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Gammons on The Big Show: Sox in ‘very dangerous stretch’

07.16.10 at 5:37 pm ET
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Peter Gammons

NESN Red Sox analyst Peter Gammons joined The Big Show on Friday afternoon to talk about the current state of the Red Sox, possible acquisitions they could make nearing the trade deadline, and George Steinbrenner.

“Well, I think in the end, he’s done a great deal for the game,” Gammons said on Steinbrenner. “He was the only owner who really understood that baseball is entertaining. He did buy a team and within four years he had a world champion with Reggie Jackson and Goose Gossage and all those guys he brought in.”

Gammons also touched on the recent comments made by Dan Duquette on more evidence surfacing that could link Roger Clemens to performance-enhancing drugs.

Below is the transcript of the conversation. Visit The Big Show audio on demand page to hear the interview.

What are your feelings on the Red Sox right now?

I didn’t like the series matchups with Texas coming in here and then going on a 10-game road trip. I guess what they’re hoping is they get [Clay] Buchholz pitching tonight, [Josh] Beckett tomorrow, then after this week they get their rotation. They have to hope they carry them until they get all their players back.

What do you think their mindset is going into the last couple weeks? Is it just a wait and see attitude with them?

I mean, if there was something really good available they would probably go through with it. You’re not going to trade two players for a 10-home run hitting backup outfielder like David DeJesus. He’s a nice guy but once [Jacoby] Ellsbury comes back, he’s your fourth or fifth outfielder and that’s Kansas City’s primary chip, so that doesn’t work. Right now, they’ve looked around at pitchers. The Pirates won’t trade Joel Hanrahan who’s kind of like the best middle man in the league and Toronto wants Jose Iglesias for Scott Downs and that’s not happening, especially with Downs now hurt. They have to hope they get more innings out of their starters and around the 31st teams try to dump a couple salaries.

I maintain this season comes down to his next four weeks. Do you think they have enough muscle to stay in it?

I think they do if once they get Beckett and Buchholz back, they have [Jon] Lester, Buchholz, Beckett, [John] Lackey, and [Daisuke] Matsuzaka for their five-man rotation. They have to carry, which is entirely possible. Any sabermetric rating, they have Lester and Buchholz who are two of the three best pitchers in the league. Joe Girardi said he would have probably started Buchholz is he had been available for the All-Star game. That’s what has to happen, this is the time when the pitching has to carry them.

Victor Martinez now may be more delayed than they thought. There have been eight games this year when the top three in the order have been together. That’s a huge loss for this team, so I agree this is a very dangerous stretch. … The thing is that Anaheim, Oakland, and Seattle are not playing very well. The only thing is, people are underestimating Texas, which has the same record as the Red Sox and its run differential is better. Adding Cliff Lee to Colby Lewis just makes their rotation much better than it was a year ago.

Will Kerry Wood get traded and what are the chances he will end up with the Red Sox?

I mentioned him but I was told that the Red Sox have no interest in him because of his contract and his unpredictability. He’ll get traded because it’s hard not to take a shot with that stuff. He’s still throwing 97-98, he doesn’t have great results but he’s still throwing very hard. I think one issue you want to think about is with Kerry’s presence and ego, will he pitch in the seventh inning and how is he going to react? I think someone will take him. I don’t know if the Dodgers will give up prospects … but I think that might be a possibility. I think the Cardinals are definitely a possibility.

Take us into other general manager’s heads. When they look at the Red Sox, are they looking at possible free agents next year or are they looking at prospects?

Well, because he’s struggled since he’s picked up three of four miles an hour in velocity, the guy who’s asked about the most is Casey Kelly. He’s not being moved, just as [Felix] Doubront is not being moved any under circumstance. The other guy who gets asked about the most is Ryan Kalish. I don’t believe, unless they were to get a superstar player, they would trade Kalish either because he would be playing here next year and be the regular right fielder two years from now.

Is Jayson Werth going be a candidate for the Red Sox to acquire?

Well, I think he is. I’m a big Werth fan. He’s such a great athlete and he’s not had a great year. I think he’s been a little bit distracted because of the whole free agency thing. I think if the Phillies feel they are out of it, and I’m not sure they think they can catch the wild card or the Braves, I think they might try it. The question is going to be, if you’re going to give up three players, you’re going to have to sign him. … The one team I keep wondering about if they drop a few games back, if the Dodgers start dropping back, would they talk about Andre Ethier. He’s going to make $10-$12 million next year, the coaching staff feels with their bizarre ownership situation, they don’t want to pay Ethier and might trade him now. That would be a fascinating guy to go after.

I always remember you used to refer to Yankees owner George Steinbrenner as Phineas T. Bluster, not only in first reference but for the entire story. Now that he’s gone, what is your general closed book case state on George Steinbrenner?

Well, I think in the end, he’s done a great deal for the game. He was the only owner who really understood that baseball is entertaining. He did buy a team and within four years he had a world champion with Reggie Jackson and Goose Gossage and all those guys he brought in. I hear small-market owners say, “Well, he really hurt people.” He upped the value of contracts because when the Yankees were good, contracts were worth more. … In the end, I think he mellowed a lot and what I thought really changed him was when Fay Vincent threw him out of the game.

