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Mike Napoli vs. Curtis Granderson in an inflationary market 12.06.13 at 3:59 pm ET
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A year ago, Mike Napoli had a three-year, $39 million deal in hand with the Red Sox before the uncertainty generated by his diagnosis with a degenerative hip condition led to the deal’s revision into a one-year, $5 million deal that got pushed up to $13 million with incentives.

But Napoli did a number of things in 2013 to put him in position to seek something along similar lines: He remained healthy, played the second most games of his career (139) and he went from being a bat-first catcher whose defensive skills were in question to a Gold Glove-caliber first baseman, he went from a down year in 2012 (.227 with a .343 OBP and .469 slugging mark and 113 OPS+) to one very much in line with his career line in 2013 (.259/.360/.482 with a 127 OPS+).

There are still concerns in some places about the long-term risks associated with his hip condition. But given that the medical issue remained stable in 2013, it went from a dramatic uncertainty to a somewhat more normal/typical injury concern that accompanies most free agents. All of that explains why the free agent felt that it was reasonable to seek a deal that was at least comparable to the one he initially secured from the Red Sox last winter.

Yet in a fast-moving free agent market that has seen a number of landmark contracts already, Napoli’s asking price may be rising by the day. The early movement of Jacoby Ellsbury on a seven-year, $153 million deal to the Yankees and Robinson Cano on a 10-year, $240 million deal to the Mariners has spearheaded a robust market for position players, at a time when teams got a windfall of additional tens of millions — something that appears to be pushing contracts up rather rapidly. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Curtis Granderson, mike napoli,
Red Sox-Yankees series preview 09.13.13 at 9:39 am ET
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The Red Sox may not have completed the sweep against the second-place Rays, but they’ll come home to Fenway with an 8½-game lead in the division and a magic number of 8.

It was an impressive road trip for the Sox, who took series in New York (three of four) and St. Petersburg (two of three), and now have won seven straight series. They’ve already accrued more wins in September 2013 (eight) than they did in the last month of either 2012 or 2011. It appears the Red Sox have gotten hot just at the right time.

“We continue to play a very good brand of baseball,” manager John Farrell said after Thursday’s series finale with the Rays. “We’re executing for the most part in key moments and we come ready to get after it every single night.”

The Red Sox are hitting milestones left and right lately. Koji Uehara broke the franchise record for consecutive batters retired on Wednesday night, passing Ellis Kinder (32 in 1952). Uehara now has 34 consecutive outs. Mike Napoli collected his 31st bases-loaded RBI in Wednesday’s contest, which represents the highest total by a Red Sox player since Vern Stephens‘ 32 in 1950. And with their 89th victory of the season, the Red Sox have won 20 more games than they did in all of 2012, good for the largest season-to-season turnaround since the 1967 Impossible Dream team.

With a good amount of distance between them and the second-place Rays in the division standings, the Red Sox look to be a virtual lock for a postseason berth. They also have the ability to make a big impact on the wild card standings. Though the Sox don’t have any remaining regular-season games against the Rays, the team currently occupying the second wild card slot, they’ll come home to face the Yankees, who are hanging on to playoff hopes, staying within a game of Tampa Bay with a win on Thursday. Interestingly enough, the Yankees won their series finale with the Orioles on a wild pitch from Baltimore closer Jim Johnson in the top of the ninth inning, the second time this week they’ve won thanks to a wild pitch.

The Yankees, who have been playing nonstop baseball without an off day since Aug. 29, haven’t been playing bad baseball since the last time the Red Sox saw them (which, albeit, was five days ago). They managed to take three of four from Baltimore, moving ahead of the Orioles and Indians in the race for the second wild card spot. The Yankees just barely eked out the three victories in Baltimore, winning two of them by one run and the other by two runs.

The injury bug still is biting the Yankees. It was decided earlier in the week that shortstop Derek Jeter, who has played only 17 games this season, will return to the disabled list with an ankle injury and will not return this season. To fill the shortstop hole, the Yankees acquired the defensive-minded but light-hitting Brendan Ryan from the Mariners. Although the Yankees pulled out the victory on Thursday night, they lost a key member of their lineup when Brett Gardner was removed from the game and was diagnosed with a left oblique strain, an injury that can take a few weeks to heal. Gardner is scheduled to receive an MRI to determine the severity of the strain, but he will at least miss the series with the Red Sox, if not the remainder of the regular season. Catcher Austin Romine also is sidelined after suffering a concussion earlier in the week.

