Could a six-man rotation work for the Red Sox?
–Uncle Donny, Charlestown, Mass.
Yes. But I am sort of alone in this thinking. When the entire John Smoltz thing came to a head and he was finally ready to join the Sox last year, it seemed that it was a reasonable conclusion, one that I mentioned during a game last season. Dennis Eckersley and I went over all the benefits of the possibility, and it was quickly disputed by Terry Francona and John Farrell as not feasible. The thinking really was that it would provide Josh Beckett, Jon Lester and now John Lackey built-in days for extra rest for the entire season. Even though the spring will start with six starters, we have learned much over the recent past that that might not be enough. Something always happens during the spring, and somebody is always needed by opening day, so this likely will work itself out.
If the Red Sox choose to move Jonathan Papelbon, is Daniel Bard ready?
–Vinny D., Holden, Mass.
Probably not. There is no doubt that he has the stuff to be a very good closer. He is still very early in the MLB maturing process, and he will have the chance to acquire more experience in 2010. What a difference a year makes. Last spring, he was the talk of camp. Everybody said you have to see this guy. When we finally did, it was clear that we would be seeing more of him sooner rather than later during the season. It seems the last piece to the puzzle for him will be his closer mentality. No doubt Papelbon has that and has become one of the game's best. It seems another year for Bard to watch, listen and develop that mental approach will only help his near-certain future.
Where do you think Johnny Damon will end up signing, and for how much?
–Pam, Hartford, Conn.
I really thought he would be headed back to New York, but the signing of Randy Winn has sealed that deal, it appears. I was surprised by how far apart the Yankees and Johnny Damon really were in terms of the money. Reading the papers recently, there are reports that Damon would not accept anything less than 13 million a year, which he made last year. That price tag seems way high and apparently was for the Yankees. The question now becomes: How far does that request fall, and where does he make sense after that alteration of his thinking? What he is currently looking for will certainly leave many teams out of the equation. He might be the bargain Bobby Abreu was last year for the Angels. Stay tuned.
Do you agree with Carlton Fisk’s thoughts on Mark McGwire? Do you think McGwire will ever get voted into the Hall of Fame? Should admitted steroid users be inducted into Cooperstown?
–Cole, Hoboken, NJ
I thought they were right on. I think that more Hall of Famers need to be heard from on this topic. Many are thinking but not saying what Carlton Fisk did say. I personally do not think these players should be allowed in the Hall of Fame. If I was, and I am glad to not have to be, a voting member, it would truly be a struggle because there will be so many that have cheated the system and how does their cheating differ from other forms that have already omitted others from the Hall. The thing that is really sad is how many records have now been compromised. Roger Maris’ family may forgive Mark McGwire, but I am not sure I can. If you take away the years, you can point to where the numbers spiked. Is that person still a Hall of Famer? Alex Rodriguez will be the true test in that regard for voters.
What’s the biggest storyline for the Red Sox heading into spring training?
The last couple of springs, the story has been the lack of a storyline. There have been no jobs to be had. No competitions to speak of. The rotations as we spoke of earlier will be one. The new guys and how they mesh and what kind of personality this team will have may be another. What happens to Mike Lowell, although anything short of being traded in or before March seems inevitable. How will the bullpen shape up? How does Jacoby Ellsbury’s transition to left go? Not a lot here. Some are questions more than storylines that may not be answered until we are well into the season.