Jerry Ballgame finally weighs in on the Red Sox.
In my pre-season preview of the Red Sox, I predicted that they would be both an entertaining as well as competitive team in 2012. Well, I certainly got the first part right. At the time, however, I wasn’t thinking bad reality show, but rather good baseball. I still have hope.
Even before the “Fiasco on FOX”, there was the media driven Valentine-Youkilis-Pedroia, “That’s not how we do things here.” spat. (This somehow managed to overshadow their taking three of four from the always difficult Rays.) Although Bobby V. could have chosen his words a bit more carefully, he was essentially right; ‘Youk’ has not been himself. Even now he isn’t hitting his weight (I’m assuming he weighs more than 200 pounds) and that’s coming after a respectable seven game stretch of hitting .250. Maybe he was distracted by his wedding plans, after all, becoming Tom Brady’s brother-in-law, is no small matter. One way or another, he’d better pick up the pace over the next few weeks, or else I can see Will Middlebrooks at the Sox hot corner very soon. Middlebrooks had a good spring training, and is currently hitting .377 at AAA Pawtucket. So don’t be surprised if the Sox make some kind of move involving these two infielders.
As difficult as it was to watch what Mark Teixeira called the “funnest” game he had ever played in, there were a few positive points for Boston that should not be lost. Probably the most obvious was another strong outing by Felix Doubrant. The Sox had high hopes for him last year and were very disappointed that he was out of shape when he reported to spring training. The fact that he was out of options made it imperative that he perform well and earn a spot in the rotation.
The awakening of Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s bat is also significant. He went 4 for 5 against the Yanks and then followed that up with a strong performance, including a home run and 2 RBI, against the Twins. If he can maintain it, it will give Boston a powerful bat in the bottom third of the lineup. Hopefully backup Kelly Shoppach can maintain his .300 hitting, as he has become Josh Beckett’s personal catcher.
Offensively, the Sox have much to be happy about. After all they did score nine runs against what is supposed to be a pretty good staff. The 250 pound version of David Ortiz (as opposed to the last year’s 275 pound model) is off to a league leading start, hitting something like .444 at this point. Hopefully the improved conditioning will keep him from doing the last season swoon he did last year.
In addition, both outfielder Cody Ross and shortstop Mike Aviles are having impressive early seasons. I predicted that Ross was going to be this season’s Adrian Beltre for the Sox and I still stand by that, but Aviles’ performance has taken me by surprise. Not only has he been a clutch performer on the field, he was apparently one of the few players to stay around after the fiasco last Saturday, and face the press. I’m impressed.
Because no one except Texas has really shot out of the gate with any authority I still believe the Red Sox can make it to the post season (Not deep, but we will settle for the wild card playoff game). Obviously they need both Lester and Buchholz to get their acts together, as well as Bard in the bullpen. A healthy Ellsbury would be nice too. I also still believe that Bobby V. can get some meaningful contributions from Matsuzaka, once he returns in another month or so. I am hopeful that the Sox will find a way of utilizing Aaron Cook (3-0, ERA of 1.33 at Pawtucket) but afraid they will lose him come his May 1st opt-out deadline. One way or another, you have to believe the current road trip, which started with two wins against the Twins, is important for the Sox. They need to get their collective acts together before the rest of the competition does, and leaves them behind.
Featured image: Jim Rogash/Getty Images
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