With the regular season winding down, this will be the last time the Red Sox face the Yankees barring a meeting in the playoffs, which means this weekend will be Mariano Rivera‘s final games at Fenway Park. The Red Sox are set to honor the closer on Sunday night.

Here are the pitching matchups for the weekend set.

Friday: John Lackey (9-12, 3.48) vs. Hiroki Kuroda (11-10, 2.99)
Saturday: Jon Lester (13-8, 3.86) vs. C.C. Sabathia (13-12, 4.82)
Sunday: Clay Buchholz (10-0, 1.61) vs. Ivan Nova (8-4, 3.17)


‘€¢ As noted earlier, Uehara set a new Red Sox record with 34 straight batters retired. He’s been unbelievably dominant since taking over the closer’s role and just continues to get better. Uehara has recorded 26 straight scoreless outings, passing Daniel Bard for the longest streak in team history. He hasn’t allowed an earned run in over two months, not since June 30, which was 30 appearances and 32 2/3 innings ago. Since becoming the closer, Uehara has earned four wins (no losses) and 18 saves in 20 opportunities. His ERA as the closer is an absolutely remarkable 0.25, while his WHIP is an equally mind-boggling 0.3273. Opposing hitters are batting a meager .084/.099/.126 against Uehara in his last 34 games, and he’s walked only two batters while striking out 51. That means his strikeout-to-walk ratio is a staggering 25.5. According to wins above replacement, Uehara has been worth more wins than any other reliever this season, which really is not surprising when looking at his unbelievable numbers.

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Alex Rodriguez, Brett Gardner, Curtis Granderson, daniel nava
Jacoby Ellsbury has his goals and the 2012 AL MVP might just be one 02.26.12 at 4:42 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Speaking publicly to the Boston media for the first time since Detroit’s Justin Verlander narrowly edged him out for the 2011 American League MVP, Jacoby Ellsbury said Sunday that he admits he was a little disappointed that the best year of his career so far didn’t result in winning the award.

“Well, we’re playing against the best competition in the world,” Ellsbury said. “Obviously, I did everything I could, left it all on the field last year. When I found out about the results, I was happy for Justin Verlander but at the same time, being as competitive as I am, I wish I would’ve won. I bet if you ask all those other guys, they would say the same thing, too. That’s how I look at it, we’re playing against the best players in the world, definitely held my head high and finished second.”

Ellsbury hinted that that award might be one of the goals he’s setting for himself this season as he looks to follow up a season in which he batted .321 with 32 homers while driving in 105 runs.

“I went into my workouts how I went about it last year and made goals for this coming season,” Ellsbury said. “I think the biggest thing is to continue what I’ve been doing. Those goals, I always say at the beginning of the year, I revisit them throughout the season. They’re personal goals. I’m just excited for coming into this season.”

In edging out Ellsbury, Verlander became the first starting pitcher in 25 years to be voted Most Valuable Player, adding it to the Cy Young Award he also captured.

Verlander earned the American League MVP honor, receiving 13 of 28 first-place votes and 280 points in voting announced by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. Ellsbury was second with four first-place votes and 242 points, followed by Toronto right fielder Jose Bautista with five first-place votes and 231 points, Yankees center fielder Curtis Granderson with 215 and Detroit first baseman Miguel Cabrera with 193.

Read More: 2011 AL MVP, Boston Red Sox, Curtis Granderson, Detroit Tigers
Is Jacoby Ellsbury the leading man? A look at the American League MVP field 11.21.11 at 10:48 am ET
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The American League MVP field is incredibly competitive this year, with strong cases to be made for no fewer than five candidates, all of whom impacted the game in a variety of ways.

The top candidates include a pair of center fielders who combined power and speed to serve as game-changing, multifaceted contributors, a starting pitcher whose season was so great as to put him in position to become potentially the first starter to take home MVP honors in 25 years, when Roger Clemens won Cy Young and MVP honors for the Red Sox in 1986.

