Friday, August 29, 2014

I Scored!

April 8, 2013

It’s amazing how time changes, isn’t it?

There I was at the home opener last year. I was excited to be there, as you can see from the exclamation point in the “game notes” box. But really, why would I have been that excited? The Sox were coming off an absolutely terrible season. Sure, they made some changes in the off-season. But, I probably had no business stating that I was at the “Home opener!” Of course, since then the Sox finished with the best record in the league, won the World Series, and have had another sub-.500 season where they’ll miss the playoffs.


Even the results of the game seem so foreign. Check out Clay Buchholz. 7 IP of shutout ball. Only 7 base runners in those seven innings, with eight strikeouts. Remember when Buchholz could do that? How about the two guys that followed him? Andrew Bailey threw a dominant inning. Andrew Bailey? Joel Hanrahan came in to close out the game. Hanrahan the closer? Just last year? He struggled a bit…showing that the closer job wasn’t exactly a secure thing. 

David Ortiz was still out of the line-up. He wouldn’t return for another week. Jose Iglesias was manning shortstop. So strange to see.

Just last year.

How about the game? The Red Sox bats didn’t exactly show up. But, it looks like they did exactly what they needed to do. They scored all the runs a dominant Buchholz would need. (Yeah, go back and read that sentence again.) In fact, they only had hits in three innings. Thankfully they bunched them together in the seventh.

The hero of the game? That one’s easy. Daniel Nava had a perfect day at the plate, and his homer drove in all the runs the Sox would score.

The goat? That one’s a little tougher. Six guys went hitless, including Will Middlebrooks who struck out twice. But, nobody went hitless with as many chances as Jacoby Ellsbury at the top of the order. (Just last year!) He has to wear the horns on this day.

In the end, it didn’t matter. The hitters did all they needed to do with the great effort from the pitching staff. Great pitching and timely hitting were all it took to win the game.

And the scorecard shows how it happened.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Why Do Networks Keep Implying Baseball Isn’t Interesting?

Why else would they fill their broadcasts with anything but baseball?

I understand the concept. I really do. They know that the country, and/or broadcast region, is made up of three types of people. Baseball diehards, anti-baseball people, and people in the middle. They make a decision that the die-hards will watch no matter what. They probably assume that they could spit on them once a game, and they’d still watch. Just look at the number of people who complained about the moronic things Joe Morgan or Tim McCarver would say. People would say they had to mute the games, or deal with the constant frustration. But, they were all watching the games. All of them. Every inning. So, why would a network worry about them?

They might not even worry about the anti-baseball section. Why waste time trying to get people to watch if they’ve already decided they aren’t going to?

So, I understand that in order to try and draw in the casual fan, they might try some different things. But, why are they always trying the wrong things? Guests in the booth. Dugout interviews. They all take away from game action. Why show a full screen shot of Justin Verlander in the dugout doing an interview while putting the actual game in a small box in the corner? Doesn’t that imply that the interview is more important than the game? Or, at least, more interesting? Why would they want their viewers to think that? Or, guests to the booth? The regular announcers will talk to some movie star or corporate CEO. All the while, the game is going on unnoticed. Just a passing, so-and-so just grounded out. Back to the new TV show. The network produces will probably say that those types of interruptions draw in the casual fan. But, I have the same question I had when I saw the pierogi races.

Isn’t the best plan to turn the casual fan into a die-hard fan?

Just like the Pirates are fools for marketing and selling pierogies without a Pirates logo anywhere to be seen, the networks are fools for not using this opportunity to draw in more fans.

