For the second straight year the Boston Red Sox are off to a slow start, and again, everyone wants to know how to fix them. Our analysts have some ideas on that, as well as their picks for best free-agent bargains and whether they agree with union head Michael Weiner, who says PED users should be allowed in the Hall of Fame.
You too can let us know what you want our experts to discuss: Tweet us @ESPN_MLB with suggestions. You can also use the #espntripleplay hashtag. Today's edition features a pair of questions brought to you by readers.
1. The Red Sox are 1-5, how do they turn it around? (From @xBagzzzz)
Eric Karabell (@karabellespn), ESPN Insider
The Red Sox are going to be fine. If anything, manager Bobby Valentine just needs to remain patient. Jacoby Ellsbury won't hit .130 forever. Kevin Youkilis has a .100 OBP. Carl Crawford will eventually return and, even at his worst, is better than Cody Ross. I like Daniel Bard starting and Alfredo Aceves closing. Look, the Sox haven't even played a home game yet!
Mark Simon (@msimonespn), ESPN.com
I'm a little nervous about the karma in Boston at the moment. At this point, I think the Sox just have to be patient and not panic. Jacoby Ellsbury isn't going to hit stay below the Mendoza Line and Daniel Bard isn't going to give up six ground-ball hits every game, right? I also have to think they'll eventually find the right combo in the bullpen, though that may require some tinkering and cost them a few games over the short term.
Logan Burdine (@Logan_Burdine), Blake Street Bulletin
Obviously, Josh Beckett and Clay Buchholz have to pitch better than they did in their first starts, but the bullpen is the real concern. Losing Andrew Bailey hurts badly and Mark Melancon and Alfredo Aceves have been atrocious. It's a problem they should probably address via the trade market. Ultimately, the Red Sox should still be a playoff contender. They're still loaded, and the best news, for their sake, is that they don't have to play in Detroit again.
2. Which free agents from this winter are starting to look like bargains? (From @mmm731)
I don't think it's Jonathan Broxton for the Royals. Seriously, I think the Carlos Beltran deal in St. Louis was terrific from Day 1. He's productive and relatively affordable. In the sleeper department, you have to give credit to the Rays, giving one-year deals to Carlos Pena, a slugger who gets on base, and Fernando Rodney, who might keep closing. Amazing. Oh, and Jamie Moyer in Colorado, too.
The Carloses -- Beltran and Pena. Beltran looks like he's headed for a 25-homer, 100-RBI season, though we'll see if his performance holds up in September. (It actually did last season, even as the Giants faltered.) I think I underestimated Pena's value to the Rays, both on and off the field. Admittedly, his batting average on balls in play is a little inflated through five games, but he has been a very valuable presence, coming through both offensively and defensively in key spots.
The first name that jumps out at me is Carlos Pena. Granted, what he's doing isn't sustainable and he could strike out 175 times this year, but he will probably put up some really solid numbers in an environment that is obviously very comfortable for him. As we saw this offseason, productive first basemen aren't cheap, so $7.25 million seems like a pretty good deal.
3. Union head Michael Weiner said that he thinks PED users should be allowed in the Hall of Fame. Agree?
Karabell: Suspected steroid users should absolutely be eligible for Hall of Fame consideration. We still don't know for sure who did what and when, and I refuse to speculate and judge individuals haphazardly. Barry Bonds has Hall of Fame numbers. So does Roger Clemens. That was the era, tarnished as it was. We don't have to respect them or their methods, but don't exclude them.
Simon: I wrestle with this every time the topic is brought up. I disagree enough that when I do my "pretend" Hall of Fame ballot, I don't vote for Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro, etc. But every time a new series of names come up, I get frustrated to where I'm close to saying "they all did it" and just vote for these guys. But I'm not there just yet.
Burdine: I couldn't agree more with everything Weiner said. It's foolish to blackball deserving players based on an institutional failure to police the sport. And no candidate for the Hall should ever be judged based on a subjective moral standard. Anybody who argues otherwise needs a history lesson. Not to mention, we don't really know how much of a difference PEDs make, anyway.