Boston Red Sox Season Preview
Red Sox fans are eager to put a disappointing 2012 behind them and get the 2013 season started. Second year General Manager Ben Cherington has given the roster a makeover and brought in a new manager to try and get the Sox back into playoff contention. Can the Sox right the ship this season? We brought in Steve Peterson, Editor at bosoxinjection.com, to help answer some of the questions surrounding the team.
Let’s get right to the Q & A.
CTH: There’s been a massive amount of turnover in Boston starting with the big trade with the Dodgers last season. Which new player do you think will have the biggest impact for the Sox this year?
Shane Victorino (Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)
Steve: Boston’s $260 million windfall in the Dodgers deal has been prudently spent. A little over half of the money the Dodgers paid to the Sox for Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez and Nick Punto was spent to acquire a half-dozen new players. More high-profile acquisitions like Shane Victorino and Mike Napoli should not only make them better on the field if the pair can have bounce back seasons but are already stabilizing a 2013 clubhouse poisoned by dissension and unprofessionalism. The Red Sox have quietly put together a no-frills lineup of interchangeable parts; a team in the truest sense of the word. I think Victorino will have the biggest impact on the Sox this season. Last season was uncharacteristically a down year for him in what has otherwise been a very solid and steady career. His enthusiasm is contagious and he’s still got speed, the ability to hit for average and pile up some bases combined with a little pop should make the Flyin’ Hawaiian a fan favorite.
CTH: The Bobby Valentine experiment was an epic failure. The Red Sox have been eying John Farrell for quite some time and finally got their man. Why will things be different/ better with Farrell at the helm?
Steve: There has already been a profound change with Farrell in charge. His mantra of “be professional” has been in play from day one. When Sox malcontent of late poster child, Alfredo Aceves, decided to lob pitchers in to Boston catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia during a live game simulation both Farrell and new pitching coach Juan Nieves quietly called him out and asked if he was injured. After two exchanges Aceves started humming the ball to the dish as expected. After the session Farrell simply said, “”He didn’t go through the drill as intended and we’ve addressed it.” Short, sweet, direct and to the point. Bobby V would have publicly flayed Aceves and made the situation worse. Farrell is a pro and the team is very willingly following his lead after Boston’s 2012 cesspool season.
CTH: Mike Napoli ended up agreeing to an incentive laden contract after it was disclosed that he had a hip problem. How do you feel about the signing?
Steve: Napoli was proof positive that the days of Theo Epstein-esque free-wheeling spending for big name players to long-term contracts is over. Sox GM Ben Cherington and Boston’s medical staff are to be commended for the thorough physical that revealed the avascular necrosis in both hips and for a fair negotiation that pays Napoli what he’s worth given the injury and his sub-par 2012. The deal, originally $39 million for three years, was negotiated down to a one-year $5 million contract. I think Napoli will be good in Boston provided he hones his defensive skills at first base. Boston already has three catchers so with the rigors of catching even every other day taken off his plate he should be healthier. He has a natural swing built for Fenway Park. Napoli’s career slash line at Fenway is .306/.397/.710/.1.107.
CTH: David Ortiz was having a tremendous 2012 until an Achilles injury cost him most of the second half. What’s the latest on Big Papi and his Achilles?
Steve: By all accounts, Papi says he’ll be ready for Opening Day. He is swinging the bat more meaningfully although he’s still not ready for game situations. With that being said, he has been spotted periodically driving around in a golf cart at Boston’s JetBlue Park in Fort Myers, hardly an inspiring image. Achilles injuries are notoriously difficult to rebound from and with Papi now age 37 his road back might prove a bit longer. The good news is that he is feeling no pain, just occasional and expected soreness after more vigorous workouts.
CTH: Red Sox Nation has a reputation for being one of the most dedicated and critical fan bases in all of sports, What are the general feelings and expectations going into the season.
Steve: The AL East, both through competitor internal development (Baltimore, Tampa Bay) and acquisitions (Toronto) has become much more competitive. Red Sox fan expectations at this point are:
1. Be professional. Don’t embarrass the franchise or yourself.
2. Learn to compete again by being a team and not a fractious collection of overpaid whiners.
3. Win dammit!
Alfredo Aceves could be on the trading block (Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports)
CTH: What’s the deal with Alfredo Aceves and is there any way he will still be wearing a Red Sox uniform on Opening Day?
Steve: Aceves is truly Boston’s proverbial enigma wrapped in a riddle. To put it more bluntly, the guy’s a head case. The hell of it is when his head’s screwed on straight, he’s a very effective pitcher. I think Aceves is Ben Cherington’s watershed moment. He has become a distraction. If Cherington gets rid of him the Red Sox will truly be his team, not Larry Lucchino’s, Boston’s sometimes meddlesome President and CEO who forced Bobby V on Cherington. If I had to make the call, I’d say Aceves is gone before April 1.
Thanks a lot, Steve. It should be an interesting year in Beantown. Here’s my two cents worth.
Dustin “laser show” Pedroia has been the team’s most consistent performer over the past several seasons and figures to continue to produce. Wil Middlebrooks had an impressive rookie season, hitting 15 homers in only 267 at-bats, and looks like he could be a solid big leaguer for years to come. I too like the addition of Victorino, but there are still a lot of question marks throughout the lineup.
Will Jacoby Elsbury perform at an MVP level like he did in 2011 or will he have a repeat of his disappointing 2012 campaign? Will the barking Achilles of David Ortiz force him to the disabled list for an extended period of time? How productive can Mike Napoli be with two bad hips?
Would you rather have those three guys or Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez and Cody Ross?
The pitching staff is also full of what-ifs.
Can John Lester bounce back from a down year? Can Clay Buchholz stay healthy? Will John Lackey be effective after missing more than a year with ligament replacement surgery? Will Daniel Bard be able to reestablish himself in the bullpen?
That’s way too many question marks for my liking, especially in the tough A.L. East. Prediction: Boston fans will be crying in their clam chowder in September as the Red Sox miss the playoffs again.