So, I understand that getting a celebrity into the booth might draw in the casual fan. But, aren’t there celebrities out there who are actual baseball fans? Can’t they bring in someone else to talk about “Arrojo-ness” or a player “making a mockery of his career”? Then, the casual fan might tune in to see the celebrity, but also might be drawn into the game itself. Otherwise, why not just show a Justin Bieber concert full screen, and have the game showing in the corner? Because if fans are just tuning in to hear a half-inning interview with a TV personality, they’re probably not tuning in the next game, when he’s not there. But, if they tune in to hear the celebrity, and that celebrity helps them get hooked on the product, they’ll tune in the next time…and every game after that. Then the networks wouldn’t have to work so hard for the ratings.

Isn’t that what they want?

Monday, August 25, 2014

From the Pedro Binder

Once again, I look at a card and think to myself, "People are actually complaining about the Topps monopoly?"

I'm trying to think of something I like about this card. I guess the picture of Pedro isn't terrible. But then they went any doubled and pixilated it. Why, exactly? They also put Pedro's name, position, and team on the card. But they wrote them sideways to make them as hard to read as possible. Then, just to mess with me, they wrote the team in a different direction. So, to read them both, I need to bop my head from side to side like I'm a Hanson brother. Just in case that was too easy, they wrote Pedro's name in foil. Again, just to make it even harder to read. Eventually card companies are going to realize that foil is illegible, right?

They did add a second (third?) picture of Pedro, apparently while he was serving time. Or behind a screen? Was there a point to that? Does it have anything to do with "gametime?" Yeah, I didn't think so either. Then there's the TV fuzz in the upper left. What is it adding to the card? Other than confusion.

So, I guess I didn't really find anything I liked about this card. That doesn't surprise me. Figured it would be tough. Sort of annoyed that I have to have it in the binder.

What do you think?

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Visiting the Vet

When Jim posted his report of the Phillies Room visit toFenway, I realized that I had never returned the favor. Sure, I posted a wonderful write-up of my visit to PNC Park, but not my visit to Veterans Stadium. What a disgrace! The closest I have come is talking about the scorecard I kept at the game. But, that’s not really the same…is it? So, what was it like? Glad you asked.

I’ve visited four Major League parks in my life. Fenway once or twice, PNC, Veterans, and Olympic. (Hmm…not sure I’ve talked about the Olympic Stadium visit yet either. Guess I’ll have to take care of that at some point as well!) Two beautiful parks, and two not quite so beautiful. Just to mix it up a bit.

When I first arrived at the stadium, my first impression was just how easy it was to do. Right off the highway, and you practically ran into the stadium. As someone who would never just drive right up to Fenway, this was amazing to me. But, when I got out of the car, I saw the downside to that ease. I was surrounded by parking lot. No stores. No shops. No stands. Just cars to walk through on the way to the stadium. It seemed so sterile. I think I’ll take the chaos.

The inside was a bit of a culture shock as well. The concourse was wider, and less crowded. I remember being dumbfounded by the sight of an escalator. I’ve mentioned it before, but my strongest memory of that area was the t-shirt they had for sale promoting the “Battle of the Rookies of the Year.” This was in 2000, and they were promoting that Nomar Garciaparra and Scott Rolen had won the ROY in 1997. It wasn’t even the reigning ROYs. It was people who won the award three years ago, apparently battling it out for the title. Rolen didn’t even play in the game. I really wish I bought one, though. I did buy a pin commemorating the 20th anniversary of the 1980 World Champions.

Then it was time to go check out the field! My first impression was that it reminded me of a high school gymnasium. This was my first experience with artificial turf, and it made the whole ground look a lot more fake than I expected. Not only that, but the height of the stands combined with the overhang over my seats meant that I couldn’t see the sky. It felt small, and enclosed. Like a gymnasium.

To top it off, Pedro was scheduled to pitch that game, but didn’t. He was a surprise scratch, and I ended up watching Tim Wakefield. Even worse, Curt Schilling pitched the night before for the Phillies. So, I was this close to a Pedro-Schilling match-up, but just missed out on both accounts.