There is a traditional middle-of-the-order slugging first baseman, and the single most ferocious hitter in the league, but one who happened to play for a team that was never really in contention.

Who do you think deserved to be the American League MVP?

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Here’s a look at the top five AL MVP candidates (in alphabetical order):


Bautista was no one-hit wonder. For the second straight year, the Blue Jays thumper delivered a monster season. He led the AL with 43 homers and an astonishing 132 walks, the foremost combination of power and patience in the game. Bautista hit .302 with a .447 OBP, an AL-leading .608 slugging mark and 1.056 OPS, continuing a mid-career transformation like few others in recent memory (his two best seasons came at age 29 and 30).

Bautista did fade down the stretch. Through the All-Star break, he had across-the-board video game numbers: .334/.468/.702/1.170 with 31 homers and 65 RBI. In the second half, he was human: .257/.419/.477/.896 with 12 homers and 38 RBI. He will also get knocked down in the eyes of some voters for the fact that he played on a team that went 81-81, landing in fourth place in the AL East. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: al mvp, Curtis Granderson, Jacoby Ellsbury, Jose Bautista
John Kruk on M&M: ‘I’m still going to stick with the Red Sox’ in the playoffs 09.08.11 at 12:45 pm ET
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ESPN baseball analyst John Kruk joined Mut & Merloni Thursday to share his thoughts on how the American League playoff race is shaping up as well as who the contenders are for postseason awards.

Kruk noted that the American League playoff picture is more cloudy considering the injuries to Josh Beckett and Clay Buchholz, but he said he still believes the Red Sox will pull through.

“I’m still going to stick with the Red Sox,” Kruk said. “I picked them early and what the heck, they’re still there.”

If Beckett’s sprained ankle turns into a lingering injury, however, Kruk said the Red Sox could easily have their October cut short.

“With this injury to Beckett, you don’t know now if he can go on three day’s rest if they were even going to think that way anyways,” Kruk said. “If Beckett’s not healthy and he tries to come back and he’s not healthy and pitches poorly, the Red Sox might be a quick out against whoever they’re going to play, Detroit or Texas or the Angels.”

Kruk agreed with Curt Schilling‘s comments from his appearance on Mut & Merloni on Wednesday when Schilling predicted that either Curtis Granderson or Jacoby Ellsbury will win the AL Most Valuable Player award.

“I think it’s the center fielders in the East, Granderson and Ellsbury,” Kruk said. “And the thing is, it’s two unexpected great years. You thought Ellsbury would be a good player. You didn’t know he’d be a great player. You didn’t know what you’d get from Granderson because he really struggled last year. When you have a guy who’s hit seventh and eighth and even ninth in the lineup, and now all of the sudden, he’s hit third every single day against righties and lefties like Granderson is doing, driving in runs and hitting home runs.

“Both guys are so vital to their team’s success and if either one of them got hurt and was out for awhile, both teams would really really struggle to win games because that’s how great these two players have been for their teams.”

Kruk acknowledged that Detroit’s Justin Verlander, who won his 22nd game of the season on Wednesday, is having a great season, but said he does not think pitchers should win the MVP because of the limited number of games they participate in.

“In the clubhouse, it’s the pitchers and the regular guys,” Kruk said. “The pitchers hang out amongst themselves. They should have their own award and they do and that’s great. I know what Verlander does has been spectacular. And any pitcher, [CC] Sabathia‘s like that, [Jon] Lester‘s like that, the guys in Philly are like that.

“It’s not what they do the day they pitch, but it’s what they do the day before and the day after they pitch that really is vital to the team and can save a bullpen. They only play 35 days, 34, 35 days. It’s hard for me to say this guy is our most valuable guy because he’s only played 35 games. I’ve always struggled with that.”

Following are more highlights from the conversation. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Curtis Granderson, Jacoby Ellsbury, John Kruk, stephen strasburg
Curt Schilling on M&M: Red Sox’ season riding on Josh Beckett’s health 09.07.11 at 12:03 pm ET
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Former Red Sox pitcher and current ESPN analyst Curt Schilling joined Mut & Merloni Wednesday morning. Among the topics discussed was Josh Beckett‘s sprained right ankle. Schilling, who is no stranger to ankle injuries, said that he is not sure how serious Beckett’s injury is as Boston heads toward the postseason.

