Boston Red Sox: 12 Things for Fans to Look Forward to in 2012
Fear not, my Red Sox brethren!
While the sting of 2011 shall not subside anytime soon, it is what lies ahead, 2012, that must be the primary focus.
The 2011 squad appeared a formidable bunch—indeed, from mid-April through August they were fearsome—yet the prospects for 2012 are even rosier.
Here are 12 things for Red Sox fans to look forward to in 2012.
No Ticket Price Raise
I'll begin with a simple yet important pleasure.
For the second time in four years, the Red Sox will not raise their ticket princes this winter.
This isn't exactly a surprise with the way the Sox wrapped up 2011, however, any price hold is a good price hold, considering the Sox perennially seem to have the priciest tickets in the game.
No John Lackey
As the failures began to mount last season it became increasingly obvious that John Lackey was, one way or another, pitching his way out of Boston.
Now, with impending Tommy John surgery, Lackey will not be pitching anywhere in 2012, never mind in Boston.
A Healthy A-Gon
At the All-Streak break, Adrian Gonzalez was hitting .354 with a sparkling 1.006 OPS, highlighted by 29 doubles and 17 homers.
During the second half, A-Gon looked visibly fatigued at the plate and struggled with his power. Prior to a five-dinger outburst at Texas in late August, he had hit only one homer in the second half.
Opposite field shots over the Green Monster, a frequent sight in April and May, virtually disappeared from Gonzalez's arsenal as the season wore on.
A-Gon never attributed his struggles to his surgically repaired shoulder; however, it's logical to draw a link between Gonzalez's abbreviated offseason conditioning, owing to the surgery, and his fatigue and power outage in the second half.
All in all, Gonzalez still hit .338/.410/.548/.957 with 27 HR and a league-leading 213 hits.
Not that bad, huh? Just imagine what A-Gon can do when he's back at full strength.
If Jacoby Ellsbury is able to produce next season the way he did this past season, he can expect to receive a contract extension from the Red Sox.
The Red Sox have consistently locked up their homegrown talent before those players hit free agency. Example of this trend are Kevin Youkilis, Dustin Pedroia, Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz.
Ellsbury is represented by Scott Boras, but, even given that, the Red Sox should be able to strike a deal that averages out to about $10 million per year.
If Ells can consistently produce at or even a bit below his 2011 levels, it will be a great deal for the Red Sox.
Alfredo Aceves endeared himself to Sox fans this summer by getting big outs, eating innings and simply by not being terrible—which is exactly what many of his fellow relievers were in 2011.
With Lackey and Dice-K on the shelf, the Red Sox will presumably give Aceves a shot at a rotation spot next spring.
The FanGraphs boys aren't completely sold on Aceves and he's never been a full-time starter in the majors.
That said, Aceves should easily be an improvement upon either Lack or Dice.
Five years and $70 million later, the J.D. Drew era is over in Boston. Little did we know that a July 10 win versus Baltimore would be J.D.'s final game at Fenway.
J.D. spent most of the second half on the 60-day DL with, predictably, a myriad of injuries. He returned to action for the final four games of the season after last playing on July 19.
It would not be surprising to see the oft-injured Drew retire. He turns 36 later this month.
Ben Cherington is eager to have Josh Reddick and Ryan Kalish compete for the starting right field job. At a fraction of J.D.'s cost and with the benefit of youth, Sox fans should be thrilled to see these guys get a shot.
More Complete Games
On to subtler niceties...
The Red Sox have finished last in the league in complete games the past two seasons.
Terry Francona has a knack for low pitch count thresholds and a quick hook—he's no Jim Leyland. And while the Red Sox don't have Justin Verlander, they do have Josh Beckett (20 QS) and Jon Lester (19 QS).
This is not an argument about stats, however, as much as it's one based upon biased emotion.
Complete games are fun. Complete games are manly. Red Sox fans should be treated to more of them.
There's a decent chance that sweet-hitting and Ivy-League-philosophizing catcher Ryan Lavarnway will make the Opening Day Red Sox roster.
Lavarnway, 23, played in 17 games toward the end of 2011 and saw the ball well. He hit a pair of home runs at Baltimore in the season's penultimate game.
With Jason Varitek possibly done in Boston, the door may be opened for Lavarnway to split time with Jarrod Saltalamacchia behind the dish.
Do we as fans deserve to see Wakefield get a shot at the Red Sox all-time wins record?
Wake certainly thinks we do and that he deserves the chance.
While the logical part of me says Wake should just hang 'em up and call it a career, it's hard not to feel the tug of the heart—seeing him get those seven wins to eclipse Cy Young and Roger Clemens would be awesome.
Will the Red Sox even give Wake a chance to go for the record? Probably.
It would be interesting to see, however, if brought back, whether Wakefield would be given a shot at the starting rotation. Picking up wins out of the bullpen is an unpredictable exercise.
Two Sets with Miami
The Red Sox play three in South Florida from June 11-13. The Fish then travel north for a set at Fenway from June 19-21.
Ozzie Guillen's team promises to be an entertaining bunch and it will be neat to get a look at the new ballpark in Miami and whatever free agents the team ends up signing, perhaps Jose Reyes.
Maybe a wild Wakefield floater will sail into the fish tanks behind home plate!
Beating Theo at Wrigley
Even more fun than squishing the Fish would be trouncing Theo Epstein's new team in his new home.
The Red Sox get just that chance next season, between their two Marlins series, with a weekend series on the North Side from June 15-17.
The Cubs are a big-time fixer-upper, but they'll surely be motivated to make their new boss look good when the Red Sox come to town.
The leadership of Ben Cherington is what Red Sox fans should be most grateful for.
General managers are arguably the most important asset for a baseball team these days.
Cherington has worked at a variety of departments across different levels and spent years learning from one of the game's best: Theo Epstein.
Cherington will pick up right where Epstein left off and, heck, he might even turn out to be better than his former boss.