With pitchers and catchers reporting TOMORROW (as well as many of the guys already in camp), it’s time that we take stock of what has happened to the Red Sox in the past few months and accept some realities.
Jason Bay is gone. He’s a Met now. The Sox let go of a guy who hit 36 home runs and had 119 RBI and replaced him with Mike Cameron. It scares the crap out of the fans, but after long contemplation it was the right thing to do. We’ve been through this before. Theo didn’t want to give Pedro Martinez the third year because his guys told him that Pedro was going to break down half way through the second year. What happened? Pedro broke down in the middle of the second year and the Mets over paid for two more seasons. Somebody saw something in the MRIs of Bay’s joints (shoulders and knees) that made them think that he isn’t going to age gracefully. I trust in Theo, because he knows more than me, and Bay strikes out too much.
With that reality comes that this team has been rebuilt in a different image. The front office took one of the teams weaknesses and turned it into a strength. Run prevention, also known as pitching and defense, has become a focus, as opposed to run scoring, which was definitely a more visible issue at times last year. The reasoning is that they don’t need to score as many runs if they don’t allow as many, and it looks good to me, but then again I thought closer by committee was a good plan too.
That thought in mind, I really do like the acquisitions. Anybody who complains about the Lackey signing (now) is a complete effing idiot. The Sox just added another Josh Beckett to the team, along with the old Beckett, who is in a contract year. That gives them three aces, a complete wildcard in Matsuzaka, a guy who is developing into a solid number 3 (for this season) in Buchholz (the fifth man), and the third winningest pitcher in franchise history as a sixth starter. Not bad.
The key to how Theo moves forward and how the offense works is likely to be Adrian Beltre. He is a guy who has put up a 48 homer, 121 RBI season, and six other seasons of 20 or more homers in his eleven seasons in the bigs. He also spent the last five of those seasons in in Safeco Field, the worst possible place for a right handed power hitter. He still hit 25 or more home runs in three years, and 19 the other. Last year was full of injuries (to the testicals) and futility. Moving into the best possible ballpark for right handed power hitters, Beltre is going to hit 30 home runs, have 100 RBI and win another gold glove, and for this reason the offense will be fine.
Scutaro and Cameron are both solid pickups who improve the defense and will provide stability in the lineup. Cameron makes the defense better not only by being himself, but by moving Jacoby to left, where nothing will get down. Scutaro is a solid defender who should have won a gold glove last year but everybody just keeps voting for Jeter, and also had a career year in his first shot at an everyday job.
The bullpen is also better than it was at this point last season simply for the fact that Daniel Bard has been through the league once. He is not ready to replace Papelbon, who is not done, but he is ready to step into that eighth inning role that Phil Hughes was so successful in for the Yanks last year. Papelbon has been getting a lot of flack lately because of the way that the season ended, and for his perceived mercenary attitude about his contract situation, but nobody can really see it in his stats. He was 38-41 in save opportunities and had a 1.85 ERA. He is going to be a free agent after 201, but people need to chill out about that now.
And there’s also that core, who we know are going to be good and who we have gotten to know. Pedroia will put up his traditional great season, Youk will get better like he does every year, Jacoby will hit .300 and steal 75 bases, and Lester will continue to crush the souls of those who doubt him. Victor is poised for a big (payday) season and if Ortiz is the guy we had in the second half of last year then it wouldn’t be too ridiculous to see 40 bombs (he was that good for the last three months).
There are still questions to be answered, moves to be made, and lots of beer to be drank, but with the team as it is today, Theo has done a good job of building the 95 win team that is his goal every year. He has improved his team while his chief rivals have gotten worse. The Yankees offseason was not altogether awful, adding Javier Vasquez to the rotation was a good solid move (even if the last time we saw him he was giving up a GS to Damon in Game 7), and Curtis Granderson will make the outfield defense better. However, their lineup lost two gamers who always came through in the clutch in Matsui and Damon, and replaced them with Granderson, whose batting average and OPS have dropped each of the last few seasons as his home runs went up, and Nick Johnson, a good player when healthy and a rarely healthy player. That is a minus situation for them.
My prediction? 112-50. World Series Champs.
What can I say, I’m a Sox Fan.