Why I think the Red Sox are in good shape/Salty interview

This is certainly one special week in sports, but I just had to slip in some baseball talk.  Last season is over with, and I think it’s safe to say that we’ve moved on from what happened in that disastrous (it was historic) September.  I want to go back a bit, not to the start of the season, but let’s go travel to March of 2011.  Sound strange?  I was very uneasy when most people were saying the 2011 Red Sox were a lock to win a 100 games.  Some were figuring that the team would win over a 100.  I was not feeling that at all, and I’m not just saying that after the fact. It’s very hard to win over a 100 games.

I’ve learned in my 15+ years of working in professional baseball that expectations are just that.  But beyond sayings and quotes, I thought the Red Sox 2011 Opening Day roster had some hole.  Below is the breakdown of the 2011 Opening Day roster to this year’s current roster.  I actually think the Red Sox are in better shape on this day.  Call me crazy, but were you really that optimistic about last year’s pitching staff?

PITCHING STAFF
2011                   2012

Lester Lester
Beckett Beckett
Buchholz Buchholz
Lackey Bard
Dice-K ?
Albers Albers
Bard Melancon
Jenks Jenks
Papelbon Bailey
Reyes Morales
Wakefield Aceves
Wheeler ?
Photo courtesy of AP

Can Bard wipe away a tough 2011 and become a key cog in the rotation? Photo courtesy of AP

Consider this, the Red Sox won 90 games with the worst 4 &5 starter combination in the division.  Lackey’s 6.41 ERA was the worst in franchise history for a starter.  Tampa Bay’s 4 & 5 starters were around 4.25 combined ERA.  I understand there is a risk in Daniel Bard, but isn’t there an upside.  I’ve had some reservations about Bard going in the rotation, but if this is better for Bard and the team, I’m all for it.  Losing Papelbon hurt, but Andrew Bailey was obtained via trade, and has been a proven closer.  Last year’s ‘pen featured Denys Reyes, Tim Wakefield and Dan Wheeler to start the season.  I like the “stuff” that Boston has added to their bullpen for 2012 – a lot of hard throwers.  I’m confident they can find a number 5 starter and the final piece to that bullpen.  This could happen internally.

POSITION PLAYERS
2011                   2012

Cameron Sweeney hasn’t made an error since 2009
Crawford Crawford
Drew Ross Made 2 errors in OF last year
Ellsbury Ellsbury
Gonzalez Gonzalez
Lowrie Aviles Not a SS, but I doubt he’ll play there a lot
McDonald McDonald
Ortiz Ortiz
Pedroia Pedroia
Salty Salty
Scutaro Punto
Varitek Shoppach
Youkilis Youkilis

I know there’s a so-called hole at shortstop, and that is a concern, but look at the core players.  Crawford (when healthy), Ellsbury, Gonzalez, Ortiz, Pedroia and Youkilis is a very dominant six.  There’s no doubt Saltalamacchia had a break through season, and could continue to develop as a top catcher in the American League.  Now lets look at the bench: Sweeney, Punto, Shoppach and McDonald is an improvement – mostly on defense.  Cody Ross gives the team a versatile outfielder and that right-handed bat we talked about last season.

In closing, I’m not sure why people are freaking out so much.  The Red Sox signed a plethora of pitchers to help fill organizational depth.  Plus, it’s only January, things change dramatically during the course of the season.  Last year, the Cardinals found out that Adam Wainright was lost for the season, and they completely revamped their pitching staff during spring training and throughout the season.   I commend the work that Ben Cherington has done thus far. So many fans have said, “Why don’t we go back to what worked in 2004?”  I believe the Red Sox have.  Go look at those so-called plug-in guys back in 2004.  Not bad.Enjoy the video below.  You can reach me at seadogsradio@gmail.com.  I now host a radio show every Saturday from 8 AM – 12 PM on 96.3 FM in Portland, Maine.  You can listen online at thebigjab.com  http://www.facebook.com/pages/Saturday-Morning-Jab/272329359463564

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