Editor's note: The first of an occasional mailbag on the Red Sox.Click here to ask Curt a question for his next mailbag.
Q. Hey Curt, if you were in [Red Sox GM] Theo Epstein's shoes, what would you be looking to do to upgrade the Sox team? -- Harold (New Bedford, Mass.)
A. They are always looking to upgrade but the question this year is their outfield health, I think. Everyone, including the Red Sox, usually looks for bullpen help at the deadline, and this year likely will be no different, but you have to wonder if their outfield situation will preclude them from dipping their toes in the water on Adrian Gonzalez (if San Diego falls out) or something like the Felix Hernandez deal they pushed last year.
Q. What are some of the flaws in the Red Sox that are very pressing? Starting pitching has been good and that's without Josh Beckett. The outfield has been decimated with injury all year, so it's not fair to judge that as a weakness, so what is the weakness of this ballclub? -- Brandon (Rumford, Maine)
A. Their weakness is the same as Tampa and New York: their schedule. These teams have virtually no letup all year long and injuries have hurt these three teams as much, if not more, than most other teams given the strength of their division and how tight I think it will be all year long.
Q. Is Kevin Youkilis one of the most underappreciated players in baseball? I don't think he gets enough credit for how good an offensive player he is (plus he's a Gold Glove first baseman). -- Frank (Framingham)
A. Couldn't agree more. Outside of Boston, I am not sure how well people know him or if they know how good he really is. He's a top-tier defender at both corner positions and as good an offensive player as you could hope for short of an Albert Pujols or Joe Mauer. Those helmet-throwing snaps and screaming after every out? Yeah, that's Kevin, but that's what he does every at-bat, of every game, of every season. He was the first player I played with that did that and survived. I always felt that was what burned out Gregg Jefferies. Score, inning, date, none of those are relevant to Youk when he hits. He grinds out at-bats as well as anyone I ever played with.
Q. Do you still keep in touch with any of the players on the Sox? -- Paul (Norwich, Conn.)
A. I do. I still speak to many of the guys I played with there and some that left as well.
Q. The Yankees are obviously very good, but if Josh Beckett can come back healthy, I think the Red Sox are the better team? What do you think? -- JK (New Hampshire)
A. I don't think they are a better team. I think they can make the playoffs, but for them to be better than New York, I think the Yankees are going to need to drop a bit or have some sort of major injury (which you never hope for). If Jacoby Ellsbury comes back, if Josh comes back and pitches like he can ... if, if, if. That's too many ifs to say they'd be a better team.
Q. Hey Curt, what do you think has been the biggest difference for Clay Buchholz this season? -- Larry (Portland, Maine)
A. Honestly? Aside from continuing to pitch and learn, I'd say getting married. The amount of life change that happens to a ballplayer when he marries can be career-changing (I know everyone undergoes change, but the lifestyle change of a player is huge). Instead of doing the things you do, you don't. You end up getting to sleep before 4 a.m. most nights, your entire perspective changes, and that can lead to some real good things happening on the field.
Q. Hey Curt, how would you rank the top three teams in the AL East right now? -- Joe
A. For this year? The way they sit now, New York, Boston and then Tampa Bay. Over the next five years? I think Tampa has a shot to move into the top two if the ownership can retain the Carl Crawfords of the world.
Curt Schilling, who pitched for the Red Sox from 2004-08, is a three-time World Series champion, six-time MLB All-Star and founded 38 Studios. Curt and his wife, Shonda, have raised money to fight ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease) through Curt's Pitch for ALS, and have encouraged awareness for sun protection through the SHADE Foundation. They recently announced their support for the Asperger's Association of New England after their third child was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome.