Only in baseball can a 93-69 record and a playoff birth seem like a failure. For the Boston Red Sox, that is just what last season was. Ever since 2004, the Red Sox have had the championship-or-bust mentality and this year will be no different. The Sox are on a never-ending task of keeping up with the Yankees and this offseason was no different. The Yankees won the World Series so what did Boston do? They overhauled much of their lineup.
Key Arrivals: Marco Scutaro, Adrian Beltre, Mike Cameron, John Lackey
Key Departures: Nick Green, Jason Bay, Julio Lugo, Brad Penny, Takashi Saito, Billy Wager
The Red Sox lineup might have been third in the MLB in runs last year, but they still didn’t impress me. For the first season in six years, the Sox didn’t have that depth in the 7-9 spots that could help out the top of the lineup. On any given night, David Ortiz (who dropped as low as seventh), who ever was shortstop on that night and Jason Varitek were liabilities on offense.
This year’s team is dramatically different and many think that the Red Sox might be sacrificing run production for better defense. I disagree. With the announcement that Victor Martinez will take over at catcher for Jason Varitek, the Red Sox take an exponential leap on offense. Yea, it is true that Cameron isn’t the stat machine that Bay was, nor Beltre with Mike Lowell, but both of those aren’t as steep drops as you might think.
In addition, the Red Sox problem at the bottom of the lineup are gone because of Martinez, and the addition of Scutaro. Scutaro doesn’t get talked about much because Toronto Blue Jays seldom do. He was a great pick up and will be great in the field as well.
Other than those changes, you know what you are going to get from the other guys. Jacoby Ellsbury is one of the best lead-off batters in the league, Dustin Pedroia and JD Drew will be monsters, and you have to expect Big Papi will rebound from a year he would like to forget.
John Lester, Josh Beckett, John Lackey, Dice-K, and Clay Buchholz. Really soak that in. That is the best rotation baseball has seen in years. The only problem I see here is the potential of injury for Beckett and Matsuzaka, but that is where Tim Wakefield comes in handy.
People made a big deal about the signing of Lackey, but I don’t see that as this rotations strength. I see him as the fourth best starter, behind Lester, Beckett, and Buchholz, who I expect to have a monster year.
For some teams, the bullpen is critical because when a pitcher goes only five innings, then they rely on the bullpen to eat up innings and win games. Now tell me, who on the Red Sox is actually going to struggle and do that on a consistent basis? So while I’m not high on Manny Delcarmen or Ramon Ramirez, it isn’t the flashing red light it would be anywhere else.
As far as the important part of the bullpen, there isn’t anything to evern worry about. Hideki Okajima is still solid despite an off season by his standards, and do I need to even say anything about Jonathan Papelbon? Ok, I won’t…but he is good.
Until they trade Lowell, he is going to be the best pinch hitter and backup in the league. He isn’t what he was two or three years ago, but he is valuable if he stays well rested. Not only do they have him, but having your backup catcher be your team captain means that the pitchers won’t miss a beat when Martinez takes a day off. The outfield doesn’t quite have the depth you would like, especially if Drew gets hurt again, but that is what trades are for.
It only took one year for the Red Sox to get back to about even with the Yankees. That is impressive when you look at the Yankees free agency moves last year. The Sox’s record won’t be as good as they deserve because having an AL East of the Yanks, Rays, and a very underestimated Orioles will be impossible to get through. Honestly, you might as well flip a coin to predict the winner of the AL East. It won’t matter anyways because Boston and New York will meet in the ALCS guaranteed.
94-68 1st AL East