April 5, 2012

It’s a new-look Red Sox team about to embark on yet another 162-game odyssey that will lead to who knows where? Lots of familar faces from last year are gone, some for better (sorry, Tim and Jason, and you too, J.D. Drew), some for worse (sorry, Heidi). Still, no matter what the pundits say, you still gotta play the games. I mean, think about how many people were predicting either the Sox or the Phillies to win it all last year, yet look who won – the freakin’ St. Louis Cardinals, which no one predicted. So let’s play the games and see how it all turns out.

That being said, I’m concerned about this year’s edition, and predicting they win somewhere around 85 games and miss the playoffs. Here’s why:

Pitching: Jon Lester, Josh Beckett, and Clay Buchholz at least on the surface make a solid 3/5 of a starting rotation, but they have to prove to me they’re the powerhouse trio projected for a few years now. We’ll see. Will Felix Doubront be a capable #4 starter? Will Daniel Bard make the successful transition to starter? Lots of questions there. To me, the bullpen is a mess, and the Sox really blew it by not re-signing Jonathan Papelbon. Sure, there’s a good chance Daisuke Matsuzaka will be back by the All-Star break, but if I’m that much looking forward to having Dice-K back, things are really in a precarious state.

Catching: The tandem of Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Kelly Shoppach should be OK. Here’s hoping that Ryan Lavarnway tears it up in Triple-A and makes a big splash by the end of the season. I think he’s gonna be a good one.

Infield: My big problem here is the defense; only second baseman Dustin Pedroia covers any kind of ground. The rest will hit, but Kevin Youkilis is a shadow of his former nimble self, shortstop Mike Aviles seems capable enough, and first baseman Adrian Gonzalez doesn’t have a lot of range either. Count me as someone more than willing to sacrifice a little offense to have had future star Jose Iglesias as my shortstop; its troubling that manager Bobby Valentine appears to have been turned down by GM Ben Cherington to have Iglesias as his everyday shortstop.

Outfield: It’s Jacoby Ellsbury in center plus two capable, yet hardly outstanding players (Cody Ross, Mike Sweeney) at the corners. I love Ells, but as for the other two count me as underwhelmed.

DH: Keep waiting for David Ortiz to break down. Hope this isn’t the year.

To me, I just see trouble ahead with this group. They’ll hit, for sure, but defensively I’m quite concerned about the number of balls that will get through the infield for hits. Ultimately, that’s gonna wear down this pitching staff over time, leading to frustration and bad feelings all around. I hope I’m wrong, but I doubt I’ll be.

As for my picks this year:

AL East champ: Rays
AL Central champ: Tigers
AL West champ: Angels
Wild cards: Rangers, Yankees
AL Champion: Rays

NL East champ: Phillies
NL Central champ: Brewers
NL West champ: Giants
NL Wild cards: Diamondbacks, Marlins
NL Champion: Marlins

World Series: An all-Florida affair, with the Rays beating the Marlins

And now, let’s play ball!

Filed in: Golf & Sports by The Great White Shank at 00:25 | Comments Off on Play Ball!
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