Saturday, February 23, 2013

Are the Red Sox Really a Last Place Team?

The 2013 Red Sox season is going to be interesting.  I just hope it is in a good way.

We know about the Yankees.  Tampa Bay has the strongest starting rotation in baseball.  The Orioles somehow snuck into the playoffs last year, and while I don't know how they did it, they were there.  And the Blue Jays, while losing their manager, gained Jose Reyes, R.A. Dickey, Mark Buehrle and Josh Johnson.  They are going to be a force to be reckoned with this year.
And this leaves the lowly Red Sox.  Just 5 years removed from their appearance in the ALCS, the Red Sox have now become the laughing stock of the American League. They blew the largest lead in September history while losing out on the playoffs during the ill-fated fried chicken cabal of 2011.  Their manager was let go in disgrace amid drug rumors.  Their former manager has written a tell all book that exploits the Red Sox crusty side.  They have employees and former employees embroiled in drug issues.  Their World Series hero from 2004 is bankrupt and trying to sell that bloody sock (both figuratively and literally).  To make matters worse, the team absolutely stunk up the league last year and woebegone joke of a manager Bobby Valentine "led" the team to a 69-93 finish, making all of us remember fondly the days of John Lackey and Daisuke Matsuzaka.

But 2013 is a new year.  New manager John Farrell has vowed to make things different.  And with additions of "clubhouse" guys like Johny Gomes, Mike Napoli and Shane Victorino, some pundits are now trying to talk themselves into John Lackey regaining his 2002-2007 self, Clay Buchholz and Jon Lester coming back from terrible seasons and David Ortiz continuing to defy his age.  Add to that the return of the Drew family to Fenway, and the Red Sox have assembled a mish-mash of role players and young players mixed in with some cagey veterans.

Spring is right around the corner.  And the Red Sox are now down in Florida at Spring Training.  It's different this year though.  There isn't the anticipation and craziness following the Red Sox all around.  With the Celtics and the Bruins both playing decent ball (puck), the Red Sox now take a back seat to those sports until the playoffs are over.  Shane Victorino and Ryan Dempster will have to wait.

And while Tom Werner and the TV guys are probably fretting over the fact that there is no buzz surrounding this team - and in fact many are predicting a last place finish again - the players and manager are probably excited to be the cast-asides expected to finish 5th in the Division.  Lower expectations mean that they will have nowhere to go but up and maybe they can even sneak up on some teams.  Really, how good are the Orioles anyway?

In fact, this team reminds me of a certain team from the mid 90's.  This team I'm talking about didn't really do anything in the 5 years leading up to their super season.  They were led by some stars, some rookies and some role players.  They had very good pitching buoyed by some outstanding seasons from veterans as well as strong performances from young pitchers.  This team was led by a manager who really didn't have much success but seemed like a good fit for this team.  The team was full of good clubhouse guys who kept things loose in the clubhouse.  Yes, I'm talking about the 1996 New York Yankees.  The 2013 Boston Red Sox, if the veteran pitching comes through and the young players like Will Middlebrooks, Xander Boegaerts and Jose Iglesias show a little life and David Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia continue their excellence.  Maybe the Red Sox have a chance.  I'm talking myself into this season already.

This will be the last time I compare the Red Sox to anything the team to the South does.  But it is fitting.

Join us over the next couple of weeks as we discuss the most important player for the 2013 Red Sox season.  It would surprise you to read what I think.

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