With less than a month before pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training, Phoenix culture editor Nick Schroeder discussed Red Sox baseball past and present with Brendan Evans, proprietor of Strange Maine.
Nick Schroeder: Let's start by checking some credentials. I understand you're a serious baseball fan. Is this true? How many 6-4-3 double plays did you watch Sea Dog Kevin Millar hit into in your youth?
Brendan Evans: Three or four. I went to a lot of Dogs games back in the mid-nineties. But I wasn't a youth, I was a 15-year-old in a black trenchcoat trying desperately to resist the temptation to beg Charles Johnson for an autograph.
NS: Questionable move! Charles Johnson is one of the five best baseball players to ever set foot in this city. His autograph is worth at least a happy hour taco deal at Tomaso's.
BE: CJ was certainly the biggest fish on that block since Uriah Heep played the Expo in '81. Hey, have you ever been able to find proof that Snoop Dogg wore a Sea Dogs jersey or hat? I'd swear I remember hearing that on the news back in 1994.
NS: Never did, no. It's January now, are you prepared for six months of the Red Sox being World Series shoe-ins?
BE: That's not an easy subject. I always come down on the wrong side of history. Joe Kelly was basically the only guy in that playoff series against the Cleveland Slurs who looked like he thought they could win a game. Not a good sign. I'm predicting 95 regular season wins, two Panda/Sale altercations, and a first-round playoff elimination.
NS: Joe Kelly looks like that one goofball jock kid in high school who didn't threaten to put his thumb in your eye socket. But I like him. If it's one thing the sabremetrics movement got wrong, it's misreading the value of good clubhouse guys.
BE: What's it really like in the clubhouse, do you think? Supposedly they play baseball video games, which seem really hard and couldn't possibly help your actual game. What if the X-Box Clayton Kershaw has some tell when he's going to throw a slurve that the real Kershaw doesn't have? I mean, imagine playing an accurate simulation of your job! It could only confuse you.
NS: Are you a Panda believer?
BE: Yes, I watched him hit three home runs in a World Series game. That's why I should never work in an MLB front office. "Did you see that?!!? Give him a blank cheque!"
NS: If there is one player you could trade for from the last 25 years that could hurdle the space-time continuum and bring this Red Sox team over the top, who would it be?
BE: Bill Lee.
NS: Good thinking. They need another lefty starter.
BE: Though they did have a deal in the works to bring Kirby Puckett to Fenway back in '91. That's the deal I would've really enjoyed as a 12-year-old. Okay, I'm ready to give you my hot take on the '17 Sox. I think they'll win the East. Price will be their best starter. Sale will be adequate. Porcello will regress to the mean. Steven Wright will lose his job. E-Rod will look great until he has season-ending surgery in July. Kimbrel will be a Cy Young contender. Unfortunately, the offense won't be able to carry the team due to sub-2016 level performances from Hanley, JBJ, and Xander. The bright spot will be Sandy Leon, who will continue to bat at a .450 clip due to a disturbance in the force which results in his BABIP being roughly twice what Ted Williams' was in 1941. You can't shift against something mathematics can't explain.
NS: Watching Sandy Leon watch pitchers strike him out with the low-inside curveball was like watching an 8-year-old watch a Gaspar Noé film. Just gruesome. I have him losing his job by April 20.
BE: There is a "luckiest hitter of all time," and there's potential for one who's twice as lucky. I'd say smart money is on Leon growing luckier with each passing day.
NS: Do you think Dombrowski will give us another lesson on how to destroy the value of a trade chip? Maybe this time he should convert Blake Swihart from Top Catching Prospect to Top Rosin Bag Fluffing Prospect [60-day DL].
BE: Swihart has a slightly brighter future than Rusney Castillo. I just can't let that guy fade from my memory. He still could be the next big thing!
NS: There's a universe out there where half the population wears Google Glass, people actually listen to that new My Bloody Valentine album, and still drink beverages like Orbitz. Rusney is a perennial 40/40 man there, and our moms watch him on enormous flat screens they bought when they cashed in their Beanie Babies.
BE: I'd say that the thing I'm most looking forward to about the 2017 season is Mookie Betts bowling bobblehead giveaway at Hadlock Field.
￼NS: Mookie Betts is the best thing to happen to Red Sox baseball since Ellis Burks. He's like Jacoby Ellsbury but with genuine baseball skills.
BE: Ortiz was a special player, special personality. A cartoon god. Mookie is the people's champ. Jacoby won tacos for everyone, but every Goodwill has at least ten Ellsbury jersey shirts that'll never sell. No one misses him.
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