Other than ending up a Red Sox loss, the game itself wasn’t terrible. I got to see Nomar’s 100th career home run. (Which shows you just how out of date those ROY match-up t-shirts really were) I also got to see the pitcher bat, with was different…if not exactly entertaining. All-in-all, a good experience.

I should really check out CBP just for comparison.

Monday, August 18, 2014

In the Neighborhood

You may have noticed that the Red Sox were victimized by an overturned call this weekend. I suppose “victimized” might be the wrong term, since the call was changed from being wrong to being right. So, they were victimized by being forced to actually live with the mistake they made. But, we’re getting a bit off topic here.

They were hurt by the fact that they reviewed the play when some thought it was a “neighborhood” play, and therefore couldn’t be reviewed. We could argue for the rest of the day as to whether that was, in fact, a neighborhood. But, what I would like to know is, why can’t you review the neighborhood play in the first place?

I imagine we all know what the neighborhood play is. Generally, it’s when an infielder flips the ball to the guy covering second to start a double play, but the guy at second doesn’t quite touch the base before releasing the ball to first. Sometimes, they’re not even close to touching the base. I’ve seen them flat out straddling the base, and still get the call. Why do they allow that to happen?

I can see it before replay was around. That’s a tough call for an umpire to be watching two things. Is the ball in the glove, and is the foot on the bag? That’s hard to see in one view, so I understand if he needed to cheat a bit on one of the calls. But with replay? The reason I heard yesterday was that it was a safety issue. That’s a good place for an infielder to get his ankle broken, so they don’t mind letting it slide a bit. My problem is, isn’t it being a safety issue kind of the point? I understand if the play’s not close. It happens a lot at first base. The fielder will take his foot off the base so it doesn’t get stepped on. Sometimes he takes it off a split second before the ball is actually in the glove. But, if the runner is out by a couple steps, it’s not a big deal. If it gets really obvious, the umpire might tell the fielder to hold it a little longer next time. But, that’s not what’s happening at the double play. The fielder is trying to beat a runner to the base, and quickly make the throw to beat the guy running to first. Taking the time to actually touch the base is a pretty important part of the equation. Why should he be allowed to skip out if he’s nervous? Do we call a complete pass in football when the receiver going over the middle doesn’t extend his arms out because he’s afraid of getting hit? That’s a safety thing too. Or, if an outfielder pulls up a bit to avoid crashing into the wall and doesn’t make a catch. He was just cheating a bit to avoid a safety issue. Should he be given the catch?

Or a pitcher using pine tar. People seem to be OK with it if it’s just to improve the grip. That’s a safety issue. After all, we don’t want people throwing a 90 MPH pitch they can’t control. Instead, shouldn’t we make the pitcher adjust to the rules? If he can’t control his pitch without pine tar, shouldn’t he have to choose a pitch he can control? If he can’t control it at 90, throw it at 85. It’s not our fault if that’s easier to hit. Just like the guy at second. If you don’t have time to get the ball, touch the base, and make a throw, I guess you can’t turn two in that situation. Why do we keep allowing rules to be bent in order to comply with what players are doing?

Shouldn’t it be the other way around?

Friday, August 15, 2014

From the Pedro Binder

2002 Donruss Diamond Kings

This card is probably what the Topps Gallery card should have been.

Not only does this card have the canvas look to it, but the picture is actually a painting. What a novel idea.

Of course, even getting the whole concept right doesn’t ensure a great card. What on earth is up with that logo? The fact that it’s foil makes it twice as bad, since it places a big silver blob in the middle of the card. It completely detracts from what was otherwise a very nice portrait of Pedro. If the logo was half its size, or tucked away like they did with Pedro’s name, team, and position, it would make the card much cleaner. Why do companies continue to insist that their logo is the most important part of the card? Is it because Donruss knew that they were flooding the market with 36 million different sets, and wanted to avoid confusion from set to set? Did they not think we’d recognize the Diamond King set when we saw it? What did the production meeting for this card design sound like? Was there an argument between people who wanted the logo bigger, and those who wanted it smaller?