“Their season’s riding on it, that much is clear, but I don’t have a clue as to what’s going on,” Schilling said. “I think it’s going to be very Belichickian around there for the next few days to a week as you try to get information.”

Beckett sprained his ankle in the fourth inning of his start against Toronto on Monday. While the sprain was good news to those expecting a more serious injury, it is still unclear as to when Beckett will pitch next. Schilling said that even if Beckett is not at full health for the rest of the season, it is important that he is able to pitch before the playoffs begin.

“We’re never 100 percent; last time I was 100 percent I was like 13,” Schilling said. “My concern is this: I don’t want him to have to work back up to pitching going into the postseason. … When you’re rolling into the postseason, you literally want to be gearing up like you do at the end of spring training going into the season. You want to feel like, ‘I’m executing some stuff, I’m doing some things game-plan-wise,’ and then you’re rolling into the postseason. If it’s anything other than that, it doesn’t bode well for them.”

Following are more highlights from the conversation. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.

On injured pitcher Clay Buchholz possibly returning for postseason: “He’s throwing flat ground, 60 feet. On a scale of 1-10, 10 being pitching in a big league game as a starter, he’s at step 2. … You’re asking him to go onto the mound in front of the most rabid, loyal, passionate audience in the world, in the most important games of his life. That’s tough to do with a healthy regular season finish into the postseason.”

On the American League MVP race: “I think it’s going to come down to [CurtisGranderson, to [JacobyEllsbury, to [Adrian] Gonzalez, to Pedey [Dustin Pedroia], all stealing votes from each other. It’ll end up being a close vote, but I think you’re going to see Granderson or probably Ellsbury win it.

On who will win the AL playoff races: “I would tell you that it’s going to probably end up being the way it is today, in my mind. The Yankees, the Tigers, the Rangers, even though I like [Mike] Scioscia‘s Angels, and I think you’ll have the Sox coming in as the wild card.”

Read More: Clay Buchholz, Curt Schilling, Curtis Granderson, Jacoby Ellsbury
How the Yankees finally got to Jon Lester 08.06.11 at 12:46 am ET
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Red Sox fans have seen this movie before.

An ace pitcher is cruising along against the vaunted Yankee lineup, like Jon Lester was on Friday night. The Sox left had allowed just two hits in five scoreless innings, throwing just 73 pitches in the process.

Then, boom. All of sudden, the Yankees start taking pitches, fouling off pitcher’s pitches and making every swing count. The Yankees still work the pitcher as well as any team in baseball and they proved it again Friday night, trailing 2-0.

Even the best pitchers the Red Sox ever had – like Pedro Martinez, circa 1999 – have fallen victim to this in the last 15 years that Derek Jeter has been a captain. And Jeter was at the middle of things – or more to the point – the start of things on Friday night.

Eduardo Nunez fell behind quickly two strikes to open the sixth, with the Lester and the Red Sox in command, 2-0. Then six pitches – including two foul balls – later, he was on base with a walk. Jeter singled and Curtis Granderson followed with an RBI single to left-center and it was 2-1.

‘€œJust really lost command,” Lester said. “You have to tip your cap to them. They did a good job being patient that inning. I threw some pretty good pitches they laid off, whether it was a ball or strike, they stayed within themselves and it seemed like the first five innings, we dictated both sides of the plate and in the sixth inning, they did.’€

Lester would throw his final 35 pitches of the night in that sixth inning as the Yankees rallied for three runs off Lester.

‘€œThe first thing was Nunez’€™s at-bat, the fact that he was able a 3-2 walk after fouling off some really tough pitches,” Granderson said. “I think he threw pretty anything and everything at him. Derek got his first hit of the ball game, I got my first hit. Nunez read it really well and was able to score.” Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: baseball, Boston Red Sox, Curtis Granderson, Derek Jeter
For the first time: Bobby Jenks-to-Daniel Bard-to-Jonathan Papelbon equals win 04.08.11 at 10:44 pm ET
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Friday was exactly what Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein and skipper Terry Francona had in mind when they rebuilt the bullpen.

