point. Same for the $8 million a year Hernandez is getting.
Anyway if you had to have one guy next year, Welker or Hernandez who would it be? in my opinion, hands down, Welker.
Interesting take. Hernandez is so talented and versatile, but he's lost some luster because of his struggles to stay on the field and his inconsistency in big games. (Is that fair? I think that's fair.) But given the choice right now, I take Hernandez without a second thought. He's just 23, and his best days should be ahead. No matter where Welker signs or the amount he signs for, at 32, there's no denying he'll be getting paid for past performance rather than what he is likely to be. Welker should have a couple more highly productive seasons ahead. I hope the Pats keep him. But forced to make a choice between one or the other, there's not really a choice at all.
Ever wonder what your demographic is for the chat? Might be interesting to put that up as a question (ie, are you 18-34, 34-50, etc.) Might be risky for you though. :)
Tend to think my demo is roughly my age group or younger, extraordinarily handsome, and generally much smarter than me. I suspect there's pretty decent demographic appeal there than, say, what you'd find in the comments section of a Bleacher Report slideshow.
I can't be the only one who thinks that Big Papi plays in less than 81 games this year.
Beginning to think the same way, Jackie. He's 37, admitted recently that there was a partial tear in the Achilles' has played one game since last July 16, and doesn't exactly look like he was addicted to cardio (for understandable reasons) this offseason. He was great when healthy last year, but it's hard to fathom right now that he has 150 games or so ahead of him this year.
Meh. He did hit 32 homers last year, but he's redundant with Gomes. Maybe if he hit lefthanded. Actually wonder if he ends up with the Yankees since Curtis Granderson is out for a couple of months. Brian Cashman has denied it, which sometimes foreshadows it actually happening. By the way, I refuse to believe Soriano is 37. I still think of him as the young fella in the Yankees lineup who couldn't hit Pedro's breaking ball even if he had one of those giant red plastic bats.
How do you see Jeff Demps fitting into the Patriots offense next year?
-- Eric M.
Honestly, no clue. He obviously has electric speed and should be what they desperately need in the kicking game, but he's coming off a redshirt season and needed to put on some weight after making the transition from Olympic sprinter. Seems like overall expectations are higher than they should be. He was productive at Florida, but let's not anoint him the second coming of Percy Harvin until he, you know, actually plays some football. What did he have, three catches last preseason?
Every time I see a writer take a shot at Bobby Valentine, I'm reminded of a quote from "Married with Children"--"If you give a gun to a chimp, and the chimp shoots someone, don't blame the chimp." Thanks for 2012, Larry Lucchino!
-- Studio 00
Obviously. What you should do is name the chimp athletic director. Standard procedure.
About Touching All The Bases
Irreverence and insight from Chad Finn, a Globe/Boston.com sports writer and media columnist. A winner of several national and regional writing awards, he is the founder and sole contributor to the TATB blog, which launched in December 2004. Yes, he realizes how lucky he is.