The “smaller” argument should have won.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

I Figured Out Why I Like the DH

I always knew that I preferred the DH. But, I always assumed it was simply wanting to see the best talent I could at all times. I have no desire to watch someone strike out three times a game.

Then, during the Sox game today, it hit me.

I don’t like the fluke nature of it.

It’s the same complaint I have with the NHL and soccer. I don’t like games being able to be decided by luck. I hate that in hockey a designed play is “fire the puck towards the net and it might bounce off somebody and go in. So, make sure lots of people are in front of the net when you shoot.” That a team can win a playoff game 1-0 because one of their pucks bounces off a defenders leg drives me nuts. Same with soccer. You can tell me that a corner kick is a finely tuned play set up and practiced. You’ll never convince me that they’re not just lofting it towards a group of people, hoping it bounces off their guy’s head instead of the other team. Come to think of it, it’s the same reason I don’t like Eli Manning or Joe Flacco. If your main play is toss a pass into double coverage and hope my guy comes down with it, or draws a flag, I can’t stomach watching it.

Which brings me to pitchers hitting. In today’s came, the Reds pitcher came up with two out and two on in the second inning. By all probability, the Sox were out of the inning. Pitchers can’t hit. In fact, there’s a chance that the rest of the inning was planned around getting the pitcher out. It should have been. They can’t hit. Except that sometimes they do. In fact, later in the game, the Reds pitcher swung hard in case he hit it, and hit it out. Just by a fluke. If he had done that in the second inning instead of later, that would have been three runs. Because he closed his eyes and swung. Is that any way to win a ballgame? Is that any way to lose one?

Now, I know that having a DH doesn’t mean that you have competent hitters at all nine sport. Heck, I think Joe Kelly has more hits than Jackie Bradley Jr since his trade. I even know that some manner of luck goes into every hit. Line drives can be caught, and pop ups can be Jetered into doubles. But, even Bradly isn’t planned around as if he’s an automatic out. Sure, you might walk a guy in front of him because you’d rather face Bradley. But, you’re not assuming an out. It’s not a fluke if he gets a hit. If you walk a guy to get to the pitcher, and he gets a hit? That’s luck.

And I find that really annoying.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Did 2013 Change the Red Sox Plans?

I wrote recently about the Sox bias against signing older players to long term contracts, and whether that theory could work. My thought was that it kind of just did. The Sox just won the World Series with a roster almost completely empty of older players on long-term deals. They were almost exclusively short-term vets, and players on their initial contracts. So, they could be forgiven if they thought that it could work again.

But, is that what gave them the idea in the first place?

Last spring, I don’t remember any talk of limiting veteran contracts as a rule. Sure, Drew was a short term deal. But, that was supposedly so he wouldn’t block the way for Bogaerts/Iglesias this year. The same went for the Victorino and Napoli standard three-year contracts. I didn’t hear anyone suggest they were only signing them because that’s all they were signing players to. They had young outfielders in the system that couldn’t be blocked. Some of them might even end up at first base. We needed stopgaps. I heard a lot of talk last spring about “bridge” contracts. I didn’t hear anything about a new direction.

Then they went and won the World Series.

Did that change things from a bridge to a launching pad?

Did they sit back this winter and think to themselves, “Lookie here. We have nobody on the team signed long-term, other than that mistake we made with Pedroia. Why should we open ourselves up to any more mistakes?” So, they sat down and looked over contracts, and decided that youngsters and selected veterans could actually work. It could really be their new plan.

Or, was that the plan all along? Did they sign their free agents last year with all this in mind? Did they grumble about extending Pedroia? Was he the exception they were willing to make? Did everything last year go exactly as they thought it might?

If so, was winning it all last year a bad thing? (Or, as bad a thing as being the defending World Champions can be.) Did it give them false hope? Or false affirmation?

