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SI’s Tom Verducci on D&C: Red Sox ‘clearly the best team, right now, in baseball’

09.17.13 at 10:22 am ET
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Tom Verducci

Tom Verducci

Sports Illustrated baseball writer Tom Verducci joined Dennis & Callahan on Tuesday morning to discuss the Red Sox and the reasons for their success this season.

Verducci said that he was shocked at how big of a turnaround the Red Sox have had this year.

“I thought they’d be better, I thought they’d be a contender. I didn’t see them putting up the best record in baseball. I mean, it’s really tough for teams to win 100 games anymore. I think it’s only happened three times in the last seven or eight years, and that’s because of the distribution of talent. It’s a lot better, and you don’t hear talk about competitive balance these days like you used to five years ago,” Verducci said. “So I think it’s real hard for a team to run up 100 wins and they may do it and they’re clearly the best team, right now, in baseball.”

Verducci added that the Red Sox’s great clubhouse chemistry has been a big part to the team’s great run this season.

“There’s really something to it. I know a lot of people really like to argue that it’s overwritten and that chemistry comes from winning ballgames, but you guys know, you talk to this Red Sox team and they’ll tell you about spring training, before any wins counted in the standings, this team felt like they were getting along well, they had something going on, they built upon that. I think that it’s not an accident, when you look at the players the Red Sox brought in,” Verducci said. “I thought they made great decisions.”

Verducci also said that he believed Boston’s patience at the plate this season has been key to many of the team’s wins this year.

“That was a nice bonus that they brought in these guys, and Mike Napoli, you’d have to throw him in there as well. He’s always been a patient hitter, he’s seen this year, the most pitches per plate appearance than anybody in baseball, he’s seen the most full counts of anyone in baseball. Yeah, he set a franchise record for strikeouts, but collectively, this is a very difficult lineup to work your way through,” Verducci said, adding: “They just don’t take pitches for the sake of taking pitches. … I think they’re selectively aggressive. They’re aggressive in the right spots. … I think it’s a great formula for postseason play.”

Verducci also added that he sees a Red Sox-Cardinals World Series this October.

“I’m just so impressed with the way the Red Sox are playing, especially knowing now that it looks like they’re going to have home-field advantage with the best record, I think in baseball, at least in the league. They look really good right now,” Verducci said, adding: “I like St. Louis, the way they’ve played all year. I think I’d go with St. Louis. I think the Dodgers are the best team on paper, they should meet the Red Sox in the World Series, but there’s just something about the Cardinals that I’ve liked all year.”

Following are more highlights from this conversation. To listen to the interview, visit the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page. For more Red Sox news, visit the team page at weei.com/redsox.

On whether Veruducci thought the Red Sox offseason made sense at the time: “I did in this regard: You say [players were] overpaid, and they were if you look at it on an average annual basis, but they were smart to say, ‘OK, we’ll give you money, but we’re not going to give you a lot of years.’ If you look at the contracts in recent years by guys in their 30s, and Josh Hamilton and [AlbertPujols would be exhibit A and B, it’s smart to stay away from paying guys as they age through their mid-3os. … I’m surprised, though, because I didn’t think all of these moves would come through, and that’s basically what it is. You’re talking about almost a 1.000 batting average. That just doesn’t happen.”

On which postseason contenders aren’t built for October: “You could say Oakland, but their starting pitching is better than people give them credit for. I say Oakland only because I think one of their main strengths is they’re very deep. It seems like they have different guys pop up from time to time, but sometimes you need that, especially in October, that middle of the order  just to do the damage … but I’ll be careful about Oakland, because I don’t want to think that they’re some fluke team, that they’re a one-and-done team, that’s a legitimately good baseball team. I don’t know if there’s anybody right now that I would say is in trouble other than Texas if they happen to get in, I mean they’re leaking so much oil right now, I don’t know if they’re going to get in.”

On how the market for Jacoby Ellsbury is shaping up this offseason: “It will be really good. We make evaluations of guys, and especially when you see the player in your market and you see the flaws and see them on an everyday basis, you kind of underestimate the value, if that’s possible, because there’s just so much money in the game today. … You’ve got Ellsbury, you’ve got [Shin-SooChoo, you’ve got [RobinsonCano, I think all of those guys, even though they’re already into their 30s, are going to do very well. I’m talking about six- to eight-year deals.”

On if the Red Sox might deal one of their top four starting pitchers during the offseason: “Yeah, I guess there’s a possibility. I think it’s a possibility where you at least listen to other teams, and if somebody wants to knock you out for, I think they’re at the point where it makes sense to just get major league young players back. I wouldn’t say they’re out there shopping, trying to rid themselves of one. Look at the Dodgers this year, they came into the season with nine starting pitchers. We said it was too many, and before you know it, they were down to about four and they were out there trading for starting pitchers. I wouldn’t anticipate it would happen, though.”

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