The Boys of Winter: Are the 2011 Red Sox Theo Epstein's Most Complete Team?

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The Boys of Winter: Are the 2011 Red Sox Theo Epstein's Most Complete Team?
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As the wrath of winter continues to rear its ugly head, Red Sox fans look forward to more than a reprieve from the cold and ice this spring.

In 2010, the Red Sox were crippled by injuries. Over the course of the 162 game season, Red Sox players endured over 1,000 days on the disabled list—over 250 days more than the major league average from last year. With 23 seperate trips, the Red Sox also finished the season with the most stints on the disabled list.

Despite an overwhelming amount of hardship, the Red Sox were nearly able to overcome their troubles. Racking up 89 wins, this put the them six games off the pace for the wild card and seven games back of the American League East champion Rays.

For the first time in years, interest in the Red Sox declined in Boston.

Though the consecutive home sellout streak hit the 600 game mark in 2010, both local TV and radio ratings fell as much as 36 percent. 2010 saw the first fall from the top local ratings in Major League Baseball in six years, dropping out of the top four.

Going into the offseason, it became crucial for Red Sox general manager, Theo Epstein, to build a team that would once again garner respect and interest throughout New England.

The Red Sox front office personnel were reported to be after a major trade and a significant free-agent signing before the winter was through. They delivered better than anyone in Red Sox Nation could have imagined.

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First, news came of the acquisition of all-star first baseman Adrian Gonzalez from the San Diego Padres. Next, the Red Sox swept in to outbid the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim for the signing of left fielder Carl Crawford.

With a newly stacked infield and outfield, and a starting rotation all under contract for the 2011 season, the one question remaining was the bullpen.

In 2010, Boston had the third worst bullpen in the American League with a 19-23 record and an ERA of 4.24.

To tackle this problem area, the Red Sox made two important signings to the bullpen. First they signed White Sox' closer Bobby Jenks and soon after added Tampa Bay's Dan Wheeler, who was coming off a season with eight strike outs per nine innings and an ERA of 3.35.  

With Jonathan Papelbon, Bobby Jenks, Dan Wheeler and Daniel Bard rounding out the bullpen—and with young up and coming lefty pitcher Felix Dubront vying for his shot at becoming a big league regular—Boston should enjoy more stability out of the pen.

Boston also endured ups and downs with their starting rotation in 2010 as Josh Beckett missed significant time and was largely ineffective during his time off the disabled list. However, Clay Buchholz emerged as one of the premier starting pitchers in the American League, posting a 17-7 record and a 2.33 ERA. Meanwhile, Jon Lester, who again showed glimpses of his dominant abilities in the beginning of the season, ended the season with a few rocky appearances following the birth of his first child.

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In his first season with Boston, John Lackey faltered early, but rebounded posting an ERA of under 3.90 in three of the last four months of the season.

Though the rotation didn't live up to all the hype built up before the 2010 season, all five of the current starting rotation have shown themselves to have the potential to be dominant pitchers at the major league level.

With the acquasitions of Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford, Boston now also has one of the best fielding teams in the major leagues. Adrian Gonzalez has proven his fielding ability at first base for years and Kevin Youkilis will try to translate his tremendous glove skills at the hot corner. Dustin Pedroia is one of the best fielding second basemen in the majors and the middle will be rounded off with a spring training battle between Jed Lowrie and Marco Scutaro.

The outfield will be even better defensively. Carl Crawford is a perennial Gold Glove nominee and winner, often robbing hitters of extra bases with his blazing speed and Jacoby Ellsbury has also proved himself as one of the premier center fielders in the majors. The outfield will be rounded out by right fielder J.D. Drew, who despite a laxidasical nature, is a very underrated defensive player.

Finally, Boston is now home to a lineup that even the Bronx Bombers will envy. The Red Sox have seven former All-Stars in their starting nine. Their six players who played the entire season in the majors last year hit for a .288 batting average, 22.5 homeruns, and 77.3 RBI.

Though there is plenty of offseason left and a grueling 162 game season to be played, the Red Sox look to be in a good position to take home the AL East crown and make a deep run into the playoffs.

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