The idea was to have Bobby Jenks pitch the seventh, Daniel Bard the eighth and Jonathan Papelbon closing out games just like he has since 2007. And on Friday, that’s exactly what happened in a 9-6 win over the Yankees in the 2011 home opener at Fenway. Three of the hardest-throwing relievers in baseball. And all of them delivered.

Consider it a whole new take on “closer by committee.”

“I think that’s what they planned to do,” said Papelbon, who was perfect in recording his first save of the season and closing out Boston’s first win. “That’s the reason they brought Jenks here. I think as a bullpen unit down there, we feel like if you can get the ball to us in the late innings of a game with the lead, we should be able to hold it.”

The key to getting there was Alfredo Aceves, recalled earlier in the day before the home opener to take the place of the disabled Matt Albers. Aceves came in and did what starter John Lackey could not, put up a zero on the board against the Yankees.

“We put up four zeroes,” Francona said. “Aceves has been through this before. Bobby has pitched a closer with the White Sox. Regardless of who we’re [pitching], it doesn’t matter, we have to find ways to win.” Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: alfredo aceves, bobby jenks, Boston Red Sox, Curtis Granderson
Lowell: ‘I feel like I got whacked there’ 09.25.10 at 3:19 am ET
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“NEW YORK — Initially, it appeared frightful.

The Curtis Granderson grounder with two outs in the bottom of the fifth inning had something of a topspin hop to it, shooting up at Mike Lowell‘s face. As the first baseman turned his head, the ball cracked off the right side of it, catching him between the temple and the eye. Immediately, Lowell crashed on the dirt, clutching the side of his head.

“It looked bad,” acknowledged shortstop Jed Lowrie.

Yet it could have been much, much worse. In fact, Lowell declared after the game that he felt little more than a knot under the skin. Even he seemed surprised that the impact was not worse.

“When I hit the floor, [he wondered], ‘€˜Am I still there?’€™ I didn’€™t see stars. I felt like the ball was still lodged in my head, but I never lost consciousness and I didn’€™t get dizzy,” recounted Lowell. “It hit right on the temple. That’€™s where I feel the bump. No fuzziness. I feel like I got whacked there.”

Sox trainer Mike Reinold burst out of the dugout to investigate Lowell while he lay on the ground. He was followed closely by manager Terry Francona.

Yet as everyone feared the worst, relief quickly followed. Not only did Lowell stand up on his own power, but he declared himself well enough to stay in the game. His presence proved short-lived. Lowell was replaced by Lars Anderson in the bottom of the sixth inning.

“I would have stayed in the game, but [the Sox had a lead of] 10-1 at the time, my eye started twitching a little, and I didn’€™t really want to hit like that,” said Lowell. “I had enough excitement for a day. But I feel fine. I feel good.”

Indeed, Lowell felt well enough to share a moment of amusement with the man who hit the ball that injured him.

“(Granderson) was great. [He said], ‘You all right?'” Lowell chuckled. “I said, ‘As long as they don’€™t rule it an error, I’€™m good.'”

Lowell got his wish. Granderson was given an infield single, and while he did leave the game, it appeared that a more significant injury had been averted. The ball off the head notwithstanding, it was one of the better games Lowell has had this year. He went 1-for-2 with a walk and reached on an error, scoring a season-high three runs.

Read More: Curtis Granderson, mike lowell,
Gammons on Big Show: ‘Pretty serious concerns about middle relief’ 04.09.10 at 6:55 pm ET
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Hall of Fame reporter and NESN analyst Peter Gammons checked in with the Big Show on Friday to discuss the early-season lessons offered by the Red Sox-Yankees series. Gammons identified two chief concerns about the current Red Sox: the team’s bullpen and, if he continues to struggle, the David Ortiz dilemma.

“The biggest thing is I have some pretty serious concerns about middle relief ‘€”getting to [Daniel] Bard, [Hideki] Okajima and [Jonathan] Papelbon,” he said.

As for the other hot topic, David Ortiz, Gammons suggested that there are questions about whether he can still handle fastballs, and that Ortiz needs to stop trying to pull the ball in his at bats.

“I still want to see what happens if he goes back to taking the ball the other way like when he first came here,” Gammons said. “If he does that and gets the ball in the air, maybe he will go back to ‘€” maybe not a 50-something home run guy ‘€” but if he has a .390 on-baseand hits 30 home runs, he is going to be pretty valuable because of all the guys that are going to be on base in front of him.”

