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Gammons on The Big Show: Ellsbury ‘very hurt’

05.29.10 at 10:13 am ET
By

Peter Gammons

MLB insider and NESN analyst Peter Gammons joined The Big Show on Friday afternoon to talk about Daisuke Matzusaka’s inconsistency, Jason Varitek handling his role as a backup catcher, Joe West and the recent umpire controversies and Jacoby Ellsbury’s return to the D.L.

“It’s easy to say, ‘This guy should go out there,’ but it’s like a hand or a wrist injury in baseball; those things could take a year to come back from,” Gammons said of Ellsbury. “A friend of mine who’s a doctor suffered one of these injuries. [He] had predicted it would be eight weeks before he was [alright] and I think that’s where it’s going to end up at.”

Below is a transcript of the interview. To listen to the interview, click here.

Was it fun last night with Daisuke Matzusaka?

I’m sorry, but Daisuke [didn’t] do well. It’s either Victor Martinez’s fault or a lower body injury. He does well, everybody’s great, but I guess we all have to have a safety net.

It’s frustrating when Daisuke can be so great one start and miserable the next. What can the Red Sox do when something like this happens?

As a fifth starter, he’s still going to be pretty good. He’s going to win the majority of his games; I think you look at it that way. [Josh Beckett] threw today and he’s going to probably be another couple of weeks because they’re remaining very cautious with him. You [have] two virtual number ones in [Jon] Lester and [Clay] Buchholz, you got [John] Lackey and Beckett, and if Daisuke’s your fifth guy, that’s fine.

His stuff is so much better than it’s been since early 2007… he’ll probably end up a whole lot better than last year. I mean, there’s no comparison in his stuff; his fastball, his slider, his changeup. He’s completely healthy and he’s in great shape for the first time. I think that’s the way you look at it, try to channel that stuff, because early in 2007, he did look like he was going to be really, really good, and then he had a couple long games. I don’t know, he is a mystery. He’s like the human gyro-ball.

How hurt is Jacoby Ellsbury?

I think he’s very hurt. The thing that is so unfair here, this is his first big arbitration year. He’s got Scott Boras in his ear, telling him what he’s going to make. If he were jaking it, that makes no sense. It’s just the opposite, in fact. This is really important for him to play. I think what he did was that he altered his swing so much that he ended up doing other stuff. [The Red Sox] just have to ride it out because they are a much different team with him in the lineup.

Are the Red Sox concerned that Boras may be orchestrating all of this?

No, he’d be orchestrating him playing.

What about the move to center field?

Oh no, Scott was big on him playing left field in the first place. Arbitration numbers are based on offensive performance and I remember talking to him about [Barry] Bonds, Rickey Henderson, guys that wanted to play left field because they ran so much. It took so much to play center field and run that they both, Bonds and Rickey, moved to left field because of that and Scott was very much aware of that. He was very much on board with him moving over to left field; he was all for it.

As it turns out, it’s probably going to be too much for [Mike] Cameron. That’s a pretty serious injury to play a lot of center field, so you might as well have a [Jeremy] Hermida/Cameron platoon in left field and when Ellsbury is ready to play, [he’ll] go back there.

You say that Ellsbury is really hurt, but do his teammates believe that or do they think he’s not tolerating a little pain?

I think there’s a little bit of that, but at the same time I’m not sure that’s fair because it’s a different injury than anybody else has. It’s easy to say, “This guy should go out there,” but it’s like a hand or a wrist injury in baseball; those things could take a year to come back from.

A friend of mine who’s a doctor suffered one of these injuries. [He] had predicted it would be eight weeks before he was right, and I think that’s where it’s going to end up at.

What is David Ortiz doing wrong at the start of each of the last two years?

I think he’s been concerned that he doesn’t have the same bat speed that he had in 2005, 2006, 2007. He tried to cheat to catch up to it and that got him completely out of whack. I went onto that FX site to look at all the pictures to it. He was swinging at so many balls out of the strike zone, which is something he never swung at before. He admitted to me, “Yeah, I did do that,” and he started saying, “My whole living has been swinging at strikes.” That’s when he started on about the umpires and the balls down and away…

Jason Varitek deserves a lot of credit. He took a back seat to Victor Martinez and didn’t say a bad word about it. Now he’s back in the spotlight and it’s a touchy situation because pitchers want to pitch to Varitek.

Some do. I think that’s one of the five most overrated things in sports. I mean it’s a highly overrated thing. Buchholz loves pitching to Victor Martinez. Lester’s best game was to Victor Martinez. That’s so overrated.

Would you agree on how Varitek has handled things?

Oh, he’s the best. I think what he figured out, and he’s really smart, is that, “You know what? I’m better off playing two or three days a week. I can play four more years.” He is the best backup catcher in the game. He’s so much a team guy though; he cares so much about teammates and how well they’re treated in the media. It’s amazing to talk to him, he’s so smart. I think it’s one of the better stories this season. I don’t think a lot of us would be able to sublimate our egos [like he did].

He was a star here, an All-Star catcher and all the rest and he kind of figured out, “OK, this is my role and I can help out. I can do whatever they want me to do and I’m going to play as hard as I can. When I’m not playing quite as much, I’m a way above-average productive catcher.” It’s been a great story. His enthusiasm all year and his presence around the club, I’m actually amazed.

