Dustin Pedroia and new manager Bobby Valentine will be the driving force behind winning the AL East
After the Red Sox collapsed down the stretch last season, ownership and the players are determined to win the AL East in 2012.
There are five reasons why 2012 will be different: new management, a healthy pitching staff, Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford will improve in their second year in Boston, a redesigned bullpen, and the determination to silence the critics.
Shortly after the season ended John Henry and company decided to move on from the Terry Francona and Theo Epstein era.
Francona seemed to have lost control of the locker room and Epstein was ready for a new challenge.
With new management in first year GM Ben Cherington and the boisterous Bobby Valentine as manager, the Red Sox enter the 2012 MLB season with a sense of urgency and the drive to win the AL East.
Ben Cherington and Bobby Valentine have a lot to prove in 2012
Ben Cherington is replacing the man that ended the curse and brought two World Series titles to Boston.
In his first year, Cherington will to prove to fans and the media that he isn’t just a puppet for Lucchino and ownership.
Cherington didn’t make any major moves in the offseason, but come July 31 the pressure will be on to make a move.
After missing the playoffs the past two years and the new playoff format, Cherington will make the moves needed to win the AL East.
Valentine Brings a New Attitude to the Clubhouse
Bobby Valentine was hired as Red Sox manager to do one thing. Win now.
In his first year as manager, Valentine is under pressure to win no matter what. He has already shaken things up by eliminating beer in the clubhouse and getting back to fundamentals at spring training.
Valentine will call players out when they make a mistake and won’t be afraid to bench players when necessary.
2012 is going to be different in the clubhouse and on the field. Players will respond to the changes and win the AL East because of it.
Jon Lester needs to be the ace that many people believe he is
The pitching staff failed to deliver in 2011 and was the reason why the Red Sox collapsed down the stretch.
The top three pitchers, Jon Lester, Josh Beckett, and Clay Buchholz, were all disappointments last season.
Throw in the disaster that was John Lackey and Daisuke Matsuzaka’s season ending in May, and the Red Sox rotation made it next to impossible to make the playoffs. The starting rotation also made it difficult on the bullpen by being 2nd worst in both quality starts (71) and innings pitched (5.8 IP per start).
Regardless of the unknown in Daniel Bard and Felix Doubront, the rotation enters the season healthy and determined to bounce back.
Valentine and new pitching coach Bob McClure bring a new attitude and focus that will make the rotation a feared group in 2012.
Carl Crawford needs to return to All-Star form in his second year in Boston
After having polar opposite seasons in their first year in Boston, Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford will both improve in 2012, making an already potent offense even better.
In Gonzalez’s first year in Boston, he hit .338 with 27 HRs and 117 RBIs, all while being a gold glove first baseman. Despite the great offensive year Gonzalez had, he will be even better in 2012.
Last season he was still recovering from offseason shoulder surgery that limited his power production. Remember, Gonzalez hit 40 HRs while playing half a season in PETCO Park.
Expect his batting average to drop but don’t be surprised if Gonzalez comes close to hitting 50 HRs this season.
Carl Crawford Needs to Have an All-Star Season to Win Back Fans
Crawford didn’t have the same success that Gonzalez had in 2011. In fact, 2011 was the worst season of Crawford’s 10 year career.
While expectations were high due to the $142 million contract, the truth is Crawford struggled adjusting to fan and media scrutiny and the constant lineup changes.
Crawford is poised to have a bounce back year following wrist surgery. He is a hard working player who knows he needs to improve.
Valentine also thinks outside the box and is better suited to unleash Crawford than Terry Francona was.
Can Andrew Bailey replace cult hero Jonathan Papelbon as the new Red Sox closer?
The Jonathan Papelbon era is over, and the Andrew Bailey era is set to begin.
New closer Andrew Bailey and set-up man Mark Melancon will come in and become reliable relievers for Valentine.
Alfredo Aceves wanted to be a starter but is better suited as a reliever and a spot starter. He proved last year that he can come in and get a key double play or work multiple innings when needed.
Matt Albers, Franklin Morales, Michael Bowden and newcomer Vincente Padilla will fill out the remainder of the bullpen. Albers showed he could be reliable before he fell apart at the end of the season. With a reduced workload he will be a vital component in 2012.
Morales and Bowden are both talented and with a new pitching coach and another year of experience, they will be help round out the pen.
Vincente Padilla is the wild card of this group. He is a talented pitcher and after becoming a reliever for the Dodgers last season, Padilla will be the final piece of a revamped bullpen.
Dustin Pedroia will step up and lead the Red Sox to an AL East title
Jason Varitek and Tim Wakefield have retired and even though Bobby Valentine won’t be putting a “C” on anyone’s jersey, this is Dustin Pedroia’s team.
Pedroia won’t have the same connection with Valentine that he did with Francona, but he will be the vocal leader that this team needs.
He is filled with pride and took last year’s failure personally. He is one of many players that are determined to turn things around.
Even though Beckett won’t admit it, he is just as determined as Jon Lester to silence the critics.
The core of the team is returning from last year. They remember what happened last year and will want to erase the bad taste they have in their mouths.
The 2011 season was historically bad, yet it brought changes in management and forced players to recommit themselves to winning in 2012. The 2012 Boston Red Sox will be on the war path in 2012 and will win the AL East.