In an interview with Mut & Merloni Wednesday, Sports Illustrated senior writer Tom Verducci said he believes the Red Sox are the third-best team in the American League East going into the season.
“Boston to me is third, because I don't like the shortstop situation,” Verducci said. “It's too important of a position to try to move people around, and certainly to force people in when they are not ready. In terms of [Jose] Iglesias, I don't like that situation. And they're going to need 90 starts from [Clay] Buchholz, [Jon] Lester and [Josh] Beckett. Anything less than that and they are going to be really in trouble and be less than a 90-win team.”
With so many storylines percolating around the Red Sox, Verducci said Carl Crawford's comments about last season and his place in the batting order showed a lack of closure from his disappointing 2011 campaign.
“I just don't know if [Crawford's] comfortable yet,” Verducci said. “I haven't heard the kind of comments. [He should] put the last year behind him and not even address those issues. I'd rather see him just move on, and take the new year for what it is -- a new opportunity.”
Although Verducci's predictions didn't suggest a trip to the World Series, he said Bobby Valentine is the right manager to help restore order in the Red Sox clubhouse, and also that former skipper Terry Francona would become a candidate elsewhere -- possibly as soon as this summer.
“In 2012, I think Valentine is the right guy,” he said. “Especially to get them out from beyond the garbage of last September. I like both guys. Terry is going to be a great candidate for somebody, at some point -- maybe as early as July this year. He'll be that Bill Cowher or Jon Gruden guy who is sitting up in the booth waiting for the next job on everybody's list. And he'll be better for it. I do think there needs to be attention to detail and things cleaned up around the Red Sox, and that's what Bobby does really, really well.
Looking at baseball's big national story, Verducci said he thought Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun shouldn't have taken an aggressive stance in his press conference following the victory of his appeal on a drug test that showed high testosterone levels.
“He went too far,” Verducci said. “All he needed to say was, 'Listen, I've been cleared by the arbitrator. The case was found not have any merit. I've said from the beginning I'm innocent. The arbitrator agreed with me. It's time to move on.' Leave it at that. Just don't throw out innuendos that something nefarious was going on here or we found some things out about the collector himself that makes us suspicious. There was no need to go down that path. And that turns out that it has come back to blow back on him.”
Verducci said even though he is told MLB will not pursue any legal action against Braun, its response to the ordeal illuminated how it felt about the 2011 MVP's acquittal.
“Major League Baseball left it clear that they believe Ryan Braun was a doper and got caught,” he said. “And he got off on a technicality. I think they made their position really clear, and that is unusual in this case.”
The league's vote to have a second wild card team is supposed to be held by March 1. Verducci said he feels the change is imminent, and the reaction from most has been overwhelmingly positive.
“The thing [general managers and players] really like about it is that it really puts a premium on 162 games and winning your division,” Verducci said. “That's where you really separate who the best team is. Now teams are going to play it out down the stretch to make sure they win the division and not finish second.”
WEEI.com's Mike Petraglia and Chris Price discuss Rob Gronkowski's meeting with the media on Friday. Gronk said he doesn't anticipate changing the way he plays, noting that he wants to "keep smashing and dashing."
Julian Edelman joins Merloni, Fauria, and Benz after Patriots training camp.
We return to our weekly segments with the one and only Peter King of MMQB and NBC's Football Night in America.
Jackie Mac joins the guys to discuss her thoughts on a possible mid-season tournament in the NBA, LeBron's return to Cleveland, trade rumors with the Celtics and Red Sox, and Darrelle Revis' contract situation.
Jackie MacMullan of ESPN Boston to talk about the Lebron James Saga, the possibility of Rajon Rondo being traded, and the future of Marcus Smart.
Former coach of Celtics 1st-round pick Marcus Smart, Travis Ford joins MFB to talk about what Celtics fans should expect from the strong point guard. Among other things, Coach Ford says Smart will be a hard worker, and will improve his shooting ability.