Or, was it the proof that what they wanted to do all along was the right move?

It just didn’t work so well this year.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Do The Sox Need an Ace?

The debate has been going on ever since the Sox sent Jon Lester out west. The fire was fueled more recently by comments by Cherington saying that an ace is nice to have, but wasn’t going to be the sole focus of this team. That sounds like a pretty sound strategy to me. But, it didn’t stop the questions. What are the Sox going to do next year without an ace?

My favorite part of that question is that it’s the first time that I’ve almost universally heard Lester referred to as an ace. But, that’s another matter.

Or, is it?

I guess this whole thing hinges on what you call an ace. Does every team have an ace? Personally, I say no. Sure, everyone has an ace of their staff. For instance, the Sox ace right now is probably Clay Buchholz. But, in every five man ranking, someone has to be on top. Even if only by default. That doesn’t make Clay an “ace.” In the last 20 years or so, I’d say the Sox have only had one ace. Unless you count Beckett for one season…or maybe just the postseason. To me when your ace pitches, you expect to win. When Pedro pitched, I expected the Sox to win. When Pedro got a lead, he didn’t give it up. If the Sox lost four in a row, the streak ended with Pedro. You almost didn’t have to watch the game, unless it was to see what record he might set. Contrast that with someone like Curt Schilling, or Lester himself. When they pitched, I knew the Sox had a good shot. Depending on the opposing pitcher, maybe a really good shot. Curt would keep the Sox in the game and give them a chance to win. With Pedro? I didn’t care who the opposing pitcher was. Pedro didn’t keep the Sox in the game. He kept the opposing team out of the game.

So, can the Sox win the World Series without an ace? Of course. They just did it last year. The Giants have done it a couple times. Is it better if you have an ace? Absolutely. But, as Cherington pointed out, you need the rest of the team too.

Remember Pedro’s glory years? The Pedro-Saberhagen led rotation? Pedro was such an ace that he almost carried those teams to the World Series himself. Almost. But, he needed a team around him. Even Pedro. In those years, I often wondered if teams were better off in the playoffs throwing their worst pitchers against Pedro. He was going to lose anyway. Why not save their best pitcher to actually get a win against someone else. Imagine if the Indians had shifted Colon off Pedro.

Which is sort of what an ace-less staff would do. Say the Sox went out this offseason and spent on a big ace. Lester, if he’s suddenly an ace. Or Scherzer. Or whatever they can get. But, then are left with Clay and three youngsters to finish it off. Sure, the guy at the top would win most of his starts. But, the Sox would lose most of the others. What if, instead, the Sox filled their staff with #2 caliber pitchers? Instead of overpaying for an ace, they filled the entire staff with really good pitchers. As you go through the season, you’d be facing another team’s 1-2-3-4-5 rotation, but countering that with a 2-2-3-3-4. So, if you go on paper…1 beats 2, 2 beats 3 and so on…In those five games, the Sox would go 3-2, assuming you split the 2-2 and 3-3 games. That’s better than 1-4.

And, that’s assuming that they go as they would on paper. But, was John Lackey the ace of the Red Sox last season? I’m thinking “no.” But, did he beat the aces of other teams? I’m thinking “yes.” He even took down a couple true aces along the way in Price and Verlander. Would the Pedro-Saberhagen rotation have been able to do that? If Pedro wasn’t facing them? Doubt it. But, because the Sox rotation had balance instead of being top-heavy they were able to beat three teams in the playoffs that had pitchers who might have been true aces.

Naturally, I’m not saying the Sox would have been worse off last year if ’99-’00 Pedro was at the top of the rotation, taking the place of Peavy’s starts. As Cherington said, an ace is certainly something every team would like. And, I would certainly endorse spending every cent of John Henry’s money to get a rotation full of aces. But, since nobody has one of those at the moment, a balanced attack might just be the way to go. It worked last year.

Why not next year?

