Report card feedback dominates the mailbag this week, and (brace for shock) the folks aren’t exactly thrilled with the 2009 edition of the hometown nine. It seems that 95 wins isn’t going to do it for the faithful, changes need to be made. Jonathan Papelbon and J.D. Drew receive the brunt of the drubbing here while Jon Lester takes yearbook honors for most popular.
Mostly Sox talk, but not just, as I fall a few notches in the Tom Brady fan club, nominate Bruce Jenner for the Nobel Prize and examine a few possible contenders for the title of “Hottest Woman on the Planet not named Kate Beckinsale.”
To the 'bag we go (and, as always, feel free to email away to email@example.com)…
Give [Jason] Bay the money and sign [Alex] Gonzalez to play SS ... Maybe [Jonathan] Papelbon didn't deserve to be booed off the field, however, all the guy does it talk about the "money" and potentially playing somewhere else. This is why he gets what he gets from the fans ... Just pitch.
A: Gonzalez will be back, I think (his $6 million option is short money), but I’m not so sure about Bay. And this is a serious flip-flop, in my column on Monday I predicted he would re-sign. But after reading Bradford’s story Tuesday I’m not so confident. The two sides aren’t even close right now (3 years at $10 million per is the Sox offer, Bay wants well upwards of 4x14) and I’m beginning to wonder how highly Theo and the crew value Bay’s all-around game. And I don’t think this is necessarily a Bay vs. Matt Holliday deal, either. Could be the Sox are just looking to save a few bucks to make a run at someone in 2010. Remember, we aren’t dealing with an unlimited budget.
Good point on Papelbon and one I didn’t consider when I gave the fans a hit for booing him on Sunday. If you are in the camp that Papelbon’s days are numbered with the Red Sox (and I am — maybe not this year but there is NO CHANCE that he’ll be pitching in Boston in 2011) then you are also probably readying yourself for the inevitable record Papelbon will set for “most bridges burned in a 48-hour period." It is going to be ugly. Be prepared for some Theo bashing, a little bit of the “no respect” card, and yes, the fans will not be spared. Papelbon may not be able to pick J.D. Salinger out of a lineup with the Dixie Chicks, but he’s no dummy. He won’t forget hearing the boos after failing for the first time in 27 postseason innings. And he has no filter, which is great when things are great but not so great when things are not so great. I bet he finds the first microphone and just goes off about 15 minutes after he is traded or signs somewhere else. Just hope it’ll be somewhere in the AL East (hey, think the Orioles are sold on Jim Johnson as their ninth-inning guy?) for the entertainment factor.
Papelbon — Find a second pitch for the love of God. Throwing mid 90s with perfect location, let alone with less-than-perfect location, just doesn't cut it. Please talk to Curt [Schilling], [Daniel] Bard, or [Hideki Okajima] (get a split, cut, or deuce). [Manny] Delcarmen's arm is great, don't give up on him. Sign Bay, however' we need him to play more next year. J.D. must realize that playing at 100 percent all the time is a ridiculous need since no one is at 100 percent! Ortiz — Well, if it wasn't steroids/ enhancement drugs, then what was it? Did you not work out during the offseason? Were you unprepared all year? Have you ever seen a left-handed power hitter look so confused at the plate? When wasn't he out in front on the curve and changeup. When wasn't he behind on the cheese? In short, get rid of Papi. Use the DH as a "day-off position" and get a player that wants/can play every day! Alex — I dont think he is the long-term answer. However, he is fun to watch and certainly puts [Jed] Lowrie & [Nick] Green to shame, doesn't he? [Mike] Lowell — they are saying that he will be at 100 percent after a full off season to rest and mend. He is a sure joy to watch hit. A deep threat that picks his spots, but short enough to simply poke the ball in the gaps. Starting pitching — I think that we are fine here. We just need these guys to show up prepared and ready to pitch.
A: Agreed on starting pitching, Derek. I understand why they might be tempted to make another push for Felix Hernandez, but they’ll be fine with a Lester/Beckett/Buchholz/Dice-K/Knucksie group in 2010. Throw in another Brad Penny/Wade Miller/Paul Byrd “veteran on the cheap,” and they are one of the two or three teams that will enter next season with few worries in either starting or relief pitching.
