OK, so maybe "run away with the AL East" is a little over the top. But at least it got your attention…
But I do believe that chances are the Red Sox will win the AL East this year, even facing an upgraded Yankee pitching staff. The Rays, despite superb home-grown pitching, have been unable to upgrade their offense enough to knock off either the Yankees or the Red Sox.
Toronto has made few off season moves, and closely resembles the .500 team from last year. The Orioles have now suffered through 14 straight losing seasons, and despite the pasting they gave the Red Sox to knock them out of the playoffs last season, they will finish last again in the AL East in 2012.
Like most others who follow the Red Sox closely, I was very concerned about the way the 2011 season ended. The subsequent departures of GM Theo Epstein and manager Terry Francona, combined with the "chicken and beer" fiasco, could have resulted in a long-lasting hangover that might have dragged the team down in 2012.
However, the way things have gone so far this off season should give Red Sox Nation cause for optimism.
Kudos to ownership and new GM Ben Cherington for not overreacting. It would have been easy (but also a big mistake) to blow up one of the best teams in baseball.
Think about it: when something bad happens, it's human nature to want to blame someone, or something.
The fact that a disaster may be an act of God or just an unfortunate accident or a perfect storm of bad luck is not good enough. We have to string someone up. Remember poor Steve Bartman?
Fans vicariously combine their own lives, joys and heartbreaks with the teams they support. Unfortunately, the media (talk radio especially) may sometimes fan those flames by blowing controversies out of proportion.
The Red Sox "chicken, beer and videogames" brouhaha was not "Sex, Lies and Videotape." The Red Sox did not collapse in September because three pitchers drank rally beers in the clubhouse.
Thankfully, leadership did not overreact. All signs indicate they are making baseball decisions, not "holier than thou" social judgments. Remember, this WAS the best team in baseball for much of the season (and they were probably drinking rally beers during that stretch as well).
Fortunately, they ignored those frothing at the mouth to trade Beckett, get rid of Crawford, etc. Instead, they are uniting around this team's strengths and doing everything they can to get them ready to play in April. They can still be the best team in baseball.
For that to happen, however, a number of stars and planets need to align. Stars such as Crawford and Buchholz will have to rebound, and some new unknown heroes will have to emerge. The slides to follow describe the "perfect storm" of positive convergence that will return the Red Sox to AL East supremacy.