So, how do they look?”
It is the inevitable question when someone realizes you just returned from a trip to the Red Sox spring training camp in Fort Myers, Fla. Especially if you persist in wearing a “Spring Training 2002” hat.
It is a wonder that anyone bothers to ask, since I am far from a baseball expert. In my first visit to Fort Myers, I predicted Mo Vaughn would be a flop because of his size. Anyone that size could never play first base and would break down in a few years because of the weight his legs had to carry. I was expounding on this theory with former Maine congressional candidate John Purcell, I remember, when Vaughn hit a home run into the Florida night. Purcell, a demented Yankee fan, still laughs about that one. When Vaughn hits his next home run for the New York Mets, that will be number 300.
My next prediction was that Trot Nixon would be a flop. Nixon had back trouble in his first spring training sessions and looked like he could never hit major league pitching. Nixon, of course, has developed into a solid hitter and skilled outfielder who has batted .270 and hit 54 home runs in his three-year career.
The obvious answer is they look the same as always. A few decent hitters, little speed and thin pitching after the ace, Pedro Martinez. After watching Martinez in three games, I remain convinced he is more injured than anyone is letting on. I have a $7 bet with an Owls Head baseball fan that Pedro will never win more than seven games as a starter for the rest of his career.
I fervently hope I am totally wrong, but I fear that Pedro’s best days are behind him.
The Red Sox will never go anywhere with Tim Wakefield on the staff. The knuckleball pitcher has been called the Human Time Delay for his slow-working methods. In one game at Fort Myers, he took 18 minutes to get the first out.
Wakefield’s presence on the staff is a sign that the obvious holes need to be filled, even by someone as undependable as Wakefield. Would the New York Yankees have Wakefield on their staff?
The most surprising player during the session was first baseman Juan Diaz. Although the Cuban hit better than .300 during spring training, he was sent to the minor leagues last week because the team has about 12 first basemen. In his brief appearances, the burly (270-pound) first baseman made several athletic stops and started some highlight double plays. For such a large man, Diaz runs very well and exhibited some rare hustle on the bases. In 74 games at Pawtucket last year, Diaz batted .269 and hit 20 home runs with 51 runs batted in.
My prediction is that if Diaz ever gets to Fenway Park, he will become a huge (in more ways than one) fan favorite much like “El Guapo,” otherwise known as pitcher Rich Garces.
The next prediction is that the Red Sox will become an almost exclusively Latin ball club in the very near future. GM Dan Duquette promised he would expand the club’s scouting in the islands, before he was deposed this year.
On a visit to the minor league camp, with both Red Sox and Twins players involved in three simultaneous ballgames, virtually every player had a Latino name stitched on his back. There were very few black minor leaguers and even fewer white players.
The easiest prediction is that the Yankees will leave the Red Sox in the dust, once again. The prediction is that the Yankees will win by at least 12 games and win the World Series, rather easily.
But I also predicted that the Patriots would be lucky to win eight games last year. I predicted that Mo Vaughn and Trot Nixon would be flops.
What do I know?
Send complaints and compliments to Emmet Meara at email@example.com