Gammons was asked about what he believes the Sox will do once Daisuke Matsuzaka is ready to come back to the big leagues. Matsuzaka is currently on a rehab assignment with Pawtucket and will pitch on Saturday, but he is likely to get slotted back into the rotation when he is healthy. Gammons said that his guess would be the Red Sox would put Tim Wakefield in the bullpen, but not necessarily permanently.

“At times during the season I am sure that they will use a six-man rotation to get extra rest so they make sure Beckett and Lester and Lackey and Buchholz are fully healthy,” he said. “But I think that is the direction they will end up going and I think that is very hard given the fact that Wakefield was an all-star last year in the first half of the season. But it might be that he is your only guy that can pitch out of the bullpen.”

Gammons also touched on the comments made by umpire Joe West about the pace of Red Sox-Yankees games. “I think the league can talk to the Red Sox and it can talk to the Yankees, but I don’t think that is Joe West’s place to be blasting the players,” he said.  “And he didn’t offer any solution. So if he doesn’t have a solution, just go to the league and let them come up with some way to have them play faster.”

To listen to the interview, go to the Big Show’s audio on demand page. A full transcript is below.

You have a terrific relationship with a lot of the players around the game. But on the whole, there is not a great relationship between the athlete and the media today. Has it changed because of the money?

Because time is so restricted and access is so restricted today, there really isn’t a lot of time that the media has with players, managers and coaches. Now you can’t go into the clubhouse until 3:30, I mean I understand that. The size of the media is so much more overpowering today than ever before.

I remember when Richard Justice, one of my journalist friends, was covering the Redskins. He said, “Do you realize that you spend more time with players on a three-game homestand than I spend the entire season with the Redskins?” They were so restricted in being able to get there.

I think it is a lot that players are very guarded in what they say. I was kidding Derek Jeter the other day. In all the interviews I have done with him after games and so forth, there was actually one after Pedro [Martinez] threw at Karim Garcia and all that happened after that, Jeter actually called the whole scene a disgrace. He said to me, “I slipped.” I said, “It is not that big a deal,” and he said, “Ugh, I let my guard down one time.”

That’s the way a lot of athletes are. They are suspicious. It is hard when you are in a large pack of people to know who you can trust and who you can’t trust. And that is why it is so important … [to] try to get time alone with people.

Is the real difference now that there is a whole different tabloid media out there right now?

You are absolutely right. For instance, I go back ‘€” and hopefully I am not hurting the reputation of these people ‘€” I go back to the mid ’70s and there was a raid at one bar and [inaudible] and Rogelio Moret just happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. I don’t believe ‘€” I think there was a story about [inaudible] because he was arrested. The time that Moret was supposed to pitch against Jim Palmer on Monday night baseball and he had a slight accident at 5:20 in the morning in Connecticut, that was part of the notes but it wasn’t a huge deal. It is now. I actually think that for instance Deadspin is really good at what they do, because people want to read that and they do it well. TMZ does a really good job at what they do. That is what people want to read, and they go out and get it. But it creates a huge guard for the athletes, and I don’t blame them. I think one of the amazing things ‘€”and we were talking about this all week with the Yankees here’€” is that Derek Jeter has essentially managed to stay clear of this. He is a mega-star in New York and is a mega-personality.

But he has been single up to this time, right?

That is right. I remember that Mike Lansing once said to me, ‘George Brett is my idol. He played 20 years and then got married.’

That is the thing. We were talking about Jeter on the program because people reference him all the time and say, “Derek Jeter never does any of that stuff.” People forget that Steinbrenner reprimanded him because he had too much of a nightlife and then they covered it all up with that MasterCard commercial. And it was funny.

It was. Derek knows how to protect his privacy. He and [Jorge] Posada, nobody ever knows where they are. He is very smart that way. But I think it is amazing that considering this time when everyone has a cell phone with a camera, he just doesn’t get photographed. There are a couple people who show up all the time on like Deadspin because somebody is in a bar and takes a picture of them; there are like archives. Not only athletes, but people in the news media. It is a whole different world. The person with the cell phone could be calling 911, or they could be taking a picture.