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Wantlist: 2013

2013 Allen & Ginter
19 Doerr
40 Middlebrooks
83 Williams
90 Lester
188 Buckner
220 Rice
306 Fisk

2013 Bowman

2013 Bowman Platinum
5 Ellsbury
60 Middlebrooks

2013 Finest
14 Pedroia
15 Webster
29 Middlebrooks
39 Bradley, Jr
78 Ellsbury

2013 Gypsy Queen
40 Buckner
51 Buchholz
54 Ellsbury
130 Fisk
158 Boggs
164 Middlebrooks
226 Lester
274 Gomes
295 Doerr
330 Williams

2013 Topps

2013 Topps Archives
202 Greenwell
209 Evans
220 Burks
241 Lynn

2013 Topps Heritage
434 Pedroia
486 Ortiz
496 Buchholz

2013 Topps Opening Day
171 Saltalamacchia
210 Middlebrooks

Wantlist: 2012

2012 Allen & Ginter
316 Gonzalez
327 Lester
331 Crawford

2012 Bowman
20 Ellsbury
39 Crawford
46 Lester
102 Buchholz
114 Bonzalez
141 Pedroia
159 Ortiz
187 Youkilis

2012 Bowman Platinum

2012 Finest
24 Ellsbury
44 Lester
47 Youkilis
49 Pedroia
89 Gonzalez
94 Beckett

2012 Gypsy Queen
22B Youkilis (bat above head)
60B Ellsbury (batting)
143B Pedroia (blue jersey)
248B Boggs (catcher's knee visable)

2012 Topps

2012 Topps Archives
217 Tiant

2012 Topps Heritage
447 Iglesias
482 Ortiz

2012 Topps Opening Day

From the Pedro Binder

2000 Topps Gallery

This was a nice attempt by Topps.

They decided to go in a different direction with this set. Or, at least a different direction for them. The name of the set “Gallery” calls to mind a fine painting. The card  itself has a canvas feel to it, adding to that impression. But, then they had the border bring the image of photo corners. And, the picture itself is nothing like a painting.

So, which is it?

Sure, pictures hang in galleries as often as painting do. But, why the canvas feel? What was Topps going for?

The utter confusion aside, Topps does a decent job of pulling the card together. The top border is way too thick. The only reason to make it that big is so that it will include the entire “Gallery” logo. That’s nothing to design a card around. The gold foil, obviously, doesn’t do anything for me either. I do like how nothing takes away from the picture. Sure, the photo corner border spills over just a little, but you can hardly notice. There’s nothing floating over the picture obstructing Pedro’s face, or anything like that. The picture is also fantastic. What a tight cropping job. It’s a perfect picture of his deadly circle change. If anything says “Pedro” it’s this picture.

It should be hanging in a gallery.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Red Sox 1-36: 36 is for…

36 double plays grounded into by Jim Rice in 1984 

Once again, we have a major league record. Even I have to admit, that’s a lot of double plays. Rice came to the plate 708 times in 1984, so he grounded into a double play about 5% of the time he was up.

Does it mean anything?

Of course it means something. It means the same thing as every other time a player grounds into a double play.

He happened to hit a ground ball, and a guy happened to be on first base.

In Rice’s case, that happened quite a bit. In 1984, Rice followed (usually) Wade Boggs and Dwight Evans in the batting order. And, they were on first base a lot. How much? We’ll, in 1984 Boggs hit 162 singles, and walked 89 times. So, he was on first base 251 times. Evans? His 109 singles and 96 walks put him on base 205 times. Lots of those directly in front of Rice. With all that baserunner activity in front of him, I’m amazed that Rice didn’t hit into more double plays. He must have been up a lot with two outs, or something.

But, it supports what I always say when some twitter nut complains about the Sox grounding into “another” double play. My response? Great job getting “another” runner on first. Double plays are just ground balls that happen to be hit with a runner on first. You want to know how to stop grounding into double plays? Stop getting runners on base. If you have a perfect game thrown against you, you won’t ground into a single double play. Is that better?

