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Gammons: ‘Improving dramatically’ not necessary for Red Sox

09.10.10 at 5:40 pm ET
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Hall of Fame baseball analyst Peter Gammons of the MLB Network and NESN joined The Big Show on Friday to discuss the future of the Red Sox, who seem to be all but out of the playoff race. With the discussion ranging from free agency, to the bullpen, to Manny Ramirez‘ struggles in his return to the American League, there was plenty of interesting chatter. Here’s what he had to say.

Are the Red Sox going to get any ratings playing the A’s this weekend?

“I think it’s going to be tough. It hurts them that the focus has moved over. Patriots are opening [with] very big expectations. The Bruins are opening training camp. The novelty of having young players playing this last week and having them do pretty well is great, but it’s a lot different when it’s in Fenway Park than when it’s out on the west coast. My guess is unless there are a lot of people that want to see [Clay] Buchholz pitch or whatever, I think it’s going to be tough to get a huge audience.”

There were a lot of empty seats by the sixth inning at Fenway this last series.

“They were three blowouts and they were three long games. There’s so much expectation here and there should be that [fans think], ‘It didn’t work out, and I’m going to move on,’ and that’s the nature of entertainment.”

How much pressure is on the ownership in the offseason?

“I don’t think improving dramatically [is necessary]. They’re going to end up with the fourth best record or fifth best record in the league. They missed more games than any team in the league. I think to go out and throw tons of money — there are only really two free agents that would create a buzz. One is Cliff Lee, who has been terrible down the stretch, and the other is Carl Crawford, who wouldn’t come here anyway. ‘€¦ I think they’re going to be so focused on this season. How does the whole Adrian Beltre thing play out?

“This is a very difficult offseason, because Scott Boras not only has Jayson Werth, he has Werth and Beltre. He has two of the three best position player free agents. Those two guys are going to be available for business at the winter meetings in December, so nothing’s going to happen on either one of them until then. I do think that the whole Victor Martinez may get dragged out dramatically because I know the Red Sox aren’t going to sign him for four years as a catcher. Let’s face it, his worth as a DH is a lot less than what it is as a catcher. I think that’s going to play out to see if someone is willing to give him four years as a catcher. I don’t think it will happen, but I think both of those things have to play out for a long time. I just think this is going to be a very prolonged winter in which we probably won’t know a lot until Christmas or New Years.”

Was the two-year deal a message that they only view Martinez as a catcher for two more years?

“Yeah. I think that’s the way they look at is as, ‘OK, he’ll catch for two more years, if that. You also have in this equation of Victor Martinez and Adrian Beltre, David Ortiz. The question is how many of those [do you sign], or do you move onto Jason Werth, who is a skilled who is a skilled corner defender. He’s a Gold Glove right fielder. Where do you move all these guys? My guess is most teams try to go to David Ortiz and say, ‘Look, $13.5 million is probably not what you would come close to on the market.’ He signed below market at the time that he did sign his contract, but [they'll say], ‘we really need you to be a platoon player.’ If you take his numbers against left-handed pitching over the last six years, they have depreciated staggeringly. I mean, to a point where he’s basically a backup middle infielder against left-handed pitchers now.

“I think there are so many factors here and I don’t think there’s a lot of money. I think that they’re up pretty high, I think there’s not a lot of money to spend, so how they put all this stuff together is going to be fascinating to watch.

“I just remember people saying in spring training last year, ‘Well, they didn’t get anybody.’ Well, Beltre’s turned out to have a better year than [Evan] Longoria or Alex Rodriguez. Are you going to be able to find another one of those? Are you going to be able to get Carlos Quentin from the White Sox, for instance, for next to nothing and use him? I don’t know. I think they’re in a lot of pretty treacherous water right now.”

Was trading Manny Delcarmen the first step in recreating the bullpen?

“I think so. I think they had come to the conclusion that it wasn’t going to happen with Manny here. It was getting worse all the time and the manager was scared to death of putting him in, so ‘OK, we make a move over there now.’ I don’t think we’ll be seeing Robert Manuel pitching here next year, but you start to resift around and just hope that you get lucky. There was one time they claimed Bronson Arroyo for a dollar and got lucky. I don’t know if Matt Fox is going to be Bronson Arroyo, but sometimes with relievers, particularly, middle relievers, you just keep throwing pasta at the wall and hoping that some of it sticks. [Hideki] Okajima gave them three great years, far beyond whatever they could have hoped, and I understand that there are a few Japanese relievers that are coming over this year. I wouldn’t be surprised if they don’t sign one of them, and just keep trying to find [guys].

“People go, ‘Well go get a middle reliever.’ You spend $5 million on one and they guy turns out to be a bust and then the Rays give Joaquin Benoit $500,00 after four teams stopped his workouts because he was hurt after not pitching for a year and he turns out to have a 1.40 ERA and be the best middle man in the American League. To me, it’s all about quantity. You get as many guys at the lowest price you can and hope you can hit on three of them in front of Bard or Papelbon or whoever is the closer.”

Why can’t the Red Sox get Crawford in free agency?

“I just don’t think that the Red Sox can afford the $140 million for seven years that I think he will cost, particularly when the best guys they have that will be ready by the middle of next year — [Anthony] Rizzo, [Ryan] Kalish, [Josh] Reddick — are all left-handed hitters. Obviously, Crawford is different from any of those guys — phenomenal athlete, strong, and all the rest — but I don’t think that they would go that far. I think they’re very concerned about what they’re going to do against left-handed pitching. Not only is Ortiz basically a platoon guy now at times, but J.D. Drew has turned into a platoon player. To me, that’s why Beltre and Martinez are so important.

“You’ve still got [C.C.] Sabathia in the same division, and [Brian] Matusz in the same division and Toronto with [Ricky Romero], and Tampa considers [Shaun] Marcum to be a left-handed pitcher. He’s right-handed, but Joe [Maddon] was saying, ‘We face three left-handers this week.’ I said, ‘What?’ and he said. ‘We consider Marcum one of the four best left-handed pitchers in the league, so we’ll start the lineup that we start against [Brett] Cecil and Romero.’”

On the rest of the AL

“It looks like Minnesota has run away from the White Sox, and by the way, Manny now has yet to have an extra-base hit or an RBI, but he is ties with Yuniesky Bettancourt in American League OPS numbers [.703].”

But the good news is if he continues to struggle he’ll continue to apologize.

“Scott wrote some very good speeches for him.”

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