I recently sent a set of questions to Amy K. Nelson, the new Red Sox beat writer for the brand-spankin' new ESPN Boston. She was kind enough to answer those questions for all of the great readers here at Over The Monster. Here's the Q&A:
1) First of all, how is it covering the Sox for the new ESPN Boston? What is the experience like for you? Has there been any challenges so far?
It's been very challenging but has also renewed my belief that a baseball beat is by far the most difficult to cover. Period. Not only is the travel brutal, but you have to arrive each day and try and come up with something different and creative to write (if you so choose). That is extremely difficult, and I have nothing but respect for my colleagues who do it every year. The biggest challenge is coming onto a beat when the season is almost over. I have not been following the team as closely as a beat guy would, and therefore don't have as much context and certainly not as many relationships established - an absolute must if you're going to be competitive on a beat. Luckily, I used to be based in Boston so that has helped me in some ways, but it's still a challenge.
2) Speaking of ESPN Boston, many people already think ESPN has an "east coast bias." This obviously isn't going to erase those thoughts. But what kind of things are we going to see from ESPN Boston that we wouldn't normally see from ESPN itself?
I think this is probably a better question for the bosses, but generally speaking, I believe the goal is to provide excellent local coverage on all the New England teams, just as any local outlet would (and obviously the goal would be to do it better.)
3) Are sportswriters starting to come around to the "SABR" way of using stats? If not, why do you think that is?
I saw my colleague Jerry Crasnick answer a question like this in a chat recently, and I think he nailed it: he peruses many of the SABR-friendly sites on a regular basis, but that doesn't mean that narrative and story telling should go by the wayside. If you've read my work before, I tend to be much more interested in the human element of the game than on the stats. It's just a personal preference; I'd rather write a story about the struggles of people like Rod Beck or Fred Lewis, or how everyone collided at that intersection the night Nick Adenhart died, than analyze them statistically. And that's not a knock on the SABR community at all. There's a reason why the BP guys are enormously successful at what they do and why colleague Keith Law has a crazy, intense and smart following - and not just because he's a foodie who's well-read (though I still say Cook's Illustrated is great; he's not a fan).
4) Now to the Red Sox: the Sox have obviously benefited from acquiring Alex Gonzalez. Although historically his bat has been nothing special and his defense has declined over the years, what's the feedback from the front office, Tito and his teammates regarding what he's brought to the team?
Look for more on that from me in the near future, but I will tell you that it seems this guy has always had a quiet efficiency; he's not one of the top shortstops who come to mind when you think of the position defensively, but current and past teammates have effusive praise for him. His acquisition could wind up being a very key one if they Red Sox go deep into the playoffs (and it's already paid big dividends).
5) Billy Wagner has been very good for the Sox. His time on the mound is limited, but do you expect the Sox to use him more in the postseason, if need be? Do you think the Sox would be hesitant to use him in a one-run setup situation?
I know Wagner wants to pitch on back-to-back days if he could, but they simply will not allow him. As of right now, I think they are going to keep it pretty conservative with him, and unless there are bullpens issues that blow up over the next two weeks, they will stick with their plan. I know Wagner wants to push it, but that is just his personality; you can certainly understand, it's a natural thing for him to want to ramp it up.
6) What do you expect the catching/first base/third base situation to look like next year?
The catching situation should be Victor Martinez as a mostly full-time catcher; you can see how quickly they have integrated him into the staff, and there's even a possibility he will catch Beckett before the year is out, though not a guarantee.
7) Clay Buchholz looks like he's finally -- well, Clay Buchholz. He's been great for a couple of months now. Do you think he'll be able to continue this success through the postseason?
Angels manager Mike Scioscia said the biggest difference he's seen in Buchholz is his confidence. Orioles manager Dave Trembley said it was his ability to command the zone, especially with the fastball. If Buchholz is able to continue with this consistency and obviously command the zone, he will be effective. But you never know how a young player will react once he reaches the postseason. Working with Victor Martinez has been huge for him. I spoke to him at Yankee stadium over a month ago, when Martinez had only caught him twice, and he was already raving then about the battery and his comfort level with Martinez.
8) If the Sox make the playoffs (I still have to throw that "if" in there), are there any players that could be on the fringe for making the 25-man roster for the ALDS? Where does a guy like Casey Kotchman or Nick Green fit in?
Look for me to address this soon, but as we know, Nick Green's status is questionable. I'm not sure if this couldn't be something more serious...
9) Who will be the left fielder for the Red Sox next season? Will Jason Bay be back, or is a player like Matt Holliday due for Boston?
I think most everyone in that clubhouse thinks the Red Sox are crazy if they don't bring back Bay. He is universally liked and respected, with many players calling him their MVP.
10) What are your predictions for this year's AL Cy Young and AL MVP?
Greinke and Mauer.
Be sure to check out Amy's ESPN blog and make sure to follow Amy on Twitter @amyknelson. (I follow her -- her tweets are top-notch, if I say so myself. Oh, and she's a "Mad Men" fan -- that makes her No. 1 in my book.)