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Five Questions With the Boss: Red Sox Rubber Match Q&A With Evan Brunell, MVN President

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At the same time that I asked yesterday's interviewee, Tim Daloisio, about the 2009 Red Sox, I asked the same questions of Evan Brunell, the guy who runs MVN and managers all the wonderful sports bloggers on it (like yours truly). He's busy backpacking across Europe, but never too busy to chat a bit about the Sawx. Here goes...

Let's get this out of the way... according to Buster Olney, the Red Sox "have been doing their own research on Braves right fielder Jeff Francoeur." Rany Jazayerli recently used the Sox's interest in Francoeur as evidence that the Royals should be in on him, which tells you how much stock smart baseball people put in the Red Sox's talent evaluation. So is there any chance that Frenchy heads to Fenway? How terrified are you that this could actually happen?

I very much doubt that the Sox snap up Frenchy this season as the Sox already have Rocco Baldelli and Mark Kotsay as backups. However, with the aforementioned two plus starter J.D. Drew injury-prone, the possibility exists that Frenchy could be plucked up as a result of an injury.

At this point, Frenchy wouldn't be a starter for the Sox. If the Sox were to trade for Francouer this season, it would be for backup purposes only -- there's no way we can rely on him this year.

I could see him serving as the fourth outfielder for the Sox next year and rebuilding his value that way. I'd be interested in having him on the team given what he brings to the team defensively. In addition, the Sox's scouting and development tools are so powerful, you have to give them the benefit of the doubt on any acquisition they make. It doesn't mean they're infallible, but when they bring someone into the organization, you sit up and take notice.

My guess is that Francouer heads to a team more in need of an outfielder/more willing to roll the dice at or near the deadline. I wonder if the White Sox view him as a possibility in center.
Apparently, some former Tigers farmhand named John Smoltz has been pitching pretty well at Pawtucket. Any chance the Braves will catch his first cup of coffee with the big league club? How much do you expect from him this year? [ed. note: As I wrote yesterday, this question is now out of date, because he's scheduled to debut June 25, days after the Braves leave town.]

Well, we know now Smoltz will not be seeing the Braves. Given how things shook out, I think its by design. Smoltz wasn't averse to facing them, but in his quotes, I got the feeling he would prefer not to. People have said the timetable dictated the skipping... His emotions would be running too high and could lead to overdoing it... Whatever the reason, I think he's privately relieved.
Speaking of the rotation, the Sox have had a few problems, as their starters have put up a 4.93 ERA so far, good for 26th in baseball. How confident are you in the Beckett-Lester-Dice-Wake-Penny crew? How badly do you need serious innings from Smoltz, Justin Masterson, or perpetual prospect Clay Buchholz?

Actually, the rotation has been among the best in baseball for the last several weeks. Beckett and Lester are on top of their game, Wake is on the cusp of his first-ever All-Star Game and even Brad Penny is fashioning himself into a solid pitcher (albeit one that doesn't go deep into games). Dice-K has worked to cut down on his walks and has started challenging hitters but that's caused hitters to light him up. As a result, he's a huge liability and Smoltz will be looked upon to shoulder the load.

I think the Sox are privately giving Dice-K one or two more starts to prove himself. If he fails, they'll force him to the DL again or ask him to accept an assignment to Triple-A. If he turns it around, I have no idea what the Sox will do. But irrespective of Dice, the Sox have Clay Buchholz and Michael Bowden in the minors, just dying to get their shot in the bigs. Theo got burned majorly on the Bronson Arroyo trade and now holds pitching depth close to the vest -- some may say he's overreacting, but I wonder if he's setting up for an offseason megadeal for a young hitter.

Back on topic: the pitching the Sox have amassed make them perhaps the scariest team come October as they have no shortage of guys who will shut you down. Heck, they're probably optioning a guy who throws 100 MPH and has shown he can handle himself in the bigs for Smoltz. When you send down a player like Daniel Bard, you know you have an embarassment of riches.
Concerning the starting 9, former Brave Nick Green has hit surprisingly well in the absence of Julio Lugo and Jed Lowrie, but the elephant in the room is David Ortiz, who's hitting like he wants to break Jose Vidro's "Worst DH Ever" record. Plenty of people are whispering "steroids"; the Sports Guy thinks he lied about his age and is much older than we think. Why has he fallen off a cliff, is his career over, and if so, what will it take to eject him from the lineup?

Ortiz is coming around and is proving to be a force in the lineup again -- but its only been 10 games. It's too soon to say if he's back. His problem was an inability to catch up to a fastball (and we're talking a garden-variety 88 MPH fastball here), causing him to start his swing early, which then left him vulnerable to off-speed pitches.

Pitchers started challenging him more, throwing him pitches he would have crushed years ago... and is starting to crush now. As a result, it's hard to say if he's back -- he merely may just have the ability to hit the easy pitches but has lost the ability to make adjustments. We won't know until a full month has gone by and pitchers re-adjust. If this is a mirage and he goes back to his skidding ways, he'll start losing more and more time to Rocco Baldelli and Mark Kotsay until the Sox can bring in a slugger at the deadline (I'm keen on Jim Thome).
And finally... Manny. Are the championships tarnished? (Pretty clearly, Manny wasn't the only cheater on the lineup, though they had the good sense to ditch Nomar before they went all the way.) How do you put it in perspective? If you had an HOF ballot, what Red Sox from the past 10 years would you vote for?

Spitballs were legal in the early 20th century. The ball was modified to take advantage of Babe Ruth's popularity. Only white men could play the sport for decades. The mound was lowered when Bob Gibson put together a season that can only be replicated on the "Rookie" level in video games. Cocaine was all the rage in the 80s to the point where Tim Raines allegedly slid face-first only to avoid breaking the vial in his back pocket.

Baseball is America's Pastime for many reasons, one being it reflects America so well - all its warts and flaws lend itself to public discreditation, but at the same time humanizes it. Its what makes baseball so impactful. Why else do steroids get glossed over in football but is the topic of daily radio shows in baseball?

The civil rights movement didn't truly gain steam until Jackie Robinson changed the face of America and stood with MLK to show everyone that the color of skin shouldn't degrade you.

The crackdown on steriods didn't begin when football players began being suspended. News that the Iron Curtain of the Steelers in the 70s were even more juiced than Jose Canseco barely registered a blip in the sports world.

Not so in baseball.

I'm not a supporter of using steroids, but I don't think the era should stand apart from the earlier eras. If steroids are enough to remove you from Hall of Fame consideration because the playing field wasn't even... Well, when has it ever been?

Anyways, Manny Ramirez, Curt Schilling and Pedro Martinez belong in the Hall. If Big Papi is for real and keeps this up for another 2-3 years, he'll be the new Jim Rice (but will get in sooner thanks to his popularity and postseason resume).
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