Less than 50 games remain on the Red Sox' schedule, but our readers have not run out of questions. You really brought it this week with a variety of inquiries. Sorry we could not include them all, but that should give those of you left out some real motivation to come out swinging next week. Here is just a small sample of the questions dropped into the Red Sox mailbag this week.
1. All I'm hearing is that these Yankees-Red Sox series are not that important since it?s still August. No doubt, the Red Sox and Yankees will be in the playoffs, but whoever wins the wild card will most likely have to go through Texas, which is a lot more daunting than whoever comes out of the AL Central. Shouldn't it be the goal to win the division?
I agree. Those head-to-heads mean plenty — not everything, but plenty. I believe if you are looking ahead to October and putting the Sox and Yanks in that tournament, then you have to also consider the very real possibility that they meet in the American League Championship Series. Do not discount the importance of having home-field advantage in that scenario, something which obviously goes to the division winner.
2. Your article on John Lackey was too generous to the pitcher. You only told half the story. How about Jarrod Saltalamacchia?s calling of the game and navigating Lackey out of trouble? Salty is doing a fine job and is going unnoticed.
— Tom A
Thanks for keeping me in line, Tom. I assume you are referring to this story, and you are right, Jarrod Saltalamacchia deserves plenty of credit. I welcome any opportunity to talk about how good he has been behind the plate, and his leap forward may be the best development in this great season for the Red Sox, not just because it stabilized the position for 2011, but because it has given the club its catcher of the future as well. He's just 26, about the age where Jason Varitek established himself as a major leaguer.
3. Carl Crawford had a great series versus New York. Do you think this could be his resurgence to finish out the year? Also, September call-ups are right around the corner. Which players do you think will be called up?
Carl Crawford has had a few hot streaks this year, but this one feels different. The ball is jumping off his bat a bit more, he?s using the whole field and he was able to get to a tough lefty in CC Sabathia the other night. Crawford has been miserable against left-handers this year, so that's certainly a nice development. It would not surprise me to see him continue this run.
As for September, players on the 40-man roster are eligible to come up. Those 40 names can change, of course. Look for the club to add some infield depth with guys like Jose Iglesias and Drew Sutton, a few extra arms like Felix Doubront and Scott Atchison and, if his return from injury goes OK, outfielder Ryan Kalish. Catcher Ryan Lavarnway is not on the 40-man roster right now, but there is plenty of time for some movement to be made to ensure his bat gets to the bigs next month.
4. When do you expect to see the waiver wire get heated up? And do you think the Red Sox still need another left-handed pitcher? After what I saw from Franklin Morales the other night I can't say if I was the manager I would bring him back in.
The Red Sox and Yankees, and certainly many other teams, have already been very active blocking their competitors with waiver claims. That will continue to occur, with both teams blocking players they feel will help out their rival.
Franklin Morales has been pretty good since coming off the disabled list, so he was due for a rocky outing. Still, keep Doubront in your mind as a lefty who can help out down the stretch.
5. Hello Tony, I have four questions. First, how do you think the Red Sox did in the trading deadline? Second, is Clay Buchholz done for the season? The third, do you think Tim Wakefield is going to be pitching for the Red Sox next season or do you think this will be his last year? Fourth: Do you think the Red Sox will sign Big Papi?s contract for next year and beyond?
1). Pretty good. 2) I think so. 3) I would not rule it out. 4) That will be one of the top stories of the offseason.
Good enough for you? Probably not, but I have to give others a chance.
6. Tony, do you think Adrian Gonzalez's home run numbers are down because of that shoulder? And I don't know if I'm the only one that notices this, but Gonzalez uses two different colored gloves? Do you know if there is any reason behind that?
Regarding the gloves, I have seen that before with Adrian Gonzalez. Not sure the reason behind it, but baseball players are quirky, superstitious folk, so there's probably some reason for it. Or it's contractual.
As for the more pressing concern, I am not ready to say that Gonzalez's shoulder is bothering him, although it has crossed my mind. It's just that he continues to do everything so well and never shows an ounce of pain in the shoulder. He throws as well as any first baseman in the game, continues to dive on the shoulder without an issue and is still ripping line drives with regularity. He's a streaky home run hitter, so another surge may be around the corner.
7. Tony, Thank you so much for all your game-day tweets. As a die-hard Red Sox fan living in the Midwest, I really appreciate your insights into how the game is progressing. Seems to me that Josh Reddick finally won his spurs, so to speak, with the great walk-off hit Sunday night. Great to see the kid keep going despite everyone calling for his "return to earth." What have you seen so far and do you think he'll continue to get the everyday start even when J.D. Drew returns (if ever)?
