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Buster Olney on M&M: Wade Boggs not ‘that type of guy’ to have number retired

04.10.13 at 1:34 pm ET
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Buster Olney

ESPN’s Buster Olney talked to Mut & Merloni on Wednesday about the questions surrounding Jacoby Ellsbury‘s future, the early issues of the Angels and Phillies, and whether or not Wade Boggs‘ number should be retired by the Sox.

Olney said that among Scott Boras‘ clients, Ellsbury is perceived as one who will take Boras’ advice very seriously, unlike Elvis Andrus and Jered Weaver, who took a bigger role in negotiating their own deals.

“I don’t think there’s any question [that he'll leave if he becomes a free agent],” Olney said. “I was actually talking to a general manager yesterday about Jacoby’s free agency, and he made the point, nobody really knows what he is. Is he a superstar, MVP-caliber type player like we saw in 2011? Is he a guy who’s going to battle through injuries? Is he an above-average player? … Jacoby is a puzzle in terms of what he is, and part of that for me is, what does he really want?

“There’s guys who have more control over their free agency, and there’s some guys who go, ‘Scott, you’ve gotten more money for players than any agent in baseball — I’m going to let you run the show.’ That was the perception about Mark Teixeira as he was going into free agency, that he was a guy that was going to listen to Scott. And that’s what happened. He chased the biggest dollar and he went to the Yankees. And the perception about Jacoby is, he’s a Scott guy. … He’s more of the guy who’s going to say, ‘Scott’s successful, I’m going to do what he tells me to do.’ ”

Olney listed Ellsbury’s health and performance as some of the biggest variables for the Sox this season, along with how David Ortiz will perform when he returns from injury. But a week into the season, it’s also tough to predict what will happen around the rest of the AL East.

“I do think another factor is what happens with those other teams,” Olney said. “Do the Yankees figure it out? They’re doing their rope-a-dope thing and they’re hanging in there. Kevin Youkilis is off to a good start. Travis Hafner is really hitting well for them. Cano’s killing the ball in recent days. Do the Rays figure out their rotation? They’ve gotten good things from Matt Moore and Alex Cobb so far. Do the Orioles pull things together? And by the way, as the time goes on, I think there are more and more signs that the Blue Jays are really in for a rough season.”

Following are more highlights from the conversation. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page. For more Red Sox coverage, go to weei.com/redsox.

On Wade Boggs wanting his number to be retired: “It surprised me when I saw that, because I always thought that being a Hall of Famer’s not necessarily a guarantee that you get your uniform retired. I thought the guys that get the uniform retired are transcendent figures. You do it with a Ted Williams, a Joe DiMaggio, a Mickey Mantle. I’m from New England, and I grew up and followed Wade Boggs. I don’t think of him as being that type of guy with the Red Sox. I think of him as being a terrific player, but he didn’t spend his whole career for that team. If he has to ask for it, you have to wonder if it’s worthwhile.”

On Stephen Drew and Jose Iglesias: “[Other GMs] were surprised at the dollar figure [for Drew's deal]. They thought that was a little steep. They thought he was more of a $6 million guy rather than a $9.5 million, but that might have been the Red Sox covering themselves, not knowing exactly what [Jose] Iglesias was going to bring. When you talk to people on other teams about Iglesias, generally the perception is that he’s not going to hit enough to be an everyday shortstop. He’s an outstanding defender, but he’s never going to be that guy.

“I think the Red Sox probably were trying to buy some time to see what they have in their farm system and what exactly Iglesias is. Drew, when he came back from a terrible injury last year — the feeling was that the defense wasn’t really that good, that he was still in the process of getting that part of his game together. He can hit with power for sure, but I think that’s the big question about him this year — can he get back to being close to what he was in the past? That’s why it was a good strategy for him to sign a one-year deal.”

On the Angels without Jered Weaver: “The Angels’ season is off to a disastrous start. We saw this in spring training. I picked them to make the playoffs, so I’m not second-guessing anyone that they could be OK, but what’s shown up early is they just don’t have that much pitching depth. Their rotation is essentially comprised of a lot of No. 4-, No. 5-type starters. Yes, they’re going to miss Jered Weaver for 4-6 weeks … but in his first two starts, his average fastball velocity was 85.8 and 85.6. This is a guy who last year was through 88 miles an hour. So there were already significant questions about him when he got injured. We don’t know what he’s going to be when he comes back.

“And there’s just a weird vibe around that team. I was around them over the weekend when they were playing the Rangers. Josh Hamilton, it’s a head-scratcher about why he handled everything the way he did, constantly interacting with the crowd in Texas, as opposed to just being gracious and moving on. And I can’t put my finger on it, but there’s something with Mike Trout. It’s almost like the joy has gone out of him a little bit, he had the contract thing in spring, I don’t think he’s thrilled with the idea that he got moved out of center field. It’s just a different feel. So I think there’s some issues to be played out there.”

On Phillies pitcher Roy Halladay: “Yesterday Ruben Amaro, their general manager, said, ‘We’re going to give Roy as much time as possible.’ I’ve seen this act before. I covered David Cone in 2000. In 1999 he threw a perfect game and he was a great leader on that team. He came in in 2000 and he was awful. The Yankees were saying the same thing — ‘We’re committed to him, we’re giving him time.’ But to every five days have a starting pitcher go out there, and not only not pitch well, but just crush your bullpen because he’s not giving up innings — I don’t necessarily buy that, that they’re just going to give him the whole season to stink. I think he’s got to start showing something. i don’t know if you guys saw his start the other night, but he’s got no command. You have to ask questions about whether there’s some physical issue going on with him.”

On a declining number of African-American baseball players: “They’re talking a lot about it and forming a committee about it, but I wonder if they’re also going to look at the decline of white players, which is proportionally the same. Basically what’s happened is there’s been a tremendous shift demographically to where baseball is being played. Now baseball teams are invested more in Latin America than they were 30 years ago, which is why the number of black players and white players is dropping, and you have more Latin American players and more players internationally. I don’t think it’s some big mystery. I think it’s more societal than anything. You drive around, you look at the baseball fields — kids aren’t out there. If you go down to the Dominican Republic, they are.

“Baseball’s had an issue that college scholarships — if you want to get it, I think they’re something in the range of 50-60 with each of these Division 1 football programs. Baseball, it’s like 11 1/2. I remember a GM telling me this, he said, the guy who’s a third-string safety at Florida State, he should be playing baseball, but he’s not, because his opportunity to get a college education is coming through football. I think it would be really smart for baseball to invest in an extensive scholarship program for college to help bear the fruit. But again, a lot of it comes down to labor costs. The reason why they’re going down to the Dominican Republic and getting a lot of players there is because it’s cheaper.”

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