Was there anything that came out of this series that you didn’t recognize before the series started?

The biggest thing is I have some pretty serious concerns about middle relief ‘€”getting to [Daniel] Bard, [Hideki] Okajima and [Jonathan] Papelbon. Maybe this is just mechanical with Manny Delcarman and he will get straightened out and get back to 95 miles per hour. I trust that that can happen. But he and [Ramon] Ramirez had amazing records last year in that their earned run averages went up every single month of the season. We haven’t seen anything from Ramirez that would tell us he is going to be any better. That is a concern and obviously the whole Ortiz thing is something that we watch. I really can’t figure, like Sunday night, 2-1, 3-1, 3-1 with [Kevin] Youkilis in scoring position, he gets fastballs and he is trying to pull them. I don’t know if he is going to hit the fastball again. I think part of it is his insecurity; he is trying so hard to be Big Papi. To me, he is forever trying to pull the ball when he became Big Papi because he hit the ball to left center.

It might be also that he is trying to cheat a little bit.

Oh, I think there is no question. That is why when somebody throws him a breaking ball he usually wraps around a little bit. I still want to see what happens if he goes back to taking the ball the other way like when he first came here. If he does that and gets the ball in the air, maybe he will go back to ‘€” maybe not a 50-something home run guy ‘€” but if he has a .390 on-base and hits 30 home runs, he is going to be pretty valuable because of all the guys that are going to be on base in front of him. But that is one of those issues that is going to be very tricky for Terry Francona to work through.

If Ortiz does continue to struggle, how long will Mike Lowell continue to sit there and bite his lip?

If Ortiz struggles, I think Lowell will start DHing against left handed pitching and they will see what happens from there. I don’t think Lowell will say things, just because it is not his style. I understand that he is frustrated; he believes he can hit, but at the same time how do you move all these guys around. I think that he will DH against left handers. I didn’t think it was the right time, considering how proud Ortiz is.

It is just too early, isn’t it?

Yeah. I still want to see, again, if he thinks about driving the ball to left center field. He pulled breaking balls but he only hits fastballs to left center and center. I think about a Wednesday afternoon when he hit the home run against B.J. Ryan. It was a 97 mile per hour fastball down and away and he drove it to the center field bleachers. I want to see what happens in time. When he was really great, I don’t think I realized how much he is like everyone else in that he is very insecure.

Well he is sensitive.

He is sensitive and he is embarrassed. Most guys are, most players are. A number of Orioles players told me that Cal Ripken is the most insecure human being they have ever met. So we will just see on that but it is really tough and I think it is really weighing on him right now. He might be better off playing on the road for a few weeks.

There were a couple times where Ortiz would not get a hit and the NESN cameras would show Lowell, and you could see the frustration on his face. Because he still believes, like you said that he should be out there.

Yeah, I mean you look at his numbers last year, and Mike Lowell was still a good hitter even though the hip was obviously bothering him. Now I don’t know if he is going to be able to play third base again, but he can still hit. It is up to Terry to figure out different ways to get people in there. It is a very sensitive issue with Ortiz and the question is going to be when is he going to show signs that he is going to get it back.

Watching some of the new guys, what interests me is watching Curtis Granderson. The guy has two home runs against very good right handed pitchers in a ballpark that is very difficult for left handed home run hitters. This guy against right handed pitching in that ballpark, hitting that low in the lineup in that ballpark, that is a little scary, Peter.

It is. I think that Granderson and Nick Johnson will have 65 home runs between them

How many games does Johnson play? That is the question.

The fact that he is DHing will help. Seeing Nick Johnson hit second with that .406 or .402, whatever it is, lifetime on-base percentage and Granderson down there lower in the order with no pressure and then when they get to that ballpark. I think there are some disturbing signs that the defensive jitters that Granderson had last September in Detroit ‘€“ they didn’t get rid of him because of money. They got rid of him because they didn’t want to pay him because he really struggled defensively. It will be interesting to see how that goes. But those two guys, they are going to be big offensive forces on that team. And I think [Robinson] Cano is going to hit 35 or 38 home runs before it is over. He doesn’t move too well at second base but he is going to hit a lot of home runs.

Were you surprised that the Josh Beckett deal got done so quick?