Thanks, Neal. You probably saw my recent post about Josh Reddick bouncing back after his "return to Earth," which I think is important. There was going to be a correction for him. He was not going to hit .380. That correction came in a bad week, but he did bounce back well, a sure sign of maturity. Reddick will still sit against some left-handers, but he should see the bulk of the starts if and when J.D. Drew comes back. He's more than earned it.
8. I'm still worried that our bullpen will be worn out in September. Most Red Sox starters barely make it into the sixth and while the bullpen has excelled, will they still be fresh in September?
— Mike Ragoza
It's a legitimate concern. The Red Sox rank 11th in the American League in innings per start, which has caused their relievers to throw the fourth-most innings in the circuit. One factor that could help the team going forward, in addition to September call-ups, is the fact that it might clinch a spot early enough to allow some guys to rest. Daniel Bard and Jonathan Papelbon are in OK shape, as is Matt Albers, so the key cogs aren?t in any immediate danger. I think the solid stuff from Dan Wheeler will help in this process, as he may get a few more high-leverage situations going forward.
10. Hey Tony, I'm one to look at the future a lot and looking into the prospects the Red Sox currently have, I am very pleased with what we have waiting in the wings. Unfortunately, we have more offense than defense. Anthony Ranaudo will not be a No. 1 guy in a rotation anywhere (at best No. 4). Bryce Brentz has impressed me a lot this year with his offense. My question is who has the most upside in the organization and most downside?
— Chris J
I can't speak for downside. The organization obviously doesn't predict guys having their careers fall apart. I'm also not sure you can label Anthony Ranaudo no better than a No. 4. He's only 21, in just his first year in the organization and possesses some great stuff. Next season will give us a better idea as to how he fits in going forward.
Bryce Brentz has had a nice season when healthy, and he certainly has a bright future. Ryan Lavarnway is on the cusp of potentially great things. Personally, I still love the potential of second baseman Oscar Tejeda, an Alfonso Soriano clone that impressed when playing in major league games this spring.
11. I'm seeing Will Middlebrooks as the future third baseman. Is it also possible that Youkilis might then be the future DH. What are your thoughts on that?
— John Reiss
Hey John, I'll be in Burlington in a few days, so look for me on Church Street. I'm the bald one.
You are not the first to make such a prediction. Middlebrooks has achieved top prospect status in the eyes of many, but he still needs at least a year to get major league ready. That will take us toward the end of Youkilis' current contract (signed through 2012 with a club option for 2013). It may also take us to the end of any deal David Ortiz signs this offseason, so the transition at each position could come naturally.
I know it could happen someday, but I still have a hard time picturing Youkilis as a DH. Guy just loves to play the field, and is so good at it. It may be several years before his career goes down that path.
12. Hey Tony, I've got a couple of questions for you. First, now that Jed Lowrie is off the disabled list, will he be the starting shortstop or will him and Marco Scutaro be platooning for that position? It's hard to tell because Scutaro has been really hot the last few days. Second, now that Erik Bedard is a part of the starting rotation, do you see John Lackey getting less starts or will he be given a chance now that he's pitching more consistently? This sounds like a lot, but I know you can do it. By the way, your live blogs every night are really good because you're witty, spontaneous with what goes on during the game, and you recap everything really well. Keep up the good work.
Thank for the kind words, John.
I see Lowrie getting most of the starts against lefties and Scutaro getting the bulk of them against righties, while Lowrie also bounces around to give other infielders a day off or a chance to DH. If one severely outplays the other, like Lowrie did in April, that could change.
Lackey will not be getting fewer starts. He is very much a cog in this rotation right now, whether Bedard pitches well or not. In fact, many see the last two months as a chance for these two to audition for that potential Game 3 start in the postseason, and as we sit here today the nod goes to Lackey simply based on experience.
13. Is it even possible to pick a single MVP for this team? I am under the impression that the MVP goes to the one player that helps his team more than his teammates, and with the Red Sox, it?s a bit hard to label a single player the MVP.
There are several guys who could be considered team MVPs, and even a few firmly entrenched in league MVP discussions. The top three hitters in the lineup are an obvious choice, as is Josh Beckett, but you could even make the case for lesser names like Alfredo Aceves and Albers as the most valuable components. Heck, Jason Varitek is about as galvanizing a force as you will see in baseball, and his tutelage has been huge for the catching tandem. There are many directions you can go and never be completely wrong. That's the sign of a great team, I guess.
And if you?re asking, I still go with Adrian Gonzalez.