The Red Sox starting the season by going five games without a win has caused me to hear some rather unpleasant comments. “See, you can’t just go out and get a bunch of big names and have a super team!” “Hype doesn’t win games.” “Ha ha Everyone thought they’d be so great and they stink!”
Who made these comments? ME! I made them regarding the Miami Heat when they added LeBron James and Chris Bosh to Dwayne Wade and the rest of the team, but got off to a slow start.
But now I can hear these same comments being said about the Red Sox by fans of that pinstriped team. And it hurts.
Now, I know that logically what I said could not have impacted the Red Sox. But superstitions are a part of fandom. I know I’m not the only one who has felt the need to not wear, eat, or drink the same thing when we’re losing. Or to sit in the same place and not move while we’re winning.
Superstitions and karma aside, I am just going to relax and remember that anything is possible during a very, very long baseball season. Maybe the Sox will go 0-162 (though I doubt it). Maybe they’ll end up winning 100 games and no one will remember the atrocious way they started the season. Maybe they’ll win the World Series. Maybe they won’t.
Regardless of the outcome of the next 157 games, I’ll be rooting for my Red Sox!no comments
I heard an interesting theory by Mike Felger in 98.5 The Sports Hub yesterday:
Was it a mistake to start the season with Carl Crawford in the 3-hole?
With new pieces like Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez coming to the Sox, fans were piecing together potential lineups all winter. Carwford's speed made him a candidate for leadoff man, but he opted out of that job in Tampa Bay and since he offers more pop than Jacoby Ellsbury, that was never really an option. C.C. hit second for an entire season in 2009 and logged 400+ ABs in the2-hole last season, but Dustin Pedroia is a better fit, so that didn't work either.
Hitting 3rd seemed like the obvious choice. Carl is a lefty, so it helped break up the lineup. He's a career .293 hitter. He's got speed. And he's always hit at the top of the lineup.
Oh... and we're paying him $20 million bucks per season.
But is the 3-hole really the right place for Carwford? After "pressing" through the first two games of the season, Terry Francona dropped him to 7th and Crawford went 2 for 4 on the day. It would appear that the switch helped Carl relax and and results were positive... but what happens tonight in Cleveland? Tito has opened a can of worms here and fans are wondering (after just 3 games) if Carwford can handle the pressure that comes with his new contract and his new fanbase.
Felger's suggestion was that the Sox never should have put Carwford in the 3-hole. Instead, he seems like a better fit in the 5th spot... and I agree. Here's why:
1. Adrian Gonzalez is our best hitter. He has 40 HR power and knows how to spray the ball to all fields. The rule of thumb is to use your best pure hitter at No. 3... and that's A-Gon.
2. That means the lineup becomes Ellsbury, Pedroia, Gonzalez and Youkilis... with a lefty of your choice to follow. If you buy into the theory of "splitting the lineup" then you'll like the idea of "setting the table" again with Crawford in the 5th spot, followed by David Ortiz, Drew/Cameron and rest. This enables the Red Sox to stack the lineup with lefties when facing right-handed pitching and keeps the lefty-righty rotation against southpaws.
It also keeps Crawford in the upper half of the lineup and reduces the likelyhood of fans screaming about a $20M player hitting 7th.
Bottom Line: Crawford will likely be back in the 3-hole tonight against the Indians and RHP Josh Tomlin, but if he struggles though this series, what will Tito do in the Home Opener against the Yankees? Dropping Crawford down in that series will probably turn up the pressure cooker, rather than help C.C. relax. But if he struggles against the Yankees too, Tito will have no choice but to mix things up.
I think the Sox should make the switch now. They won't use the same lineup all year, but hitting A-Gon 3rd and Carwford 5th is the best "base lineup" in my mind, and the quicker they mak the switch, the easier it will be on the Red Sox... and Carwford.
What do you guys think?no comments
1. Josh Beckett takes the mound tomorrow in Cleveland. He looked very sharp in his final spring start and allowed 3 hits and 1 runs while fanning 8 through 8 innings the last time he faced the Indians (8/3/10). Also... it's the Indians.
2. David Ortiz is 4 for 12 (.333) with 2 homers and 4 RBI in his first 3 games. He didn't hit his first homer until 4/23 last season and didn't break the .200 mark until 5/12.
