The Boston Red Sox have done a wonderful job of overhauling their roster this winter. After being swept out of the playoffs by the Angels, GM Theo Epstein knew major changes needed to be made, and he did just that.
John Lackey, the top free agent pitcher, was added to provide depth to the rotation as well as give a wealth of big-game experience to the staff. Adrian Beltre and Marco Scutaro were brought in to retool the left side of the infield.
However, no signing will turn out to be as valuable as bringing in centerfielder Mike Cameron. Cameron will help the Red Sox in all aspects of the game, both on the field and in the clubhouse.
In his 15-year career, Cameron has averaged 23 home runs and 26 steals a season despite playing most of his career in historically bad parks for hitters. He is versatile enough to hit anywhere from first to seventh in Boston's lineup.
Ten times in his career he's played at least 140 games in a season. It would be 11, but he missed the first 25 games in the 2008 season due to a suspension for banned substances. His availability and willingness to hit anywhere will be key for a veteran team like the Red Sox.
His .250 career batting average and high strikeout totals are a concern, but he will still draw a high number of walks. The fact that he'll play half his games in Fenway should mean at least 60 extra base hits as well a high number of RBI.
Defensively, few in baseball play center field better than the three-time Gold Glove winner. Although he didn't win the award either of the past two years in Milwaukee, any Brewers fan would tell you he deserved the award. He was able to make up for the defensive inadequacies of both Ryan Braun and Corey Hart.
Cameron's arrival will shift Jacoby Ellsbury to left field where he'll man the Green Monster. With great speed in left and center, Cameron can shade himself over to right field to help J.D. Drew. There shouldn't be too many fly balls hit that the trio can't get to.
The biggest contribution Cameron will make this season will be off the field, in the clubhouse. That may come as a shock for some, especially with a great veteran presence provided by the likes Jason Varitek, David Ortiz, Kevin Youkilis, and Lackey. However, the 37-year old will step in from day one this year and be a central figure to everyone on the club.
Many thought that either Prince Fielder or Ryan Braun was the leader of the Brewers over the past couple seasons, but it was Cameron. He commands the respect and admiration of every teammate, regardless of what previous accomplishments they may have.
Players on Cameron's former team regarded him so highly that they followed his lead by untucking their jerseys after wins.
While some saw this as disrespectful, it was anything but. Cameron started untucking his jersey as a way to pay tribute to his father, who would untuck his shirt after coming home from work as a sign of a job well done.
Winning a World Series is about much more than hitting, pitching, and defense. Each championship team has a confidence and belief in themselves to succeed in the most crucial moments. No player exemplifies that or brings that out better in his teammates than Cameron.
Whether the Red Sox have done enough to catch the Yankees in the AL East or win the World Series is yet to be seen. One thing is for certain: If the Red Sox are to win their third title in seven years, very few, if any player, will have as much to do with that as Mike Cameron.
To read more by Jesse Motiff, click here.