MLB Network analyst Kevin Millar talked with Dennis & Callahan on Thursday to discuss the Red Sox ‘ chances this season, pitcher John Lackey , the best teammate he ever had, and more Red Sox news.
The Blue Jays improved greatly this offseason and further strengthen an already tough AL East. Millar sees the division as wide open.
“The Yankees  aren’t better [than the Red Sox],” Millar said. “The Yankees are going to be good, but the Yankees are definitely older. … The Rays are obviously going to always compete because they throw the baseball. But you did lose James Shields , let’s get that straight.
“The Orioles, great season last year. They’ve still got to come back and prove that to me again. Was this a one year wonder? … Then I look at the Blue Jays. On paper, this is the team that should win the East. But a lot of that team is the Florida Marlins . How’d their year go last year? … The Blue Jays have to prove to people. Yeah, R.A. Dickey, great year last year, don’t discount that. But he’s got to do that again now in the East. So I give the Red Sox a legitimate chance because there’s not a whole bunch of teams that are better than them.”
While the Red Sox were active this offseason, they made most of their moves focusing on improving last year’s “toxic” clubhouse. Millar discussed trying to balance the importance of good chemistry while also having enough talent on the field.
“You’ve got to have horses,” Millar said. “It’s a self-made thing through the media — ‘Yeah, he’s a good clubhouse guy.’ I was perceived a good clubhouse guy. Or, ‘He’s a winning player.’ Whatever that means, we still had Pedro [Martinez], Manny [Ramirez], David [Ortiz], [Curt] Schilling, right? And then you had Keith Foulke coming in there in the back end of the bullpen. We had horses.
“But the bottom line is you need good guys. You need guys that pull for each other. You need guys to sit there, because there’s energy. In life, there’s energy. … But you have to have good players. If Jon Lester  doesn’t pitch for the Red Sox, you guys aren’t going to win. If [Clay] Buchholz goes on the DL for three months, you’re not going to win. If Ryan Dempster  doesn’t step up in the [AL] East, you’re not going to win.”
Regardless of how the clubhouse chemistry is, one player who is crucial to the team’s success is John Lackey. Lackey missed all of last season after having Tommy John surgery.
“John Lackey got a bad, bad scene rap,” Millar said. “He’s not a great sound bite. He gets in front of a microphone and people want to ambush him because there’s some guys that just don’t know how to play the game. Josh Beckett  was another guy. [He] does not know how to play the game in front of a microphone.
“Great, but just because Lackey’s not a great sound bite and had a rough year; let’s not forget, he was hurt. He was hurt going out there throwing 87 miles an hour. But he’s a competitor. John Lackey’s a horse. When healthy, you wanted him on the mound for the Angels. … If he’s healthy, this guy is going to be huge for you guys.”
On the best teammate he ever had: “Hands down, Gabe Kapler. Gabe Kapler was the greatest teammate that we had and he was probably as big as a role on our team, being a 25th man. … Bill Mueller‘s a great teammate. Trot Nixon ‘s a great teammate. We had so many guys that I can go down the list. Johnny Damon ‘s a great teammate. We’re good guys and good teammates, they cared about each other. Doug Mirabelli , our backup catcher was like our third hitting coach.”
On Mike Napoli : “Nap’s got to be healthy. I don’t know much about his degenerated-type scene hip. Hopefully it’s not a bad scene, it’s not an Albert Belle or Mikey Lowell. The bottom line is if this guy straps up and hits in that three, four, five, six hole, he’s going to hit homers. … When I played against Nap, when he was with the Angels, I’m thinking, ‘God, I just didn’t like him.’ That one extra button was undone and was tucked in. He kind of just bugged me from a player on the other side. Then you get a chance to know this guy now on this side, when he was with the Rangers and [I] covered him, being around him. Players love him, teammates love him, and what a good guy.”
On the toughest pitcher he faced: “Roy Halladay  signed me a jersey as his teammate without saying anything, and Roy has about four words a month. I came in one night, he was going to get traded in  but didn’t. But just in case he did, he hung a jersey up and he goes, ‘Thanks for your 7-for-47 against me. My name would be Roy, but they call me Doc.’ “