3. Carl Crawford actually made contact with the ball on Sunday. Let's hope those two hits leade to better things.
4. Jacoby Ellsbury is working the count at the top of the order. He's currently 4th in the AL, seeing 4.86 pitches per plate appearance. Brett Gardner lead the AL at 4.61 P/PA in 2010. This won't last, but if there's one thing people want to see Ellsbury improve, it's his plate discipline, and seeing almost 5 pitches per PA and holding a .940 OPS is a good sign.
5. Adrian Gonzalez has looked great. He makes hitting to all fields look easy and has already made some nice plays at first. I haven't been this excited about a Red Sox player in a long time...
6. Basebal is back. This weekend sucked, but the games count and we've got 159 more of 'em.
The Red Sox choked yesterday.
We got up early on a Rangers team that has just as much offense as we do, and eventually their bats proved better than ours. Lester looks off from the start, Crawford looked like he'd never seen a southpaw before and Bard imploded in the 8th.
There were some very encouraging moments as well, like Ellsbury reaching base four times, stealing a base and scoring two runs, Gonzo's 2-4, 3 RBI day and Big Papi's opposite-field dinger (off a lefty!) to tie the game in the 8th... but this whole mess started with Lester.
His final line for the day was 5.1 IP, 6 H, 5 ER, 1 BB, 3 HR... and zero strikeouts. Lester's never coughed up 3 homers in a start and he hasn't posted a goose egg in the K column since April 9, 2008 vs Detroit. That's pretty much the defenition of a fluky bad game.
But don't head for the Tobin just yet.
If you've paid attention over the past few years, you already know that Lester always struggles in April. I'm sure it drives him nuts, but it's the ugly truth:
2008 (MAR/APR) : 7 GS, 1-1, 4.36 ERA, .275 BAA, 23 BB, 22 K
2009 (APR/MAY): 11 GS, 4-5, 5.67 ERA, .296 BAA, 24 BB, 74 K
2010 (APR): 5 GS, 1-2, 4.71 ERA, .241 BAA, 15 BB, 32 K
Those are some pretty bad splits, but Lester has proved capable of overcoming bad starts for three years now. He finished 16-6 with a 3.21 ERA in 2008, went 15-8 with a 3.41 ERA in 2009 and almost won 20 games last year, finishing at 19-9 with a 3.25 ERA.
Bottom Line: Yesterday sucked, but it's par for the course with Lester at this point. In 2010 he got in the groove quicker, going 5-0 with a 1.84 ERA in May... and that enabled him to make a run at 20 wins. He could do it again this season, but his next start will be at Fenway against the Yankees, so he'll need to shake this one off quickly.
The 2011 Red Sox season starts today in Texas. To kick off the new season, we're offering FREE shipping on our famous Boston Runs on Dustin t-shirt starting today and running through midnight on Sunday.
Just click the image above and get our most popular tee for just 13 bucks!
ps. Follow Bottom Line Apparel on Facebook for updates on new Red Sox tees!
Opening Day is full of clichés: We’re all in first place; everyone has a chance; blah, blah, blah. The fact is, not everyone has a chance. I can guarantee you right here and now that the World Series will NOT be Royals v. Pirates - this year, next year and even the year after. Right now there is the dominance of Major League Baseball by fewer than a dozen franchises and, if you listen to the pundits, only a couple of teams that really have a shot.
I’ve spent the better part of a week listening to analysts’ predictions that the Red Sox are going to take it all this season with the fabulous new lineup and strong pitching staff. Of course as the chorus of Sox touters gets louder the contrarians come out of the woodwork.
“Beckett has had a terrible spring.”
“Lackey is still not showing signs of the Lackey they thought they acquired.”
“Papelbon is still struggling and do they really want to rely on Bard or Jenks.”
“They are always afraid of Matsuzaka.”
“Salti-what’s-his-name isn’t ready to catch a staff like this.”
There was going to be a backlash. There are two favorite pastimes in the United States: playing up the underdog and then tearing them down when they are no longer the loveable losers. It’s difficult to go from pre-season favorite to World Series champion so if you’re a little contrarian you have a better chance of being right by tearing the favorite down rather than picking someone to win. Voila! You’re now an expert.
