LONGSHOTS: Open the mail bag for some Red Sox questions
by Dave Long
With the second half underway and the Yanks in Fenway this weekend, letís go to the mail bag for the first time this baseball season.
Dear Dave: Who do you think is the biggest worry for the Sox and Red Sox Nation for getting back to the World Series? Pell Mel, 314b Lickety Split Lane, Hurryupandwait, N.M.
Dear Mel, er, I mean Pell: Well, since almost everyone he makes turns out just the opposite, itís probably that Dan Shaughnessy proclaimed over the weekend in the Globe the Angels will find a way to lose to the Sox in the ALCS because the Angels always have lost to the Sox in the ALCS. Beyond that, itís the consistency of the relief pitching and the health of David Ortiz, as I think the rest of the issue will work themselves out.
Dear Dave: What do you make of the recent struggles of Jacoby Ellsbury, after being lights out at the end of last year? Yo Hahn, 99 Santana Way, Flushing Provence, Venezuela.
Yo-Yo: Iím not quite sure what to say about his up and down year, other than that the computer of stat geek Bill James is going to be waaaay off, since it had the rookie hitting .325. Tito says itís not the wrist he hurt diving for a ball earlier in the year, but Bill Belichick often starts out saying a guy is day- to-day who later turns out to miss a couple of years, so Iím not sure I buy that. He may have hit the rookie wall from all the running he did earlier in the year, or got into some bad happens. But most likely I think scouts from other teams have found his holes at the plate and he hasnít made the adjustment yet. Hopefully he will, because they are a different team with him on base a lot.
Dear Dave: Since he started the season 10-1, are you finally going to concede that Dice-K is a legit number-two starter as Iíve always felt he was? Matt (donít be) Late, 14 Soccerball Blvd., Nashua, N.H.
Dear Donít Be: In a word, NO. Sorry, not convinced yet. To me a legit number-two starter for a world championship contender is a guy, like Pedro was in 2004, who could string together periods of real dominance, or who, like Curt Schilling in 2007, could be in control of a game even without his best stuff. With his control issues and all the walks heís seemingly always one mistake away from a huge inning and that scares me. However, heís getting there. What I can say about him is, if he ever gets that control thing under, er, control, he will be dominant as itís not like people get a lot of hits off him. He only gave up 65 in his first 88.1 innings, which is comparable to the hits-per-innings-pitched ratio of Jonathan Papelbon and much better than Josh Beckett was last year, let alone in Ď08 when heís allowed 114 hits in 120 innings. And the silver lining of all those jams he puts himself in is that heís become very good at wriggling off the hook as his solid 2.65 ERA attests. But until he can be counted on to give Tito at least seven innings night in and night out, he ainít a solid number two in my book. And he wonít do that until he gets his pitches-per-inning down ? which wonít happen under he improves his command of the strike zone. Having said that, heís a real good number three.
Dear Dave: Do you have faith that Theo will come up with something to help the team at the trading deadline? Garr Ceapara Sr., 6 Nomar Lane, Whittier, Calif.
Dear Garr: Well, other than the huge deal in 2004, it hasnít been his strength. Even last year when he made a deal that made total sense to get (wrong way) Eric Gagne, it went belly up. And the rest of his track record for deadline deals goes like this: 2003 he got Jeff Suppan (for future batting champ Freddy Sanchez) and he was 3-4 in 11 games with a 5.53 ERA. He also got Scott Sauerbeck, who had a 6.82 ERA in 26 games. In 2005 Tony Graffanino was a solid addition to replace the struggling Mark (fog horn) Bellhorne by hitting .319, but he did make a huge error that cost them a game when they were swept out of the playoffs by the White Sox. In 2006 they were sellers after a crazy run of injuries led the team to implode after losing five straight to the Yanks at Fenway in mid-August. In 2007 he gave up Kason Gabbard and outfielder David Murphy. Gabbard hasnít done much, but Murphy, who may not be as good as Brandon Moss, but he does have just two less RBI than Manny as I write this.
Of course that doesnít answer your question. The obvious answer is that they need help getting to Papelbon. The names youíre hearing are Brian Fuentes, who didnít impress me in the series last fall, and Damaso Marte, who I wouldnít know if I fell over him. And a bigger question is what are you willing to give up of the young turks to get either? My answer, for those guys, is not all that much. But if you want my vote, Iím hoping for Marte. I like relievers who strike people out and he has 45 in 46.1 innings.
Dear Dave: Are the Sox going to pick up Mannyís $20 million and are they going about it the right way? What to make of the latest Manny-being-Manny moment? Bill Wright, 2004 Wideacher St., Keller-Williams, Vt.
Dear Bill: First of all, where the heck is Keller-Williamson, Vt.? Is that like a hippie commune somewhere out by Keene left over from the í60s? Let me put it to you this way: youíve got a better chance of seeing Timothy Leary come walking through the door in that there hippie commune of yours than Manny does of seeing the $20 million. And that was the case before shenanigans like knocking down the traveling secretary over 16 tickets, smacking Kevin Youkilis, chirping at low talker John Henry in the Herald and barely being on pace to hit 30 and knock in 100. History tells you only Hank Aaron, Mike Schmidt and Barry Bonds (who most think had help) had years close to their prime time numbers at 37 ó which Manny will be next year. As for how theyíve done it, itís no different than how Johnny Damon, Pedro, Derek Lowe, et al. were handled, so whatís the big surprise?.
Dave Long can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. He hosts the Absolute Sports Experience at Billyís Sports Bar in Manchester each Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon that is broadcast live on WGAM Ė The Game, 1250-AM Manchester, 900-AM Nashua.