Frank Viola was No. 16 in his career as a player but now, for our purposes, is No. 26 on the list of partners in the booth for 2009. "Sweet Music" filled in nicely for Jerry Remy, who made a guest appearance in the booth last week. While it was great to see Jerry, it'll also be nice to see the Red Sox turn it around in the final stretch of the season.
The Red Sox really missed Kevin Youkilis in Texas against the Rangers. Is he the MVP of the team this season, or is it somebody else?
–Kathy, Waltham, Mass.
I think Kevin Youkilis is the MVP right now. I think you could make strong arguments for Jason Bay and for Josh Beckett. The description of "most valuable" covers so much range. You'd have to take out your MVP and see how things transpire to truly gauge a player's value.
I think that this weekend in Texas, there was a huge hole in the lineup. Not only is Youk a huge part of the middle of your lineup with his own production, but he also is incredibly taxing for opponents' starting pitchers. Youkilis alone can drive up pitch counts in efforts to get to the bullpen more quickly. There were a wide range of issues this past weekend, but you have to think that with Youkilis in there, things would not have been as easy for the Rangers. Long answer, but yes, I think he is the MVP right now.
Why are the Red Sox allowing so many stolen bases this year? Is it pitchers being slow to the plate, catchers being slow to throw to the base or a combination of the two? Can anything be done to prevent opposing teams from running wild on the Sox?
–Kevin, Biddeford, Maine
Yes. They need to find a way to be quicker to the plate without compromising the quality of their pitches. Easier said than done. It has to happen, though. The slide step is one option that some are very uncomfortable with for various reasons. The advanced report on the Red Sox has been clear: Everyone is stealing on them. As painful, at times, as it is to see, Josh Beckett holding the baseball with men on at least seems to work. I am not saying Jason Varitek is great at throwing guys out. However, he has to have the chance to do so. In the current rotation, especially with Brad Penny, he has virtually no chance at the moment. The problem is widespread and used to only apply to times when Tim Wakefield was pitching for obvious reasons. Most teams have one or two guys you need to worry about. Texas, Los Angeles and Tampa have several, and that’s where the numbers have been the most glaring.
This is a make-or-break week for the Red Sox. What is the mood of the team? Do they have what it takes to get to the postseason?
–Stan, Yuma, Ariz.
The description of this team for the past year or so has been consistent — “quiet and professional” — and it continues to be that way. Good or bad, it seems to stay the same. I think they are still OK and should win the wild card. I am not convinced, despite this weekend, that Texas has the starting pitching to take them to the postseason. The Red Sox need to find a way to be more consistent and successful away from Fenway and continue to take care of business at home. Forty-five games is a lot left.
Do you think Josh Beckett will take home the Cy Young this season?
–Tom, St. Paul, Minn.
He certainly has a chance but needs to continue to do what he has up until this point. Justin Verlander, as we saw up close last week, is having a fabulous season and leads in strikeouts by a wide margin. He was throwing 99 mph in his last inning of work. You could make an argument for Roy Halladay, who is second in ERA and has five complete games and 13 wins on the year with a bad team in Toronto.
It was nice seeing Jerry Remy in the booth for a Red Sox game last week — even if it was only for a brief time. Did you know Remy was going to be stopping by Fenway, or were you surprised like everyone else? We are looking forward to having him return. This has been a different season without Remy in the booth. You have been a true pro without him by your side. Any idea when he'll be back for good?
–Mary, Hyannis, Mass.
Thank you. No, I did not know, and as Jerry said himself, even he was surprised to be there. He just decided at 2:30 p.m. that day that he was coming in to see everybody. I am not sure when he will return, but he has a date in mind. When he does come back, I know he wants to make sure he is well enough to handle all of the day-to-day grinds of being a broadcaster. Until then, we have more “Sweet Music” from Toronto for the next three games.