When it was sort of played out to me how it went about, I think it speaks volumes about Josh Beckett’s maturity. I remember being down [at spring training] the day before pitchers and catchers reported when John Lackey came in about 2:30 in the afternoon. Beckett and [Jon] Lester were there waiting for him. Lackey got the contract that Beckett thought he was going to get, and that just speaks volumes about who Beckett is. He never really played out the impact of the whole contract negotiation.

He said to me the other day, ‘I am getting pretty good money here. I have a chance to win every year. John Lackey actually gives me a better chance to get a ring. Why leave?’

I thought it was really interesting that he made mention of the fact that Theo Epstein called him as they were signing Lackey. He took that as a tremendous amount of respect from the front office. Who knows exactly what the numbers are going to be anytime you sign a guy? But the thing that you know, and have heard from him too, is that in 2000 the Marlins doctor wanted him to have surgery. And Dr. [James] Andrews now says that his shoulder is stronger now than it was then.

Yeah. He says, ‘I remember them talking in the other room and they said I needed the surgery.’ And that is what really drives him.

He forged a very close relationship with Dr. Andrews. I think it is a huge advantage to have to much pitching tied up for a long period of time. I think we see that the worst decisions on free agents are made with pitchers because of the unpredictability. So now, whether it is Jayson Werth or whoever it is going to be this offseason, the price isn’t going to be as high as it would be for Cliff Lee, who I think is a tremendous physical risk.

If everybody is healthy when Daisuke Matsuzaka comes back, who is the odd man out in the rotation?

I think they will figure that out when they get to it.

Who would you say is the odd man out of the rotation?

Well my guess is that [Tim] Wakefield ends up in the bullpen. I’m not sure but they think [Clay] Buchholz is a [No. 1 or No. 2 starter] and it is his time. Nine out of 10 quality starts down the stretch, so I think they just figure out what to do. At times during the season I am sure that they will use a six-man rotation to get extra rest so they make sure Beckett and Lester and Lackey and Buchholz are fully healthy. But I think that is the direction they will end up going and I think that is very hard given the fact that Wakefield was an All-Star last year in the first half of the season. But it might be that he is your only guy that can pitch out of the bullpen. I think that Buchholz is so good that there is no reason to put him in the bullpen. But it is an interesting situation. Last year with all the injuries they had and the disappointments with Brad Penny and John Smoltz, they had 55 starts where their starters had a 6.28 earned run average. It is amazing they won 95 games last year given how many problems they had holding their rotation together.

What do you think of those Joe West comments?

Well, I was sitting behind home plate and I was muttering and cursing because Joe West was missing so many pitches. He was part of the problem with the delay of that game. Angel Hernandez blowing two or three calls at first base didn’t help. Look, the Red Sox and Yankees ‘€” both teams have talked about how those games get to be excessively long. But it is the nature. It’s the pressure, it’s the intensity. Both teams are built to try to get the other teams starters out by the sixth inning. OK, they may wander around a little bit. But these guys stepping out didn’t just start happening now. It used to drive opposing teams insane that Dwight Evans and Marty Barrett were forever trying to upstage pitchers by stepping out during their delivery. Angel made his point the other night, but I don’t know. I think some of the umpires should be a little bit careful blasting players when the whole umpire structure in Major League Baseball is being called out constantly. I think they are trying, but the umpire’s union has far more power. And Joe West is the head of the umpire’s union, so therefore he got the opening night home plate.

I was pretty happy with the pace. Three games, all were under four hours. For Red Sox-Yankees, I would say those are brief encounters.

They are, especially since all three games were tied in the 7th inning. They were all very tense games. I think the league can talk to the Red Sox and it can talk to the Yankees, but I don’t think that is Joe West’s place to be blasting the players. And he didn’t offer any solution. So if he doesn’t have a solution, just go to the league and let them come up with some way to have them play faster. But if the games are memorable ‘€” if they are five hours long and they are won in the 14th inning on a grand slam or Aaron Boone hits a home run ‘€” people want memorable games, not just games that are played very fast. A 5-1 game played in an hour and 51 minutes is not very memorable. Just ask the fans in Kansas City.

Read More: Curtis Granderson, David Ortiz, Derek Jeter, Joe West
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