A couple of the guys in the organization were saying to me they thought that that and the maturity of Jon Lester as he turns into more of a vocal leader in the clubhouse have been two of the greatest stories of the season. I got up in the morning, and I said to myself, “What were they? They have one less win and have scored one less run through 49 games as they did last year.” I don’t think they’d be close to that without Varitek being what he’s been. That production has been a lot. Remember, he just absolutely died after about May 20 last year. Now they have him fresh the whole season and they have his attitude, his demeanor, which is really important because guys still really respect him. I think we all do and I think it’s a really good thing for the team.

It’s also really important to have people like Varitek and [Dustin] Pedroia for whom it’s always about the team and whether they won or not. It’s a very team sport, so it’s hard to have a lot of guys who think only about winning.

A lot of people have blamed the team’s problems the first few months on offense, but it’s actually with pitching. Now, pitching is back and the team has been winning on a fairly regular basis now.

Yeah, they’re second in the league in runs, their offense is one run less than last year, but all the other ancillary numbers [make them] look like they’re a better offensive team. That’s without Ellsbury at the top of the order, who changes Pedroia’s game dramatically. I’ve never bought into that “who hits behind somebody,” I always believed it’s who hits in front of me and Ellsbury changes what pitches Pedroia gets.

They’ve had a few guys injured, but you’re right, it’s all about pitching. I was worried with those two games in Detroit when they just seemed so flat. Even the game that got lost when [Jonathan] Papelbon came in, they did come back from 6-1 at Yankee Stadium. Then they come back from 6-1 the next night, and then you just get this run where they win eight out of nine against the Yankees, the Twins, the Phillies and the Rays, where they had great pitching. That’s what they should be when Beckett comes back healthy.

The Red Sox lineup is filled top to bottom with a lot of battlers who can break down a bullpen when they get past the starter. They would be in trouble against a team that has a really strong bullpen, but
there are not enough of those around the league.

Joe West doesn’t like that either, but that’s too bad. If you get [Marco] Scutaro back where he’s supposed to be hitting, ninth, and you have Ellsbury hitting leading off, the other storyline that I think has emerged has been how good Adrian Beltré can be. He’s going to have nights when he has at bats where you go, “What in the world is he thinking?”

What I think is interesting is – you see it in Boston and New York and Philadelphia – on the road he has a totally different persona. He is a really tough guy. Gary Sheffield is one of the toughest guys I’ve ever known in my life and he used to tell me that Beltré is the toughest guy he’s ever known. But in Fenway, he’s been a little different. They all have trouble with the grass; I think he worries about the fans’ perceptions.

There’s a whole lot of difference, home and road numbers, but my guess is if he starts to get accepted here, he’ll take off. I think he’s going to be a very important guy for them. The only problem is, I don’t think he’s picking up that $5 million player option at the end of the year. Scott [Boras] played it perfectly. Go to Boston on a one-year deal, run up the numbers and then go back on the market as the Adrian Beltré that was coming out of Los Angeles.

In all your years in baseball, have you ever met an umpire like Joe West, who has a publicist?

No. I mean, I like Joe. He’s a character. Joe West and Ozzie Guillen, I hope they could make a reality television show out of that. It would be a lot of fun.

But he didn’t have to throw [Mark] Buehrle out of that game. This is what I don’t get, for those who spend a lot of money on season tickets, we’re not spending the money to see umpires and referees. If I’m [seeing] the White Sox, I want to see Mark Buehrle pitch. It is unnecessary.

Now, umpires are under much worse scrutiny than they ever were before. All those silly little “K-Zones,” none of which are accurate because they’re not from directly in center field. Then you got all the replays of second base [on tag plays]. These umpires today are no worse than they were in the ‘50s, but the attitude’s there because a lot of them will think that the whole world’s against them.

Major League Baseball should get guys together… and it’s going to be more second guessing. It’s really important for the game that the umpires are good and fair and [can] keep the players in the games. I think that’s something that has been lost a little bit.

Were you there yesterday for Terry Francona’s press conference with Kevin Millar?

No, but Kevin and I, we’re like Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin. We now work at three different places together. I was actually going to bring a bottle of Jack Daniels to the set tonight. I decided maybe that might not go over too well.

About three weeks ago I did about a three and a half hour show with him on MLB [Network] and I was laughing the whole entire time. He’s got so many great stories about everybody. He’s now working for MLB, NESN and Fox. But he’s really good and everybody loves him. He comes in and he doesn’t pretend that he’s an expert. As a matter of fact, he and I were talking about how [people say], “Oh, that was such a great show.” And then [Kevin will say], “You guys really stunk tonight.”

Do you, or more precisely the Red Sox organization, get frustrated with guys who refuse to play through injuries?

I think they do to a degree. I just always respected the fact that nobody can really look into an athlete’s head and in his heart. You just don’t know. I think the funny thing this year has been that there’s been about three or four occasions where they’ve told [J.D.] Drew he couldn’t play and he refused to be out of the lineup. I don’t know what’s going on, but J.D. does his 137 games a year, or 135 games, and he’s probably going to end up with more this year and that’s terrific.

Some guys do know more about their bodies. You know, sometimes it’s a good thing to not be very smart.

Read More: Adrian Beltre, Daisuke Matsuzaka, David Ortiz, Jacoby Ellsbury Print  |  Email  |  Bark It Up!  |  Digg It
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