There are a lot of things that I have mentioned in many of my previous columns that need to break right for the Boston Red Sox to return to the World Series. Because of this I will group them all in one slideshow and arduously attempt to dig deeper, finding new and intriguing nuggets of information for you, the reader. Enjoy.
Wally never gets enough press
Guess the player
Obviously, for Boston to even have a shot at the World Series, all injured players need to be fully recovered. Dustin Pedroia’s foot needs to be back to the MVP and Gold Glove status that Red Sox fans are used to seeing.
Kevin Youkilis needs to stay off the disabled list, giving the Red Sox at least 150 games in 2011. If he cannot then both Jed Lowrie and Marco Scutaro will be manning that side of the infield leaving the defense as well as the offensive output below normal. Lowrie needs to continue his break out and be the player that he has showed he can be.
I don’t think it really matters if J.D. Drew has a full season or not because I believe that Mike Cameron and others can pick up the slack pretty nicely in the field and at the plate. Staying in the outfield, Jacoby Ellsbury needs to have healthy ribs in order to utilize his speed, league-leading base stealing ability and defensive agility.
It is also necessary for the pitching staff to get healthy. Josh Beckett and Daisuke Matsuzaka need to stay off the disabled list.
As for John Lackey, well Lackey just needs to step it up. John Henry lightened his wallet for that guy to perform immediately, not so he could take a few years to develop.
Immediately is defined as without delay or without pausing beforehand. Lackey definitely paused last season so it’s time to push the play button. He’s the only pitcher in Boston’s rotation not responsible for earning that city a World Series ring. That means Lackey gets zero slack. He owes the Fenway faithful a spectacular 2011.
Bring back the mullet Mitch.
Mitch Williams of MLB Network’s Hot Stove needs to be correct. On Saturday, February 12, Williams said the “widest gap in any division next year will be between first and second in the AL East.” He said this after he spent a two-minute segment praising the off-season additions of the Red Sox.
Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, and Bobby Jenks need to integrate themselves into Red Sox Nation in Florida so that Boston can get out to a large lead in the AL East. Inevitably every team has its run of bad luck around mid season. It’s just like playing black jack. If you have the money to remain at the table through the losing streak then you will come out a winner in the end.
For Boston, that means getting a big jump on the Bronx Bombers early in the season to ensure that a comfortable cushion is maintained through a late summer slump. The Red Sox need to break out of the gate on opening day and never look back. The longer Boston lets the rest of the pack stick around the more confident they’ll become and there is no need to give the Yankees extra confidence.
Sox fans hope his bat keeps it's punch
Daniel Bard needs to dominate. As I mentioned in an earlier column Daniel Bard’s (as well as Hideki Okajima’s and Bobby Jenk’s) level of play will dictate whether or not Boston will be able to trade Jonathon Papelbon before the mid-season deadline. And folks, Boston will need Pap as bait to bring in another starting pitcher and or another big bat.
No matter how you slice it Boston’s starting rotation will sustain injuries and, while he’s a fan favorite, David Ortiz’s bat will eventually flame out. Bullpen play needs to break right in order for the Boston Red Sox to make a big trade at the deadline. This trade will not be necessary to get out of the AL East, but to get out of the ALCS and into the World Series.
Another thing that needs to break right for the Red Sox involves A New York Yankees pitcher. A lot of people might think that AJ Burnett would need to carry over last season’s mediocrity ,and while I agree with that logic, I’m not at all convinced that Burnett is anything more than an average pitcher in the American League East.
Burnett will never be a great pitcher for the Yankees, but Phil Hughes very well may be and that is worrisome for Red Sox fans. In order for the Red Sox to roll into the World Series again, Phil Hughes needs to struggle for the pinstripes. C.C. Sabathia is a solid ace and barring an unforeseen injury that fact will not change. If Phil Hughes has a break out year, much like last year’s all-star showing by Boston’s Clay Buchholz, then Beantown’s big bat acquisitions may not be enough to fend off Joe Girardi’s boys. Burnett, not Sabathia, needs to rub off on Hughes if Boston is to have a shot at the Series.