(And I guess you can book John Farrell as the next manager of the Red Sox. Who knows when, but he’s turned down a chance to interview for a job for three straight seasons. This kills my year-long guarantee that Jason Varitek will be the next manager. That prediction takes its place next to other Kirk Minihane winners, such as 1994’s “I think this Stuart Scott is going to be a keeper” and 2000’s “This will be known as the decade of Darva Conger.”)
And I’m with you on Delcarmen — just as likely a guy with his arm bounces back and puts up the kind of numbers he produced in 2007.
Varitek on NESN? There, uh, might be a little conflict of interest there regarding a certain member of the NESN team. Not to mention that he’d be horrible on TV. He’s the master of the cliché.
A: I know what you are inferring, Jay, and it comforts me to know that I’m not the only one that has sensed some sort of sexual tension between Varitek and Jack Edwards. Bizarre, right?
(Since Jay’s comment was quasi media-related, I guess this is as good a spot as any to praise the work submitted by Tony Dungy and Rodney Harrison on the NBC pregame show. Tremendous. I was pretty sure that Harrison would be good, but Dungy has been a surprise. Sure, he plays the good cop, but he isn’t afraid to go after someone, either. I actually learn something from those two each week (both were great in killing the Raiders last week.) Same goes for the Monday Night Football crew on ESPN. The best football announcing team of my lifetime. And yes, I’m petrified that Jon Gruden leaves for the Redskins next season and Deion Sanders or someone equally horrible will take over.)
Well ... this season shows that having a LOT of players and pitchers is necessary. I think you need to grade Drew just a shade lower. Stellar numbers, but some subterfuge on whether he is really there for the team. Still my starting right fielder. And a shade higher on Ortiz. He faced the first prolonged slump of his two-tailed career and got out of it to become one of the 3-5 most dangerous hitters in the AL again, mind you. Varitek should be begged to be a coach so he can do his homework magic with Victor [Martinez] and [George] Kottaras behind the dish. And how about Francona? Good in the overall, again, and with call-up [Junichi] Tazawa, e.g., but wasn't HE the one who played Delcarmen? I've bought into his wisdom with Ortiz and [Dustin] Pedroia, et al., but even I was quaking when this guy came in later this season. And Theo; great with [Martinez], but he let go of [John] Smoltz too soon, and Schilling said so, with the knowledge of the way he himself had come back from surgery — first velocity, which he had, then control. Smoltz might have replaced Delcarmen's innings.
A: I agree on the Smoltz point, Dano. He was getting righties out and was excellent the first time through the order. The easy move would’ve been to switch him to the bullpen. I understand that he wasn’t what he wanted, but life is can be cruel and sometimes you have to just have to suck it up and take $5.5 million to pitch two innings a week, as brutal as that sounds. But would he have played any role at all in the Anaheim series? Probably not. And while the Papelbon meltdown was the headline moment of the series, the real story was the lack of hitting in Game 1 and Game 2. Even if Papelbon strikes out Vladimir Guerrero, do you think this team was going to win the next two games? They were a good team, not great. Still can’t put my finger on what was missing, but something clearly was.
Paps — for God sakes get a second pitch and stop running your mouth about the money you think you're "owed." It's BS, nothing else.
A: I know Papelbon thinks he should get Rivera money, but that isn’t going to happen anywhere. I do think some team will pay him somewhere between $8 million and $10 million annually, probably even for four years. But again, it won’t be the Red Sox. I’m sure they think they can find someone who can give you, I don’t know, 75 percent of Papelbon’s production for a fifth of what you would have to pay.
And yes, he has only one pitch, and yes, he’s a loudmouth, and yes, even though he was good in 2009 he wasn’t the same guy we’ve seen over the last four years. But remember, it is almost a lock that you’ll never see a Red Sox closer as good as Papelbon. If he’s a goner this offseason there will be more than a few days next summer with wall-to-wall, “How could they have let Paps go?” calls on WEEI following a ninth-inning loss. It’s almost a statistical certainty that the next guy (or the next 20) won’t be in his class.
So Jon Lester and J.D. Drew both get the same grade (B)? You watched the games this year, correct? J.D. Drew?
A: For me, OPS is the single most important statistic when evaluating an offensive player. And J.D. Drew ranked 10th in the American League in that category. All I’ve been hearing and reading over the past 72 hours is how Bobby Abreu changed the Angels lineup in 2009. And he did have a nice year, knocked in 103 runs and walked 94 times. J.D. Drew’s slugging percentage was 87 points higher than Abreu’s. He had a higher OBP than Mark Teixeira. The guy is simply an incredibly useful player. And I get that his threshold for pain won’t be confused with Cal Ripken’s and that he makes the most money on the Sox (and I still maintain that is Problem No. 1 for Drew with the Nation — if he were making $8 million a year he wouldn’t be beloved or anything but there would be at worst a level of acceptance that doesn’t currently exist), but he is a huge piece of the lineup.
