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All Pitch and No Hit? The Red Sox Build a National League Power

ANAHEIM, CA - OCTOBER 09:  Designated hitter David Ortiz #34 of the Boston Red Sox reacts after striking out in the fourth inning against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in Game Two of the ALDS during the MLB playoffs at Angel Stadium on October 9, 2009 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
Marc HalstedCorrespondent IDecember 19, 2009

Jason Bay is as good as gone.

Marco Scutaro is an offensive flash in the pan.

Boston billboards should be re-painted to warn Sox fans of the inevitable decline of David Ortiz.

Jacoby Ellsbury is David Dejesus with speed.

J.D. Drew is the most expensive injury-prone outfielder since Ken Griffey Jr. last donned a Reds uniform.

With those painful details in mind, the 2010 Boston Red Sox lineup should have no problem winning the NL West. As soon as John Henry and the boys pack up Fenway and ship it to Sacramento, the Old Town Team will be ready to contend.

Until then, however, the chances of a sprint through the Battle Royale known as the American League, much less another run at a World Series, are slim.

Despite arguably the deepest and most intimidating pitching rotation in baseball, the Red Sox have not made the offensive moves to make themselves truly competitive in the ever-thorough AL.

After dispensing the hope of re-signing the fiscally determined Bay, eschewing the idea of attracting Adrian Beltre, and realizing the fact that Adrian Gonzalez was San Diego-born and raised, the Red Sox offensive hopes hang in the wind.

Without further major signings, the Boston lineup will look shockingly pedestrian come opening day.

Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis, and Victor Martinez are solid, if not brilliant. Ortiz, Drew, Cameron, and Scutaro are aged, if not overrated. And Casey Kotchman and Jason Varitek are respected, if not ineffective.

The gradual decline of the Sox offense has left few untouched. Pedroia and Youkilis both saw slight, but noted declines in hits, home runs, and RBI in 2009. Ortiz has slipped dramatically since the glory days of the mid-2000s when 175 hits, 40 HRs, and 120 RBI were the norm. In addition, Big Papi scared the Boston accent from every Hub fan from Medford to Marlboro during his early-season swoon.

Adding to the Sox' struggles have been the sad marginalization of captain Varitek, the revolving door at shortstop, and the lack of evolution by young players like Josh Reddick and Jed Lowrie.

Outside of Pedroia finding his MVP swing or a career year by Youk or Martinez, the 2010 offensive season already looks like it’s in peril. The top of the lineup will have the added pressure of a bottom half that lacks punch or reputed productivity.

The harsh reality is that the four dynamic Sox starters will have to hand the ball to Daniel Bard, Hideki Okajima, and Jonathan Papelbon in the seventh and eighth innings of repeatedly low-scoring, one-run ball games.

The pitching staff will have the pressure akin to offensively-challenged National League teams in the high-octane AL East. Bard and Okie will have to become the two most dominant lefty/righty set-up team in the game and Pap will have to have a Mariano Rivera-like season for Boston to have a hope in 2010.
 
What’s worse is the painful thought that if the Sox don’t pitch their way to at least a few dozen 1-0 or 3-2 wins, they wouldn’t make the playoffs. 

If Lester, Beckett, Lackey, Buchholz, and Dice-K don’t establish a sub-2.00 team ERA it could be a very quiet October in Beantown. 

If the Sox don’t find a major bat or two between now and late January, Red Sox Nation may want to take two playoff runs by the Celts and B’s and call again when the Patties open up in September.

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