2013 Season Preview: A.L. East
BOSTON RED SOX (2012 Finish, 69-93 .426, 5th Place)
Preview compiled between February 25th and March 3rd. See below for updates.
As a result of the Great Collapse of 2011, the fallout from Nation Detonation 2012 is still raining down on New England. The championship era which inevitably devolved for some players into a beer and chicken party, ended. Brought in to replace Terry Francona, Bobby Valentineimmediately made the Red Sox locker room a radioactive place to be. But with no Terry, and no Theo Epstein, there was no fallout shelter for players to hide. Trading Kevin Youkilis to the White Sox was just the initial brilliant flash over Back Bay. The expected big bang followed via the blockbuster trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers, and up grew the mushroom cloud over greater Bean Town. When Red Sox Nation found out how acerbic Bobby Valentine could be, and was, upper management let him continue playing the role of mad scientist, then purged him too. Needless to say, for a newer generation, the Nation will never be the same again. Now, with several contaminated contracts having been safely disposed three thousand miles away in Chavez Ravine, residents of Kenmore Square are only starting to venture out after a long nuclear winter, finally feeling safe for Spring Training again.
August 24, 2012; Boston, MA USA; Boston Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz (34) bats during the sixth inning against the Kansas City Royals at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
They don’t call him Big Papi for nothing. He’s the lone survivor of the 2004 champs. Joining David Ortiz from the 2007 champs, the trio of Dustin Pedroia, Jon Lester, and Jacoby Ellsbury, are the main survivors of note. Clay Buchholz gets mention for a brief appearance on the 2007 team. David Ortiz is thirty seven years old and is being looked upon to be a main source of dependable power again. Re-signed to a two year deal, the Sox, and fans, are hoping Papi still has some pop left in his bat. For the last two seasons, Jacoby Ellsbury’s name has come up in trade rumors. So, the great purge may not be over yet. A healthy and productive season from Ellsbury in his contract year, similar to his 2011 campaign, could very well instigate a trade.
Otherwise, Red Sox Nation will have to get used to the word – rebuilding. I believe Shane Victorino is a downgrade from Cody Ross in right field. First base appears solidified with Mike Napoli finally signing a one year $5 million dollar contract. Napoli should become a solid presence in the middle of the line-up. Otherwise, instead of filling their needs through costly free agent spending as in years past, the Red Sox under GM Ben Cherington, seem more content waiting on prospects to assume major league roles at catcher, outfield, shortstop, and third base. For now, the Red Sox are working three candidates at catcher. Left field is being handed over to veteran import Jonny Gomes. Stephen Drew is expected to win the shortstop job. At third base, the Sox are hoping Will Middlebrooks will improve upon an impressive rookie debut, rather than suffer a sophomore slump.
Two of Bean Town’s top three starters are coming off under-whelming 2012 seasons. If the Sox are to be contenders in 2014, Jon Lester and Clay Buccholz must have better seasons – Nuf ced. John Lackey, returning from Tommy John surgery, is just looking forward to throwing his first pitch since the 2011 season. Ryan Dempster was brought in to solidify the back of the rotation. The fifth starter spot is an open competition. Prospect Allen Webster is projected for a summer time call-up. Until then, Felix Doubront figures to receive the first shot. Perhaps the return of John Farrell will have a positive effect on the rotation. The Red Sox bullpen is as deep as any in the division. Joel Hanrahan is their new closer. Andrew Bailey, acquired last season, will now settle into the set-up role.
EXPECTATIONS FOR 2013:
“Connie Mack wasn’t going to win with that team.” – Bobby Valentine; February 26, 2013.
On the heels of a 69-93 regular season, former pitching coach John Farrell is back to manage Boston after spending the last two years in Toronto. As a familiar face, he is expected to calm the clubhouse and restore normalcy. He might achieve success in that endeavour. However, he won’t be able to turn the Sox around in 2013. That said, they won’t be as bad as last year. The Red Sox are trying to rebuild more than just their ball club. The club’s ownership also needs to rebuild their image. And without Theo Epstein, I fear the Larry Lucchino Effects are being felt by the organization again.
I predict the Red Sox will win eighty-two games this season, and finish in fifth place.
MAJOR OFF-SEASON ACQUISITIONS:
Joel Hanrahan, Mike Napoli, Stephen Drew, Shane Victorino, Jonny Gomes, Ryan Dempster
MAJOR OFF-SEASON LOSSES:
*Josh Beckett, *Carl Crawford, *Adrian Gonzalez, *Kevin Youkilis, Scott Podsednik, Daisuke Matsuzaka, James Loney, Scott Atchison, Bobby Jenks, Mike Aviles, Cody Ross
* 3b – Will Middlebrooks – He no longer qualifies as a rookie. This will however, be his first full season. Middlebrooks is about to pass through Yawkey Way’s Bermuda Triangle – projecting fine 2012 numbers into the up-coming season, the ages old sophomore slump, and the Green Monster. Any improvements over last season can help push the Sox beyond one or two teams within the division standings.
* rhp – Allen Webster
* ss – Jose Iglesias
Boston – MLB.com Top-20
* David Ortiz is still bothered by a sore Achilles suffered back on July 16, 2012. He is unable to run two consecutive days. The possibility exists he starts the season on the DL.
* Will Middlebrooks aggrivated his wrist in February; the same wrist in which he fractured two bones in 2010. He has since been cleared to play. He homered on March 5th for the first time this spring.
* Stephen Drew is dealing with a mild concussion.
* John Lackey threw three scoreless innings against Team Puerto Rico prior to the WBC.