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Gammons on The Big Show: Sox were ‘scared to death’ of Bay’s knees

01.27.10 at 5:32 pm ET
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Hall of Fame writer Peter Gammons of the MLB Network said that the Red Sox reduced their offer to Jason Bay from four years to two years because they “were scared to death of his knees” after a physical revealed the possibility of surgery. Gammons noted that the Mets were the only team that aggressively pursued Bay in a long-term deal, suggesting that such a conservative approach could be attributed to other teams’ concerns about the outfielder’s health.

“The Mets were the only team that were in on Jason,” said Gammons. “There were serious physical concerns that were there. Dr. Gill thought it was a tremendous risk to be giving him a four-year contract.”

A transcript is below. To listen to the complete interview, click here.

What was happening with the Jason Bay situation, with the Red Sox requesting surgery as a condition of the contract?

No they didn’t do that though. Joe Urbon also said no. They said there is a possibility that you might need surgery if this thing gets any worse. They didn’t tell him he had to have surgery, that wasn’t a condition.

So what happened with Jason Bay and the Red Sox?

They wanted him, but they were scared to death of his knees. I never got the impression from either side, from his agents or his club, that the shoulder was that big of a deal. But they were really afraid of both knees and that’s why they dropped the offer from four years to two years.

Somebody said to me, “Gee, there was only one team that went after him the Mets.” I said, “Yeah, you don’t think that the Angels have requested MRIs? You don’t think the Mariners have requested? They weren’t in on him either.”

The Mets were the only team in on Jason, which is unfortunate because he played his heart out for that team. He’s a great guy but there were serious physical concerns that were there, and Dr. Gill thought it was a tremendous risk to giving him a four-year contract without any questions. John Lackey went with [a contract with conditions] and JD Drew went with it.

Bay’s people made it sound like the Red Sox doctors were the only ones who felt that way about the physical.

Yeah, but again, and I have great respect for [Red Sox team physician, Dr.] Tom Gill, the other opinions they had there were questioned by the agent. It’s a he-said, she-said. The fact is Tom Gill was very afraid of it, as were the other orthopedics at Mass General, and when the club studied it they said they didn’t want to guarantee four years.

How much pressure does this put on a David Oritz or other guys in the lineup to produce?

I don’t think terribly. There are guys that are going to hit .267. The question is the depth of the lineup. That’s very important. I think when you face [Jake] Peavy and [AJ] Burnett, the really good breaking ball pitchers around the league you are going to see [Jeremy] Hermida play left field and [Jacoby] Ellsbury play centerfield. They have a lot more depth. The question that has been raised several times is will Jason Bay hit more home runs for the Mets than Adrian Beltre hits for the Red Sox?

Are you not as concerned about the 2010 Red Sox as other people might be?

So you think they are going to lose 100 runs? They scored more runs last year. They scored more runs than 2007 when they won the World Series.

I just think they are much better defensively, their pitching is better and the depth of the lineup being able to hit left handed pitchers with [Mike] Cameron, who has been over a .957 OPS guy the last five years against left handed pitchers, Hermida, who I think will blossom in this ballpark and the fact that, next to the Yankees, will have the best one through four in the league. I think Victor Martinez, he and [Kevin] Youklis are probably as good a 1-2 combination [as there is] in the league. They have the best No. 2 hitter [Dustin Pedroia] in the league and if Ellsbury continues to come the way he did in the second half of last year when he started to be able to pull the ball, then their top four will be really, really good.

Where does Tim Wakefield fit in to all of this? He sounds like he doesn’t want to be anything but a full-time starter.

He should have that intention. The problem that I have, the issue is going to come up with 10 days to go in spring training, is Wakefield going to be or who is going to be the guy left out of the rotation? We all know in April you can’t go with six starters, because there are rainouts, there are days off, etc. The issue will come up at the end of spring training, but it’s a lot better than having 55 games started by guys that compiled a 6.28 starters ERA, as happened last year.

He will give the Red Sox insurance if they lose a starting pitcher.

I agree with that. The depth thing, I remember reading a piece on ESPN.com at this time last year that the problem at this time last year was that the Red Sox had too much starting pitching, as you just mentioned. Those 55 games in which they had the 6.28 ERA, if they had a 5.50 ERA they win over 100 games last year. Pitching depth can disappear so fast. I’ve been talking with a lot of people about the Giants and how the Giants think they can be competitive. If [Tim] Lincecum or Matt Cain goes out for 40 days, they probably win 72 games. They have no depth after those two guys. The idea that you have too much is a fallacy and that’s why I think it was very important for the Yankees to get [Javier] Vazquez because you could see that starting pitching staff blowing up without a 200-inning guy in addition to what they already had.

What about having Wakefield be this year’s John Smoltz and bring him along slowly?

I agree. I think that’s something they may do just to make sure. He’s just worked so hard. …

It’s been an amazing career in Boston — what he’s done and when he got taken off the roster in ’99 and some of the insults that he’s had to endure. If I were Tim Wakefield, I’d have a monumental chip on my shoulder. Instead, he is always Mr. Team. He can say right now, “I damn well should be in the rotation,” but we know if they ask him to save them in the bullpen, I mean one year he was starter, closer, or pitch on two or three days rest, amazing. I think that will all work out. I agree with you. I would rather have Tim Wakefield healthy in August and September then have him break down. He made a great point and I read the story on him and he said, “You know, I was on the All-Star team last year.”

