Red Sox manager Terry Francona will be answering questions on NESN.com this offseason. Send questions to his mailbag.
Here?s his fourth installment.
1. When evaluating a free agent, how much does the effect on team chemistry play into a decision?
–Craig Parson, Hickory, N.C.
Team chemistry can be a very misunderstood term in my opinion. It is very easy to have good team chemistry when a team is racking up wins. The chemistry is always taxed when teams are going through difficult times. I think the success of a team can help be defined by how they handle frustration. We talk about that all the time. Trying to keep the lows to a minimum and extend the highs. Good players that care about winning obviously lend themselves to creating good team chemistry. I think every manager in the game would take wins over chemistry!
2. How do you go about selecting a bench coach after losing a close confidant like Brad Mills? Do you look for someone within the organization who is ready for more responsibility or go with someone you know and have trusted over a long period of time?
–Phil Spencer, Frisco, Texas
Being around Millsie for so long created a comfort zone for me that will be difficult to replace. I don?t think we need to replace all of Millsie?s responsibilities with one person. We have Tim Bogar and DeMarlo Hale already on our staff that are great candidates to serve as bench coach. We also have some really good people in our organization that are very deserving for consideration on our staff. Who we hire will determine some of the guys' responsibilities. DeMarlo has worked with the outfielders and Tim has worked with the infielders — so whomever might become bench coach would probably have to relinquish those responsibilities.
3. What lessons can the Red Sox learn from what the Yankees did last offseason and their results compared to the money they committed?
–James, Ventura, Calif.
Because the Yankees are in our division and we play them so many times, it is impossible not to take notice when they sign somebody. But we also take notice when just about every American League team does something. They went out and signed some premiere free agents. But they also made some improvements that went under the radar. Their bullpen was terrific and their bench was productive. No team in our league can spend with them but we certainly hope to find a way to beat them!
4. Which Red Sox position-player prospects are closest to being ready to help the parent club in 2010?
–Mark, Westfield, Mass.
That will be interesting to see who emerges in 2010 to help our major league club. We have been so fortunate to have so many good young players come through our system and have a huge impact on our ballclub. Going into spring training, one of the most enjoyable things for our staff is to watch the progress of our players. They may not be ready at the start of the season but by June or July, they may be ready to help impact our team.
5. Before you begin a regular-season series with a team, what goes into scouting the opponent? Which pitching and hitting statistics do you consider when making in-game decisions?
–Laura G., Enfield, Conn.
Before every series, we have a report that we go over as a staff. We try and accumulate as much information as we can on the teams we are playing. Dave Magadan goes over the opposing pitchers with our hitters. And John Farrell has a meeting with our pitchers to go over how we are going to attack their hitters. DeMarlo Hale and Tim Bogar figure out where we want to position our guys defensively. We use not only statistical analysis but also video. We try and gain an edge wherever we can!