The time for speculation, projection and over-analysis is nearly over.
The Boston Red Sox are now a mere eight days away from opening up their 2012 season against Justin Verlander and the Detroit Tigers, and in doing do officially beginning a new chapter in the franchise’s history.
It will be the first season for the GM-manager duo of Ben Cherington and Bobby Valentine, who contrary to earlier reports are on the same page and looking forward to this upcoming season. Several everyday players will also be making their debut, as both holdovers (Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Mike Aviles) and newcomers (Ryan Sweeney, Cody Ross) will be called upon to contribute from the very start.
The organization will be glad, no doubt, that the seemingly endless debate and discussion over 2011’s collapse will finally give way to talk of this year’s team. Although the public backlash the Sox endured after last season (particularly around Boston) has lessened, given the success of other local teams, the pressure to perform has only heightened.
The city of Boston has a lot of choices when it comes to which team to support: the Patriots just won their fifth AFC Championship since 2001, the Celtics have been a contender for five years in a row and the upstart Bruins are gearing up for the playoffs and a run at consecutive Stanley Cup titles.
If the Sox want to maintain their stranglehold on the title of “Favorite Boston Sports Team,” they’re going to need to reach several important goals over the course of the season. These goals are specific and represent benchmarks that winning Red Sox teams have reached in the past.
In a sport like baseball that privileges individual accomplishments, to achieve these goals the Red Sox will need significant contributions from all their key contributors. While the target numbers are team-related, whether the Sox reach them will depend entirely on the performance of the individual players.
Here are the 10 goals that the Sox must achieve to have a successful 2012 season.