Disagree on the high grade for J.D. Drew. He begs out of playing even if he’s just a little bit hurt. The guy has no guts, plain and simple. I don’t know how you can give him a higher grade than Alex Gonzalez, a much better defensive player who hit for a higher average. I’d give Gonzlaez a 'B' or 'B+' and Drew a 'C' at best.
A: Come on, Frank, you’re better than this. Drew’s on-base percentage was 76 points higher than Gonzalez’. Doesn’t matter if Drew played the outfield wearing nine-inch heels, there is no way to make up for that kind of difference defensively.
We can look at the stats and know things. We really don’t “know” if Drew lacks in mental toughness. We all have suspicions, and I bet mine are in line with yours on this particular topic. But there is no proof. Same goes for clubhouse chemistry. I’m sure it’s possible that the Yankees are better this season because Nick Swisher is wacky, but until a statistic comes out that links hot-foots to wins, I’ll just stick with what I know. And it sure seems to me that the more you get on the base the more you score runs. And the more runs you score the more likely you are to win. Pretty simple.
I'm with you and [Steve] Phillips — time to trade Papelbon. He's still a great closer but there are real needs this team has to fill (SS, maybe OF). Someone will give up a lot for a closer in his prime.
A: Always a sinking feeling when you are told that Steve Phillips agrees with you on anything. But he’s right for once. I don’t think trading Papelbon is so much about filling holes as making sure you can keep the guys that are already around. Bay is up this year and Beckett and Victor Martinez are free agents after the 2010 season. If you give Papelbon his 12 million bucks a year you will absolutely lose one of those guys. Think 60 innings a year from Papelbon is worth that?
Trade for Joe Mauer, move [Kevin Youkilis] to third, can Lowell, make V-Mart the everyday first baseman.
Belicheat the bully
A: The Twins are never trading Mauer. They might lose him as a free agent, but they will not give up on keeping him until the day he signs elsewhere. But I can see your scenario in play after the 2010 season, just with a different catcher (think a .260-10-50 type). Martinez and Youkilis at the corners make a lot of sense to me. I just don’t see them spending north of $150 million for a catcher, even one as great as Mauer. Just doesn’t seem to fit the Theo mentality. But the Yankees might. I could see Mauer staring at a six-year, $120 million offer from the Twins and a seven-year, $150 million offer from the Yanks. Nice to be loyal, but tough to turn down an extra $30 mil plus seven legit chances to win the World Series. Hope he signs with the Twins, though. That franchise would be cooked if he leaves.
Just a 'B' for Jon Lester? What pitcher were you watching all year?
A: Mike also sent me a link that did a nice job in illustrating just how well Lester pitched this season. I agree that Lester was one of the four or five best pitchers in baseball over the last four months of the season, but on May 26 his ERA was 6.07. That was 10 starts worth of lousy pitching, nearly a third of his season (he finished with 32 starts.) A grade of 'B' is about as good as you can do with after a start as horrid as that. But he is my early Cy Young pick for 2010 and I’m not sure I’d trade Lester straight up for any pitcher in the American League, King Felix included.
Another [fan-boy support] of Tom Brady gone sour, huh? Nice call on how he’d play vs. the Broncos. 350 yards and at least three TD passes? Once again, he was the second-best QB on the field Sunday. I think this is the Tom Brady we are going to see from now on. The combination of the surgery, the kid and the Hollywood life has made him just another QB. It was fun while it lasted, though.
A: I was looking good at halftime (14-of-19, 152 yards, two TD passes) at least, Matt.
Brady has been an average NFL QB this season. Nothing more, nothing less. Of the 36 QBs that qualify in passer rating, Brady ranks 19th, right between Tony Romo and some guy named Matt Cassel. And based on his performance so far in 2009, that seems about right. I expected Brady to either jump back to where he was before the injury or really struggle to find his way. It never crossed my mind that he just might be another guy. It’s almost jarring to watch at times, really. You keep waiting and waiting for Tom Brady to show up but instead you are stuck with Marc Bulger. It’s odd to live in a world where Kyle Orton significantly outplayed Tom Brady in a big game. I mean, food tastes differently after stuff like that happens. Hard to believe, but through five games in 2009 the Pats QB play has not been as good as it was during the 2008 season.