What are you a model or a baseball player? Put the jersey on Clifford.
Along those lines another interesting pitching twist needs to break Boston’s way to help the Sox saunter into the ALCS. Cliff Lee formerly of the Texas Rangers and currently of the Philadelphia Phillies started a trend this off-season that the Fenway faithful hope continues, big name pitchers snubbing the Bronx.
The Yankees are notorious for making the right deals at the right times to bring in the right players putting themselves in the right position to play for a pennant. This year will be no exception. With a bank account large enough to pay off our countries debt to China the Steinbrenners will have no problem enticing yet another young, solid arm to don the pinstripes and report to the house that George built (doesn’t quite have the same ring to it, does it?)
Watch this year’s trade deadline closely because if the Yankees are still hanging around and have a decent shot at the wild card spot they’ll pull out all the stops to get what they need. That need will most certainly be a pitcher and that pitcher needs to follow in Cliff Lee’s footsteps in order for Red Sox fans to exhale a sigh of relief come the trade deadline.
In stepping outside the American League East there are a few teams that have a legitimate shot of keeping the Fenway fans from seeing their Sox in the fall classic. One of these teams is the defending ALCS champion Texas Rangers. Über slugger and reigning AL MVP Josh Hamilton is coming off a monster year and the ink has yet to dry on his new two year $24 million dollar contract.
Josh Hamilton has had a very difficult life and I will agree wholeheartedly with the boys of the MLB Network who believe that it’ll be tough for any owner to sign Hamilton to a long term deal because of this fact. Hamilton, in a recent interview, acknowledged this and agreed that his life is a day-to-day struggle. His faith helps him to win this battle and I, as well as everyone, wish him continued success in his personal life.
His baseball life, however, is a different story. In order for Boston to return to the World Series Josh Hamilton will have to put up the atrocious numbers that he displayed against San Francisco in last year's championship defeat. Hamilton batted .100 with two hits, one home run and one RBI. Not exactly stellar.
If Hamilton brings the same bat to an ALCS championship series against the Red Sox in 2011 that he brought against the Yankees in 2010 then Boston is right to be worried. In that series Hamilton produced a batting average of .350 with four home runs and seven RBIs.
Hamilton’s astronomical numbers need to return to earth for Boston to swing past Texas this year.
Two of my favorite things. The second being Bourbon
Minnie and Paul bring an entirely different set of circumstances for the Red Sox to overcome. Boston is going to need a few things to break their way with the Minnesota Twins if they expect to win the American League pennant. Texas was very fortunate this year that Justin Morneau suffered a season ending concussion and that Joe Mauer did not match his 2009 numbers. It is very likely that, had things broken the other way, the Twins would have played the Giants in the World Series.
Delmon Young however attempted to pick up the slack and all signs point to him repeating his 2010 performance this coming year. Young was a very highly touted player, drafted number one overall straight out of high school. He has come a long way from his bad tempered days in the minors when he threw a bat at an umpire striking him in the chest. In 2007 Young finished second in Rookie of the Year voting to none other than Boston’s Dustin Pedroia.
For the Red Sox to make it past the ALCS the Twinkies need to be grounded. The Twins are a hard working, grind-it-out, type of team whose blue-collar work ethic is handed down by Skipper Ron Gardenhire. Their bats have proven nearly impossible to silence and thus it is their pitching that needs to hit the skids to help Boston repeat their 2007 glory.
Carl Pavano became Superman on the mound last season and there is absolutely no way that he will repeat that performance this year (maybe bring back ex-girlfriend Alyssa Milano who is notorious for killing the stats of the athletes she dates). For things to break correctly in Beantown, Francisco Liriano needs to struggle on the rubber and not show everyone why he’s slated at the top of the Twins rotation.
