Surprise, surprise. The Boston Red Sox are exactly where the preseason pundits thought they would be in mid-June: sitting comfortably atop the AL East with the second best record (42-27, .609) in all of Major League Baseball.
The strength of the teams play over the last month and a half has been quite remarkable, actually. After averaging around 5.05 runs per game last season, good for second best in the majors, they've upped their offensive output to around 5.32 runs per game, the best mark in the league.
The Red Sox have always been a strong offensive team, but their surge at the plate this year has been evident. By just looking at some of the lopsided final scores the Red Sox have put up over the last week and a half––10 to four, 14 to one, 16 to four, 11 to 6––it's easy to see the explosive potential the Red Sox enter each and every game with.
But what does this all have to do with the All-Star Game? Well, quite a lot actually.
As we all know, the All-Star Game is used to determine home field advantage in the World Series. It might be big-headed of this Red Sox fan to start thinking about the World Series this early, but for obvious reasons, the World Series is the ultimate end-goal for this team. Considering the talent on the team, anything less would be a disappointment to Red Sox fans.
And, besides the obvious home field advantage that an American League All-Star victory would ensure, it would also give the Red Sox an extra game to use the designated hitter.
The start of interleague play has uncovered quite a conundrum for the Red Sox. Adrian Gonzalez and David Ortiz, easily the teams two best hitters this year, both can't play in the field at the same time.
Ortiz––whose position in the field is first base––is one of the few full-time DH's left, and he's easily the most productive of the bunch. Gonzalez is an above average fielding first baseman with no real ability to play another position.
So, when the Red Sox make the trip to play in National League stadiums, they're going to have to make the tough decision of who to sit. There is no right answer; logically, it would be detrimental to leave either man's bat on the bench, or to play them both in the field at the same time. It's a lose-lose situation.
The Red Sox can juggle this problem comfortably enough for the nine road games they will play during the interleague period.
But, come October, if the Red Sox continue their strong play and make a successful run at the fall-classic, they're going to have a serious problem on their hands.
The best thing Red Sox fans can do is pull up a chair and root, root, root for the American League come July 12th. Home field advantage is important, but nowhere near as important as being at full strength for four games, as opposed to three, in the World Series.
In years past, it was easy to feign mild interest in the All-Star game without caring too much about the final result. But, if you have any hope for the Red Sox returning to postseason glory in 2011, you'll be vehemently glued to your television set late on a Tuesday night in July, willing to put up with Joe Buck's dry commentary, and maybe even willing to silently root for a couple of Yankees to get a hit.
Dan is a Boston Red Sox featured columnist. Follow him on twitter @dantheman_06.
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