Buster Olney

Buster Olney on MFB: 'The whole [AL East] division is a complete mud bog'

May 06, 2015 - 9:05 am

ESPN's Buster Olney checked in with Middays with MFB on Wednesday to discuss the Red Sox' recent struggles and other baseball news. To hear the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page. Olney said if the Red Sox offense can live up to expectations, the division race could change dramatically. "You keep waiting for the Red Sox offense to be that predictable element for Boston," Olney said. "I know that the Yankees had a great weekend against the Red Sox, they're in first place now, but I think the whole division is a complete mud bog. We still haven't seen what's going to define this division." Red Sox owner John Henry said he still believes the Red Sox have the best team in the division. Asked if he agrees with that statement, Olney said, "Not right now. I don't think there's any question right now that they don't. And I think they're going to have to make some changes at some point unless you see guys start to turn it around. Look, I think Rick Porcello clearly is getting better. You watch Joe Kelly's stuff and you think the tools are definitely there for him to get better. But I know from talking with evaluators with other teams that they believe that the Red Sox are going to have to start thinking about making some changes." Olney noted that the Red Sox remain in a prime position to make a deal. "The one thing that you a lot from other teams is that as they address these issues, they've got the best stockpile of resources in prospects and dollars of any team in baseball," Olney said. With Hanley Ramirez injured, Allen Craig has gotten the chance to get more playing time. Olney said it's a key time for the former Cardinals outfielder. "[John Farrell's] situation with Allen Craig might be the most difficult situation that I can remember for a manager," Olney said. "Because here you have a veteran player who they saw in spring training have better at-bats than he did last year, than he certainly did at the end of the previous season. And there was real hope that he would come back. "But then the season started, and when he began to play he wasn't hitting. He needs to play every day, not only to get back to what he was but also from the Red Sox' vantage point to reestablish some value. Because you would assume at some point it makes sense for them to move him out. So he's really caught in a complete Catch-22. "Hopefully for his sake -- as you guys know, he's a great guy, he's a tremendous professional, he's handled this situation extremely well. Hopefully these days when Hanley's out it gives him an opportunity to sort of get his feet back on the ground. But if he doesn't, at some point the Red Sox are going to need his roster spot to be more productive than it has been, and they probably will be backed into a corner on a bad deal." Added Olney: "I've talked to three or four general managers about him. He not only needs to hit for a couple days, he needs to hit for like three or four weeks. There's a lot of skepticism about whether or not he's going to come back, and that's why he needs an extended run here. Three or four days is not going to cut it in terms of convincing people with other teams he can still hit. Because we're coming up on two years -- now it's about 20 months since the last time he was really a good hitter. And given the amount of money owed to him, and given the fact that he doesn't really have a natural position, he needs to hit to establish his value. And he's going to have to do it for a while I think before the Red Sox would have any chance of getting anything interesting in return." Following are more highlights from the conversation. For more Red Sox news, visit the team page at weei.com/redsox. On the slumping Mike Napoli: "[People around baseball] don't know why he's not hitting, and they expect that he's going to. His history suggests he does have a lot of valleys as well as peaks. And they just might have to ride this one out." On beanball wars, on the heels of the Red Sox-Yankees tiff: "More and more when you see this, it just makes you shake your head. ... That's just crazy that you have someone standing in the box and it's OK within the culture to have a pitcher throw a projectile 95 miles per hour at them. ... Especially the other night with [Edward] Mujica. Because in my mind after watching that, I thought he threw at him three different times, he finally got him on the third one. And I always thought with pitchers, if they were going to retaliate, you get one shot. If you miss him on the first one, well, that's the end of that. But I do think the players should have a conversation. ... Because these guys are all in the same union. Why should it be OK for them that there's a situation where you have one player intentionally trying to drill another and hurt them. ... It seems stupid to me that you're having guys getting thrown at, like what happened with Jacoby Ellsbury the other day."