Tim Kurkjian joins the program to discuss the Red Sox options at the trade deadline.
Kevin Millar joins Merloni, Fauria, and Benz to discuss David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia's struggles, and Jon Lester's contract.
Rob Bradford is joined by WEEI.com Bruins beat writer DJ Bean, as well as Boston sports fan/blogger Turtleboy to talk all things Bruins free agency. With the B's recent moves, the conversation turns to where the Bruins might next turn and what kind of dent losing Jarome Iginla and Shawn Thornton might make.
DJ discusses Shawn Thornton's new deal, and the on going negotiations with Jerome Iginla
DJ Bean joins the program to dismiss the recent rumors that the Bruins are in discussions to trade Brad Marchand to the Sharks for Patrick Marleau
John, Gerry, and Steve DeOssie discuss Tom Brady's impact on the rest of the Patriots, plus Steve tells tales from his old days as a NFL linebacker
A whale watch boat is stranded overnight in Boston Harbor
Clay Buchholz and Felix Doubront certainly put on quite the pitching performance, as the Red Sox were trounced by the Jays. Does this change the team's approach to the trade deadline?
MFB discuss a Peter King article that suggests many NFL coaches and assistant coaches have felt increasing pressure over big-money fantasy football players. Christian also weighs in specifically on how his knowledge of game-plans resulted directly in him winning his first season as a fantasy football player.
The Sox lost 14-1 as Clay Buchholz and Felix Doubront both had awful performances. On the heels of the loss, rumors began to fly regarding Jon Lester and John Lackey possibly being traded.
Tim Kurkjian joins the program to discuss the Red Sox options at the trade deadline.
We talk about the latest news surrounding Jon Lester and the Red Sox. Could he be dealt to the Dodgers?
We talk about four of the biggest mistakes the Red Sox have made over the past 30+ years.
We discuss the return of Rob Gronkowski, his comments to the media today, and what a healthy (or unhealthy) Gronk will mean for the 2014 Patriots.
Mut and Villani are talking about whether the Red Sox will give Jon Lester the type of contract he is looking for, or whether they might be shopping him with rumors of the Red Sox scouting Cole Hamels.
Mut and Villani are talking about the MLB All Star Game, Adam Wainwright and Derek Jeter, and what are some of the worst ideas in sports.
Particularly in a year where the Red Sox have struggled while trying to integrate numerous young players into regular big league roles, accusations that Red Sox prospects are overrated -- whether by the team or writers -- have been widespread. Jim Callis of MLB.com joins the show to take stock of the matter, and to discuss the team-building impact of overrating and underrating prospects.
With the trade deadline looming, the next few days will be defined by how teams value prospects -- and their potential long-term contributions -- against big leaguers with established track records who can address immediate needs. Are prospects being valued accurately? Red Sox left-hander Andrew Miller -- once one of the two key chips that sent Miguel Cabrera from the Marlins to the Tigers -- assesses the matter.
A compelling case can be made that July 24, 2004, represents as significant a landmark as any date in modern Red Sox history. On that day, a memorable brawl between the Red Sox and Yankees served as a catalyst for an epic 10-9 walkoff victory for the Red Sox over New York and indomitable closer Mariano Rivera, a game cited by many members of the 2004 team as pivotal in Boston's first championship run in 86 years. Ian Browne, who covers the Red Sox for MLB.com and authored Idiots Revisited, discusses the landmark game.
Rob gave the latest on Jon Lester trade talks and the flap between Ortiz and the Rays.More from this show
Particularly in a year where the Red Sox have struggled while trying to integrate numerous young players into regular big league roles, accusations that Red Sox prospects are overrated -- whether by the team or writers -- have been widespread. Jim Callis of MLB.com joins the show to take stock of the matter, and to discuss the team-building impact of overrating and underrating prospects.More from this show
We talk about the latest news surrounding Jon Lester and the Red Sox. Could he be dealt to the Dodgers?More from this show