When he came back, he saw what Gene Michaels and Buck Showalter had done. All of a sudden, those two guys convinced [him], “You know, we can develop players.” When they turned it over to Joe Torre, he had Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, and Derek Jeter. Plus, they had gone after character players like Paul O’Neil and [Scott] Brosius. I think that changed George and he loves the whole Yankees-Red Sox rivalry.

Steinbrenner did enjoy talking with his biggest critics, didn’t he?

Oh, he did. I remember when he fired Showalter, I wrote a column being quite critical of him. Then, of course, they go and win next year and proved me wrong. I thought, “I really made a mistake, didn’t I?” I said to him, “Well, I did suggest in that column that the one guy who could handle that job was Joe Torre.” He looked at me and said, “You don’t think I’m ever going to say that you were right about anything, do you?” … My lasting memory was in 2004 when the Red Sox won in Yankee Stadium. I was down the first base line and I looked up at one point and there was Steinbrenner, standing in front of his office in back of the press box. I look out and I see him staring out into hundreds of players, front office people, family members, all stomping on George’s ground, celebrating the Red Sox winning.

One of the public relations guys said, “We better get these people off the field.” The security guy got a hold of George and said, “You want these people off the field?” Essentially, the answer was, “You know what, it says a lot about the Yankee tradition, it means so much to them, let them enjoy their moment. Good luck to them.” Somebody said, “What about the damage being done to the field?” George’s message was, “We don’t have a game until April, I wouldn’t worry about it.” The fact that he instead of being enraged, he understood that the Red Sox finally won in New York and he didn’t go ballistic over it. That would have never happened in 1985.

What was your take on the Jacoby Ellsbury timeline/press conference?

I think he had a lot to clear up and I actually feel he did it pretty well. He made it very clear the line he’s drawn and what he’s upset about. I thought he did it the right way. I thought he should of said, “The Red Sox wanted me to go to API and my agent wanted me to go another place.” There are obviously a lot of hard feelings between Jacoby Ellsbury and someone in the medical staff. I think he wanted to lay it all out there and let it go at that. It was an odd thing but there have been odd things going on with medical stuff around Fenway this year.

I thought he was smart in doing what he did and to think it out and write his notes and not get lost in the middle of this dissertation because let’s face it, players aren’t supposed to know about medical stuff. I thought he did a pretty good job of it. This thing has become what it’s become, but we all know they need him. On a good note, guys who were watching him the last three nights say [Jed] Lowrie looks terrific. He played great for this team two years ago and they really need him, so I think he’s coming back soon.

Which direction does it head now? Is there a divide or do Ellsbury and the Red Sox make up and go on?

They’ll just make up if he plays, which I think he will be the first of August. I think he’s always going to be a little suspicious, I think that’s his nature. He’s always been a guy that people say, “Oh, he spends a lot of time in the trainer’s room.” I don’t know what that all means. I think he’s very cognizant of his body but I don’t get too revved up. I think this is always going to be a cautious relationship and there’s not much you can do about it because they really need him. They need what he brings them at the top of the order and when [Dustin] Pedroia is healthy, he’ll affect the number of fastballs he gets at that two-hole. It’s a matter of getting him back and I don’t think it will be so contentious. For one thing, he’s missed so much time, he’s not going to be able to get any big arbitration numbers. This season has really hurt his arbitration value, so he has to come back and have a great finish and have a great year next year.

I’m curious and interested in your reaction to Dan Duquette’s comments that there will be more evidence and information to come out that will prove Roger Clemens did performance-enhancing drugs.

Well, he knows something I don’t. I guess I would say I thought that was odd, but we shall see.

Isn’t he covering himself though that the worse Clemens looks, the better he looks for letting him go in the first place?

That was my impression and I never really thought that it was as much Dan wanting to let him go, as it was John Harrington. I was mystified by it and I’m not a big believer of throwing stuff out there unless you really know. The only way would be was when they had Jose Canseco here with Kevin Kennedy and Kennedy was aware of something, but I don’t think that was true.

You just mentioned that Clemens’ venom should be directed more at Harrington than at Duquette, but where is in your opinion, it is directly at Duquette?

Definitely, but that doesn’t mean that it was necessarily all Duquette’s idea to offer him $2.5 million a year. The thing is that Dan made the “twilight of his career” comment and we know that Roger doesn’t forget easily and he never forgave him for that. I always felt that it was more John Harrington than it was Dan Duquette. I can remember when the negotiations were going on back in November of that year, I remember Dan saying to me, “Well, we’ll end up signing him, he’s the greatest pitcher ever to pitch for the Red Sox.” It always struck me that after that, it was never in his hands.

If Roger were to just come out and admit, his hometown would be right there to forgive him.

I think that’s probably true. The one thing I don’t know if whether or not Roger doesn’t believe that he actually did do anything. People who are self-absorbed, and a lot of great athletes are self-absorbed, can easily become self-delusional. There are guys that simply don’t acknowledge, they just go, “It isn’t true, I didn’t do it, I didn’t do it, I didn’t do it.” Then they come to believe it and that may be the case for Roger.

Were you surprised at Bill Lee’s comments on George Steinbrenner?

It really wasn’t necessary. I remember the whole thing with the fight where he called them the “Steinbrenner black shirts” and everything after the fight in ’76. There was a lot to happen with Bill that spurred that fight on, particularly with Graig Nettles. I don’t know, I just think you let it go and I didn’t think it was necessary, but he got a lot of ink out of it.

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