There is one thing that the above criticisms have in common, though, and point to a big picture concern. The battery has question marks. But there is time to dwell on this if it becomes a concern. We certainly have spelled out those concerns here in previous columns by all three of us. Right now it’s time to get back in the groove and enjoy baseball every day for the next six plus months. Enjoy the day and settle in. It’s going to be a long, interesting summer!no comments
For Red Sox Nation, actions speak louder than words. They want to know the team is focused. Driven. Committed. To show all this, we created a heart-felt, soul-stirring battle cry. "We Won't Rest." It is our theme, our mantra. It represents how our players, coaches, front office and every member of the Red Sox organization approaches each and every day in preparation to compete.
The campaign takes fans inside the mind of Kevin Youkilis, and an intense BP session one frigid Boston day. It captures the explosive base running duo of Carl Crawford and Jacoby Ellsbury. It shows the unrelenting work ethic of a stellar pitching unit. It allows fans to take comfort in Big Papi's rituals. It reveals the moments when a team reaches its community through charity. And shows in gritty detail one team and one determined organization's driven pursuit of excellence.
Over at Bottom Line Apparel, I've been working on a 2011 campaign of my own and we've got some cool new "Speedster" t-shirts that sync-up perfectly with this new Ellsbury/Crawford commercial. Take a look at the new t-shirts below (available in about a week at www.blshirts.com), let me know what you think of them, and enjoy the commecial at the bottom.
"Fear the speed!"
A new baseball season stretches before us fans like a perfect yellow brick road. We don’t know exactly what we will find along the way, but we can’t stay in the black-and-white Kansas that is the off season. The amazing technicolor 2011 baseball season awaits!
Just like Dorothy faced high expectations after she killed the Wicked Witch of the East, the Sox face the same after acquiring Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford. The munchkins heralded her as a great liberator, but she had her doubts. Can she live up to expectations? Can the Red Sox?
During her journey Dorothy meets up with friends who help her. But she also faces many set backs. Poppies threaten to lull her to sleep just as the seemingly endless 162-game schedule can lead some teams to lose momentum. Homesickness can strike a Kansas girl as well as a baseball team on a West Coast road trip.
Dorothy stops to pick some apples leading to an attack from angry trees in much the same way picking up (and dropping) players before the tread deadline can cause verbal abuse from fans and analysts.
Everywhere Dorothy goes she is watched by the Wicked Witch of the West. The Red Sox know a little something about constant scrutiny. Being labeled as one of the teams to beat this season puts a giant target on your back. Everyone is looking for your weaknesses.
The Tin Man rusts and the Scarecrow loses his stuffing. Unfortunately baseball players get hurt as well.
The wizard turns out to be a sad, little man with a big head. Let us hope that none of the Sox headline acquisitions turn out to be Henry Gales.
And of course the most frightening thing about Dorothy's quest for the World Series trophy, I mean Emerald City, is the devil monkeys. They come out of nowhere when she least expects it. And this is true of the AL East as well. There is a constant threat from the Bronx, but just when you think you can count out Toronto, Tampa Bay, or Baltimore, they make a surge.
Will the Red Sox reach the end of the season successfully? Not even Glinda the Good Witch can tell us that.
All we can do is say “play ball!”no comments
Make your predictions for other Red Sox players - just click on a name below!
Daisuke Matsuzaka, SP John Lackey, SP Josh Beckett, SP
Clay Buchholz, SP Jon Lester, SP Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C
David Ortiz, DH Jacoby Ellsbury, CF Carl Crawford, LF
J.D. Drew, RF Kevin Youkilis, 3B Marco Scutaro, SS
Dustin Pedroia, 2B Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Jonathan Paplebon, CL
We only have four more days until the 2011 season begins, so I'll keep this last predictions post brief. We all know Paps had a rough year last season, and while I don't think he'll post the elite numbers we saw back in 2006 or 2007, I do think he can bounce back and be one of the best closers in baseball again.
Bottom Line: We don't know if it was mechanics, a lack of confidence, stubbornness or some other factor that caused Paps to lose his mojo in 2011. Due to the nature of thier job, we do know that relief pitcher stats are as fluky as they come... so the question is: Is Papelbon's success the real fluke?
I say no. Expect Paps to bounce back in 2011 with solid numbers...
Rob's Prediction: 65 G, 35 SV, 75 K, 2.00 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 2.05 BAA
... and sign a a huge deal with the Yankees in 2012.
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