State of the Franchise: Boston Red Sox
April 7, 2011 1 Comment
Well, uhm, so, this season hasn’t started the same way Boston had anticipated now, has it. No team has won the World Series after starting the season 0-4 or worse. But, no team had ever went to the World Series after trailing the League Championship Series trailing three games to none before the Red Sox did that in 2004. So, it’s not to say they won’t. Right now, though, things look really horrible.
In the off-season, the Red Sox made the most noise of any team in Major League Baseball, and many experts pinned Boston as the favorite to win this year’s World Series. For a few years now, the team had been burning up the phone lines to San Diego asking the Padres what it would take to get Adrian Gonzalez to Fenway Park. Finally, the Padres traded the former 2000 first overall draft pick for a package headlined by top prospect pitcher Casey Kelly. In 2010, Gonzalez was elected to his third consecutive All-Star game and finished fourth in the Most Valuable Player balloting in the National League, thanks in large part to a season in which he hit .298 with 31 home runs and 101 runs batted in for a surprise contending San Diego Padres team. Also a two-time Gold Glove winner, Gonzalez is the complete package from the left side of the plate that the Red Sox felt confident in slotting in the middle of their line-up. Gonzalez is off to a good start for the Sox this year, hitting .350 in his first five games with a home run and five runs batted in.
The other top billing addition Boston brought in was speedy left fielder Carl Crawford. A four-time All-Star while playing for the Tampa Bay Rays, Crawford became too expensive for the small market Rays and left for an in-division rival in Boston. Crawford had arguably his best season in 2010, hitting .307 with 19 home runs and 90 runs batted in, in addition to a league-leading 13 triples, scoring a career-high 110 runs, winning his first Gold Glove award and finishing seventh in the American League Most Valuable Player balloting. Experts believed that all of his numbers would skyrocket when plugged into the top of the Red Sox line-up with the likes of Gonzalez, Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis and David Ortiz hitting behind him.
If that was the ideal plan, well, in his first five games, the plan hasn’t worked. Hitting in a different spot in the line-up seemingly every day to try and find a rhythm, Crawford is off to a very slow .211 pace with zero extra-base hits. However, he did go two-for-four today with a pair of stolen bases against the Cleveland Indians, so maybe he’s starting to head in the right direction.
As a whole, a healthy Red Sox line-up will be more than fine in the American League. Shifted to third base with the addition of Gonzalez, Kevin Youkilis should post numbers close to his career average of .294, 23 home runs and 94 runs batted in, if not better. Former league-MVP and Rookie of the Year second baseman Dustin Pedroia, fully recovered from his ankle injury that sidelined him for the majority of the 2010 campaign, should help out of the two-hole as always. A healthy and productive season from outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury will also do wonders for this line-up, providing a speedy combination with Crawford that few other teams in the league can match. Not to mention, designated hitter David Ortiz and right fielder JD Drew should continue to provide power deep into the line-up.
The real surprise to the Red Sox 0-5 start has to be the starting rotation. None of the Red Sox five starters have looked impressive in their outings. Staff ace Jon Lester, coming off his first All-Star appearance and a 19-win season, got roughed up by the Texas Rangers deep line-up on Opening Day, but was the only Sox pitcher the first time through the rotation not to pick up a decision. Josh Beckett, coming off an injury-riddle Spring Training, showed encouraging signs in his season debut, but surrendered three runs in five innings and walked four batters.
The Red Sox biggest addition before the 2010 season, pitcher John Lackey, continued to disappoint Red Sox fans who had hoped his big contract signing would help anchor the rotation. He went 14-11 last year with an ERA of 4.40, and got off to a real slow start this season, lasting only 3.2 innings and giving up nine earned runs to the Rangers. Coming off a strong 2010 season in which Clay Buchholz, his first as a full-time starter, won 17, he, too, struggled against the Rangers.
Now, the Boston Red Sox are too good of a team on paper to struggle this much for the entirety of the season. Jon Lester is a notoriously slow starter, and Josh Beckett is still building his arm strength up from the spring. It’s only a matter of time until Crawford locks in at the plate and becomes the run producer the Red Sox believed they were signing. Adrain Gonzalez will be a force in the middle of the order, and the bullpen will be fine if they’re ever provided a lead.
But, the Red Sox should be concerned that the New York Yankees are coming out of the gates strong before their first regular season clash next weekend. At the same time, the team should also take solace in the fact that the Tampa Bay Rays, considered to be dark horses in the American League East race this year behind their strong rotation, have gotten off to an equally slow start.
It’s the first week of the season, a long, 162-game season. You don’t win pennants in April.
However, you can easily lose one in April.