Epstein, ESPN's Gammons host Q&A
Sox's Pedroia, Masterson, Francona among GM's panelists
BOSTON -- In the hours leading up to the latest New England snowstorm, a roundtable event was held at Fenway Park that had the ultimate Hot Stove feel to it.Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein and ESPN analyst Peter Gammons put together an impressive panel that included American League Most Valuable Player Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox reliever Justin Masterson, Boston manager Terry Francona and Rays outfielder Fernando Perez. Yankees lefty CC Sabathia joined the group via speakerphone. It was here that fans, who were on hand to support the charitable endeavors of Epstein and Gammons for the annual Hot Stove/Cool Music weekend, got to hear free-flowing anecdotes on all things baseball. There was also an auction for prizes that ranged from the opportunity to have Gammons be an advisor for a fantasy-baseball team, signed baseballs from President-elect Barack Obama and Senator John McCain, cribbage boards signed by Pedroia and Francona and a signed Pedroia jersey. A few hours after the matinee event, Epstein and Gammons were part of their annual concert at the Paradise Rock Club. Aside from the Q&A format, conducted in lighthearted fashion by actor/comedian Mike O'Malley, there was peppy dialogue between the panelists. For example, when Perez was asked what it felt like to win the American League Championship Series against the Red Sox, Pedroia quipped, "Don't get used to it." The fans clearly enjoyed being able to interact with Pedroia, who was asked how life has changed for him since he won the MVP. "I don't really get recognized that much [on the street]," Pedroia said. "I came up here and nobody even saw me. I'm a normal guy. Just because I won the MVP Award, I'm not going to change. That's how I was brought up." One of the hits of the event was Perez, a creative writing major at Columbia University, who spoke in depth of what it was like to play against the Red Sox, and at Fenway, during the ALCS. "Fans [at Fenway] are very, very savvy," Perez said. "Everybody seems to be indulging in an experience as if they are at church or a party, some sort of mix of the two. That's really impressive how your fans enjoy it. There was a man after Game 4 of the ALCS who was standing next to the dugout and he noticed we were winning going into Game 5, at which point we could have won it. "He notices that we were smiling a little bit, having a good time. And he looked over and he said, 'Soon you will know what it feels like to lose three games in a row.' I will never forget the moment, because he seemed so serious and so sincere. The next day, of course, was Game 5, which, to me, was the most horrific sporting experience of my whole life. I went from thinking about what I was going to do for the rest of the week before the World Series to thinking that [the Red Sox] were going to do it all again. "That experience, in that seventh inning, I didn't play, but I was getting ready to pinch-run. I remember stretching, being sick to my stomach while [Boston] just got hit after hit after hit and it was [contagious] throughout the ballpark. It was very, very sickening." Pedroia gave fans a glimpse of the player-agent dynamic, at least what he believes it should be. "They work for you," Pedroia said. "If you get an offer that works for you, you're signing it, your agent isn't. I got to a point and I told him, 'This is what I want. And if we get that, I'm signing it, whether you like it or don't.' In the end, you're the boss. You're his boss. He works for you. But a lot of players trust their agent maybe a little too much. Every person is different." Epstein provided some details on the thinking behind his recent strategy of signing former All-Stars John Smoltz, Brad Penny and Takashi Saito to one-year contracts. "One of the things we're trying to do this offseason is to accumulate as much pitching depth as we can possibly have for a couple of reasons," Epstein said. "One is, you need it during the course of a season. At any point during the year, there are 30 teams that come to a point where they are looking to have pitching. It's hard to find during the year. You have to give up valuable prospects to get it. We're in a position where we have a pretty darn good team coming back with payroll flexibility." And the day would not have been complete without a good Manny-being-Manny anecdote. Manny Ramirez left a scrapbook of memories during his time in Boston, and Francona recalled one of the more humorous ones. "In '04, when we were playing St. Louis in the World Series, Manny was hitting and he seemed to be jawing back and forth with the catcher [Yadier Molina]," Francona said. "There hadn't even been a pitch thrown. You could kind of see, there was a possible altercation starting. Chuck Meriweather was the umpire and he kind of looked at me so I kind of ran out as fast I can, which isn't very fast. "But the last thing I wanted was for Manny to get thrown out of the game. I looked at Manny and I looked at the catcher and they're going back and forth in Spanish. Manny looks at me and says, 'Papi, they say I'm stealing their signs.' I look at the umpire and I said, 'Chuck, Manny doesn't even know our signs."' The event was a big hit. "I think on days like today, maybe the attention is focused where it should be," Francona said. "So many players do so many wonderful things. They have the means to do it and they take advantage of it and you have up here today three kids who are making huge impacts, not only on the baseball field but off the field."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.