I remember interviewing Joe Maddon on one of the off days before the All-Star Game and I said, “Joe what was the best thing about being able to pick some people on this team?” He said, “Unquestionably, being able to pick Tim Wakefield. I’ve never been prouder than being able to say ‘Tim Wakefield you are on the All-Star team.’”

Which speaks volumes to how he is respected around the game.

What have you heard about Daisuke Matsuzaka?

I’ve talked to Mike Roberts, who used to be the baseball coach at North Carolina, who run the baseball program at Athlete’s Performance Institute, and he said Daisuke came in with tremendous enthusiasm. That he was in good shape to start with and he admitted to him that he was hurt at times last year and wasn’t in shape, and was very embarrassed. I think the impression that the a lot of the outrageous things that Daisuke will say are really meant to play in Japan. He did actually apologize to the fans in Japan in that one interview. [Roberts] maintains that Daisuke is in terrific shape and he is very enthusiastic. He sees him all the time, so that’s my information from a guy that sees him all the time. Now what happens during the season we will see. There was never any question, and Daisuke has even admitted to Mike that he was not in really good shape, he was kind of the Pillsbury Dough Boy when he showed up last year for spring training. You don’t expect him to be 18-5 again, but he can be a pretty darn good fourth or fifth starter and that’s what they are looking for.

Are the RBI Academies working? And are we going to see more African-American players in baseball?

I think they are going to expand the program. I was told they are going to look at two to three more cities right now.

I know the Red Sox have talked to Major League Baseball about opening one here. So many kids are around the city of Boston, particularly a very large Hispanic population, and they would have an indoor facility so if there were guys living around here they could work out there. I think it may grow. It all depends on how many owners are willing to put the money into it and we all know here they would invest in the city.

I think it will grow. …  You go watch college baseball games, for instance one year during the College World Series Harold Reynolds was out doing the College World Series I left him a text message saying, “How does it feel being the only brother in Omaha.” There were no African-American players. You go down to the Cape League and you don’t see many African-American players.

Greg Vaughn’s son played there last year, you see some sons of ex-major leaguers, but you are not seeing kids and I think that part of it is there are 10 ½ scholarships for 30 college baseball players per school where as you have 17 scholarships for women’s volleyball. The NCAA has affectively killed a lot of minorities in college baseball and I don’t think that is going to change. I do think Major League Baseball is trying and you might see in the next 10 years another six to eight academies open up in different places and hopefully there will be one here.

Occasionally teams are able to spend some money to getting a kid and talking him out of going to play college football, the Red Sox did that with their 10th round pick last year, the kid was going to go to Auburn as a running back, but that doesn’t happen too often. If Major League Baseball does in fact come up with a very strict slotting system for the draft it will really damage the ability of Major League Baseball to attract the really good athletes. Kids are going to say, “You know what? I’m going to go to college and play football. If I’m not going to make more than this slotted theme that MLB has decided then it’s not worth it.” You have to make it worth it for kids to go play.

What happens with David Ortiz this year?

It’s my understanding that he has really worked hard in the Dominican this offseason. He’s lost a lot of weight and tried to maintain the strength. We will see.

The future for him is in his own hands at this point. Let’s say he comes back and not have the numbers that he had in 2004-07, but he comes back and hits .280 with 30 home runs, hitting in between Youkilis and either Beltre or Drew he may get an extension or he may have to move on. I don’t know.

The Red Sox value for the draft choices that they have next year because if there is a new basic agreement, the advantage that the Red Sox and Yankees hold over the other teams will be eliminated, if they have some sort of slotting. They are going to collect every draft choice that they can for the next two years.

It wouldn’t surprise me to see David come back. I think he became much more flexible and open to trying different things as the season went along. He got less psyched out, but the question is going to be can he still hit the hard-throwers? When he comes back obviously he is going to get a couple of months to show that and if he does it, maybe he stays here. He’s a beloved figure and I think he’s an important guy around that team. One of the things that struck me last year was he still really takes it hard. He loves that limelight, he loves being “the guy” and when he wasn’t, and wasn’t able to take the attention off his teammates I think it really bothered him.

Is Mike Lowell on this team opening day?

I would say probably not. I don’t know where, Texas is not there any more because they signed [Vladimir] Guerrero. Cleveland was said to have interest. I don’t know how much money they could take on, I mean they have no money. Maybe if they take two, maybe they could do that. If he has a good spring, and I still believe another year off the hip operation I think he’ll actually come back and have a decent spring training. The problem is, how do you find room for him on that Boston roster. They are going to have to have one guy playing the middle infield for them sitting on the bench. And Billy Hall of course gives them more flexibility because he can play five positions.

Doesn’t it put all the pressure on David Ortiz? What do they do if he gets off to another poor start?

The question is going to be, “Where do we go here?” Obviously I think once every fifth day or two times in six days when Jason Varitek catches, Victor Martinez is going to be the DH. It may be in certain situations when Ortiz struggles that Hermida plays a lot, but he DHs instead of playing the outfield. Just look at Billy Hall’s numbers against left-handed pitchers over the last five years, they have been pretty good. Despite his paltry batting average, he saw me last spring and he got that Lasik surgery and he hit .203 so it didn’t work.

Read More: Daisuke Matsuzaka, David Ortiz, jason bay, mike lowell
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