I'm sure you'd agree: the committee in Oslo changed the rules without telling the rest of us. It's their prerogative, I guess. But, as a result I think there are a few nominees that weren't adequately considered. I'm interested in your thoughts on who truly deserved the Peace Prize: Oprah Winfrey, for bringing out the softer side of Mike Tyson; your boy Fred Couples, for helping Mickelson and Woods find some common ground and share a few (completely staged for the benefit of the media) laughs; ESPN the Magazine, for publishing The Body Issue and pacifying the needs not satisfied by SI's Swimsuit Edition; Bill Belichick, for waiting and searching the field to give McDaniels a congratulatory handshake; or Jim and Pam, who ditched their insane co-workers and found a way to say "I do" peacefully on their own terms. If you had a vote, whom would you choose?
A: Trust me when I tell you this, Lauren: in the internet era anyone looking for needs "not satisfied by SI's Swimsuit Edition" will not be pouring over an ESPN the Magazine's Body Issue (though I will admit I did give it a quick glance hoping for a couple of tasteful Linda Cohn shots. No luck, alas.)
The Nobel Sports Peace Prize, huh? I'm thinking we can eliminate Tom Cable and LeGarrette Blount. To me, there is only one real choice for the 2009 winner: Mr. Bruce Jenner. From what my sources tell me he brokered the prenup for the Khloe-Lamar union (which I fully expect to last for 50 years--I can see the two easily living a Fonda-Hepburn "On Golden Pond" life in 2060) AND was the driving force behind the Kim-Reggie Bush reunion. What a year.
(And I believe both couples will make it, I really do. How can they miss? Look, anytime you can answer "no" to the question "If O.J. hadn't killed those two people would you even know each other?" we are firmly in the land of happily ever after.)
I object to [Kate] Beckinsale in the top spot. She’s fine, but No. 1 in the world? I’ve got to go with my all-time favorite, Jennifer Connelly. Just as hot today as she was in “Career Opportunites.”
A: Rich, I could go along with that call until about five or six years ago, when Connelly dropped 30 pounds and became just another Hollywood stick. Only LenDale White can claim a career as hurt by weight loss. But from “The Hot Spot” in 1990 until, oh, let’s say, “Inventing the Abbots” in 1997, she held the top spot on the charts. And her Mr. Skin resume is second only to Estelle Getty’s.
"If she worked at the Golden Banana in 1996 she would have been middle of the pack. Always side with class. Class ages well."
The "classiest" woman of all-time? Miss Elizabeth. Yet she met her demise surrounded by empty bags of coke, empty Jack Daniel's bottles ... and Lex Luger.
At the same time, Tammy "Sunny" Sytch was regarding as the biggest flooz in the biz back in the '90s. Though she obviously gives off a Jersey-trash vibe now, most men wouldn't mind working an iron-man match with her today. In other words, I'm not sure where I'm going with this.
Submarine Artist Ed
A: I will not trash anyone in the wrestling community just 24 hours after the death of Capt. Lou Albano — a great leader often viewed as insane because he wrapped his beard in rubber bands. Well, I guess that makes Abraham Lincoln and Uncle Jesse crazy as well. Gotta love Capt. Lou. Maybe he doesn’t crack my top three list of greatest wrestling managers (Bobby Heenan, Mr. Fuji, Freddie Blassie), but the man could guide a tag team like no other.
Really, no interest in Megan Fox? The Golden Banana? Sure. If she were an intern an at WEEI.com, you would David Letterman her until she filed a billion-dollar suit against the company.
A: We at WEEI.com hold ourselves to higher standards, Josh (as my previous homage to Capt. Lou would suggest).
I'll leave you with this: I'm sure the Pats will win Sunday, but I think it'll be close. Real close. Tennessee is bad but not 0-5 bad. And I suspect that the Titans know this is it. Lose, and any hope for even a slight chance to get back into it is gone. And with the Titans having bye after this week, you know at 0-6 it'll be Vince Young time. So it'll be interesting to see how Kerry Collins plays. If the Pats can't get pressure on him (and that has been a problem, as we know) he might make some plays. Good coach, a talented running back and some guys that make plays on defense? I think it'll be a touchdown game heading into the fourth quarter. But the Pats will make the plays they need to down the stretch and escape with a 24-14 win.