"Hmmm. I don't know...SATAN" (name the SNL character)
Folks, let’s not be too hasty to count out the Tampa Bay Rays. This team could give the rest of the AL East a devil of a time. Why did they take the “devil” out of “Devil Rays” anyway? Was it not politically correct? And why were the Washington Bullets changed to the Wizards? Come on P.C. police. I realize this has nothing to do with the Red Sox; evidently I just had to get it off my chest.
Where were we? Ah yes, the Devil Rays. Tampa Bay gutted their team after a terrific season last year and while that is great news to the rest of the American League it doesn’t necessarily mean they have thrown in the towel quite yet. Nobody is looking over their shoulder for the Rays now. They’re not on anybody’s radar. But maybe they should be.
The Rays aren’t going to keep Boston out of the playoffs this year but they very well might keep them from winning the pennant. The Rays are set up nicely to play spoiler and with the likes of Manny Ramirez at the D.H. position and Johnny Damon patrolling left field you can bet that Red Sox Nation is in the cross-hairs (can I say “cross-hairs” or is that not P.C. anymore as well? Somebody please send me a list of do’s and don’ts).
Even without Matt Garza (shipped off to Wrigley) The Rays have a pretty sweet pitching staff with David Price and James Shields sitting up top and the highly touted youngster Jeremy Hellickson brings up the rear. As an aside I have never had a more difficult time trying to make a fantasy trade in any sport than I did trying to get Hellickson on my farm team before the trading deadline this off-season. I believe the kid is pure gold and will soon be an ace around which a solid pitching staff is built. Price and Hellickson will be a formidable duo soon.
If the Rays pitching pans out as I foresee then it is their hitting that will keep them from contending in 2011. Minus, of course Evan Longoria (arguably the best third baseman in the league) and B.J. Upton, a solid performer behind the plate, the Rays are suspect with a bat.
Ramirez and Damon can still hit but are much slower than they once were. Damon is good for a few base hits and against good pitching Ramirez will produce mostly sacrifice fly balls.
Ben Zobrist was a stud two years ago but fell down to average last year and the rest of Tampa Bay’s infield just doesn’t excite me. So to conclude this slide, the Red Sox need the Rays to develop ample struggles at the plate (fending off Damon’s and Ramirez’s motivation when facing Boston) because the Tampa Bay Rays have a “devilish” pitching rotation that is only going to improve.
Whoops, not Eldrick but Detroit
One of the most important things that need to break right for the Red Sox is the entirety of the Detroit Tigers team. The Motor City made some tremendous off-season moves that when coupled with a healthy roster will pose a lot of aggravation for the entire American League.
Brandon Inge and Joel Zumaya will be healthy and with Victor Martinez as their new designated hitter, he, Miguel Cabrera and Magglio Ordonez will make up the lion's share of the Tiger’s runs. In looking at the defensive side of the equation, Justin Verlander anchors what could be a shut down rotation. Not to put any pressure on the kid but the entirety of the Tigers' run for the World Series rests on the shoulders of the young hurler, Rick Porcello. Too dramatic?
Porcello has the raw talent to be an ace in this league if he can just get out of his own head. The ability is there; the mechanics are sound and if he can wrap it all up in a nice package the Tigers will be sitting in the catbird seat after the all-star break.
What Boston needs to break their way is for Porcello to still be a season away from displaying his rumored greatness. And maybe it wouldn’t hurt if V-Mart took some time getting used to his new digs as well. I wouldn’t be surprised if Detroit were to show up in the ALCS. The AL Central is very formidable, folks.
An apple a day...You know the rest
And the last thing that needs to break Boston’s way goes without saying, injuries. They need to stay healthy, period. The D.L. might as well stand for the Don’t-think-you’re-gonna-make-it-to-the-World-Series-this-year List.
Let me know what else Red Sox Nation is worried about in the comments section. Thanks for reading and commenting and as always here is a little trivia for you.
Everybody knows of Ted Williams and his accolades on the field but were you aware that he also contributed from the dugout as a Major League Baseball Manager? Do you know for how many years No.9 was a manager?