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Winter is ending...

The Local 9 - March 16, 2010
James Wheeler

There are certain telltale indicators the seasons are changing and winter is ending. First you notice that it’s a little bit brighter each evening when you drive to home from work. Then you realize that you can step outside without a coat and not freeze to death here in the Northeast. Once the thermometer hits fifty degrees its official, winter is losing its grip on us and that can only mean one thing…baseball. I don’t know if I am alone in feeling this way, but my excitement builds every day between the equipment truck departing for Ft. Myers and the end of spring training. By the time the first pitch of the 2010 regular season is thrown, I will be buzzing like a kid on Christmas morning. I haven’t been able to put my finger exactly on it, but this year my anticipation for the upcoming season feels greater than recent years.

Between things I’ve read, what I hear on sports radio and in my frequent conversations with my fellow Red Sox fans, I am not sure if my greater sense of anticipation is shared. The consensus seems to be the Red Sox are going to have trouble winning games this season due to a lack of run production. I am torn on where I stand on this subject. Only one team since 2000 has made it to the World Series without at least one player hitting 30 homeruns (Detroit Tigers 2006) and no team has won it since 2000 without a 30 homerun hitter.

In years past we have been spoiled due to the run production of Manny and Ortiz. Those days are gone and I think we have gotten extra sensitive about power numbers given the first half performance of Ortiz last year. Not resigning Jason Bay, who had filled the void left by Manny, caused me to briefly fall victim to the fear that we would lack offense this year until I was reminded that we have a full season of Victor Martinez, which should put a dent into any lost offensive numbers. We also have healthy third baseman, which allows Kevin Youkilis to spend the majority of the season at first instead of splitting time at third. I think Youkilis is an under appreciated component of the Red Sox offense as he has been flirting with 30 homeruns and 100 RBIs for the past two seasons.

Not to be overlooked are the potential positive effects playing 81 games will have on the offensive production of the free agents brought in this offseason. Both Bill Mueller and Mike Lowell saw spikes in their productivity in their first seasons with the Red Sox. Lowell, if you recall, was a throw in by the Marlins when we traded for Josh Beckett, having hit .236 with 7 HR and 58 RBIs in 2005. The following two seasons he batted .284, 20 HR, 80 RBI and .324, 21 HR, 120 RBI respectively. In the case of Bill Mueller, in his first season with the Sox (2003) he batted .326, which earned him the A.L. batting title. Mueller, who had a career batting average of .291, only ended a season over .300 one other time. That was the 1996 season when he only played in 55 games. In short, it is too early to write off the contributions Marco Scutaro, Adrian Beltre, Mike Cameron, and Jeremy Hermida could make to our lineup throughout the 2010 campaign.

“There is a reason they play the games”, and I would say this season has the chance to be a perfect example of that adage. My early spring training prediction is the Red Sox finish the regular season with 97 wins and prevent the New York Yankees from winning the A.L. East. As for the playoffs, there is too much baseball to be played to even make a guess. That being said, I’ll take a playoff rotation of Beckett, Lester and Lackey over any other rotation in the Major Leagues.

3 comments:

  1. I couldn't agree with you more. It's a great time of year to be a Sox fan.

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  2. Well written and has some great points. I do think that if they win 97 games it will be with a lot of great pitching and defense but winning is winning and that is all I want them to do, play good baseball and win games.

    Thanks for the article.

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  3. As the one who took you to your first game at Fenway you never cease to amaze me. You make me proud to be your Aunt.

    ReplyDelete