So, 36 is quite a few double plays for Rice to have grounded into. But, if he batted 8th or 9th, instead of 3rd or 4th, that number would have been much lower. It wouldn’t mean that Rice had a better season. It would mean that the people in front of him had worse ones. Pretty sure that’s not what I’d be looking for.

How about you?

36 is for the 36 double plays Jim Rice grounded into in 1984.

Friday, August 1, 2014

The More Things Change

The more utterly confusing they get.

You may have heard somewhere that the Red Sox made some roster moves yesterday. How’d they do? Don’t know yet. But, it certainly made things more interesting.

Let’s start with the easy ones. Stephen Drew served no purpose here. All he was doing at this point was stopping Will Middlebrooks from playing. He wasn’t hitting, and wasn’t adding anything to the team. Shipping him out was the easiest call ever. Now, why the Yankees would want him? That’s another question.

Similar ease with the Andrew Miller deal. Middle relief was not going to be a key feature for this team going forward. So, to ship him off for a prospect is a great move.

Then it gets a little more interesting.

I thought John lackey might get dealt. That extra year on his contract, on the cheap, had to be attractive. Especially given the way he performed in the playoffs last year, and really his whole career. I would have been shocked if someone didn’t offer the Sox something they couldn’t refuse. That happened to be the Cardinals. They sent an outfielder who can hit a little. (Or, at least could hit a little last year.) As well as a young pitcher. He hasn’t been so hot this year, but started Game 3 of the World Series last year. That’s not nothing.

Then, the biggest move. This one requires a bit of acceptance. You need to accept one of two things. Either, the Sox are going to sign Lester as a free agent this offseason, or they were never going to sign him at all and you’re OK with that. On its merits, an ace that is dominant in the playoffs cannot be fairly traded, let alone for an outfielder hitting .260. But, if you accept one of those two scenarios, this becomes a monster deal. If the Sox sign Lester in the offseason, then they just traded Jonny Gomes for a draft pick and the clean-up hitter from the team with the best record in baseball. Not bad. If the Sox were never going to sign Lester and were just going to let him walk, then they just traded Jonny Gomes for the clean-up hitter from the team with the best record in baseball. Put in those terms? The Red Sox got a steal.

But, are they better?

This year? Who knows? Don’t think many people really care. Next year? Not sure. Their offense is significantly better. They added two guys to the outfield with some power, where there was none before. They removed Drew from the order. Really, how bad can Middlebrooks be if that’s your starting point?

The defense? Sure, Drew was great with the glove. But, I dare a guy to try and score from second with the cannons the Sox now have in the outfield.

The pitching? Well, that took a hit. They’re now relying on young arms to get them through. I don’t know how that it going to work. I don’t think the Red Sox know how it is going to work. But, I know this. For years people were picking the Rays to win the division. Why? Because of their young pitching. Sure, their offense was lousy. But, it seemed like every year they had a new young pitcher with a ceiling so high you couldn’t even see it. Every year people assumed that those young pitchers would put them over the top. There were just so many of them. Aren’t the Sox in the same spot? There’s just SO many of them. Buchholz is ancient on this staff at almost 30. Then there’s Kelly. After that? It’s an endless list, isn’t it? Workman, De La Rosa, Owens, Johnson, Webster, Ranaudo. Anyone else?

The Sox have two months now to see if any of those pitchers they’re going to throw against the wall will stick. Which three can be a part of the rotation next year? Which ones are bullpen guys? Which are trade chips?

And that assuming that the Sox are done. I doubt they are. I assume they’ll pick up a veteran starter of some sort in the offseason. The pitching equivalent of Victorino and Napoli. A 30-year old guy willing to sign a three-year deal to add some stability.

Can’t wait to see how it all works out.

What people are reading this week