Friday, March 13, 2015

Red Sox 2015 Spring So Far, and My Picks

Some quick points--

--Remember, it's just the Spring.  I haven't seen a spring that really meant anything for the regular season since 1984, when the Tigers steamrolled through their spring and then started the Regular Season 35-5, thereby ending the race in June.

--Having said that, the Sox have looked good.  Or, more accurately, they haven't looked bad.  Everyone's hitting decently and nobody besides Rusney has gotten injured.

--In a weak-looking American League East, the Sox could win the division.

--Or, with injuries, they could finish last.  Who knows?

--I'm sorry to lose David Ross, but he wasn't getting younger, and the Sox need to see what Swihart and company can do.  The backup they got to replace Ross looks just as good defensively.

--Not sorry to see Middlebrooks go, especially since his stupid selfie took Jenny Dell away from us for awhile.  And, oh yeah, he wasn't hitting or fielding well.  And he did get in the way of the runner.

--Very surprised, and very glad, to hear that Jenny Dell is returning.  Figured she'd go to CA with him, since they're married and all.

--And here's to hoping that all that sordidness is behind us now, and Jerry Remy can laugh again.

--The ones to watch this spring are Brock Holt, Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley, Weeks, Victorino and the newest outfielders, Rusney and Moncada.  I know Panda and Ramirez will hit.  In the later innings of games they're ahead, Holt or Betts will take over for Hanley in left.

--Gold-glove Jackie Bradley is the odd man out in the outfield, since he's defense-only at this point, and Holt can play the outfield and infield.  And Holt's still getting on base.  Bradley is, too, but he did at this time last year as well, and for about a month thereafter.  But then the wheels came off.

--And Daniel Nava should be looking over his shoulder, too.  He can spell at first, but so can Holt (surprisingly, for his size), and Nava's not going to be a defensive replacement in the outfield.  So if he's not starting, he's not playing at all.  Nava is an excellent three-quarters of-the-year player (see: two years ago, when he was in the top-10 in average and OBP), but even then he never saw the playoffs.

--Two new outfielders brand new in the country just got about $100 million between them.  There's a great hitter in left, GG-caliber Victorino in right, and Betts (a GG-caliber guy himself who gets on base), or Rusney Castillo when he gets healthy, or Moncada, or Brock Holt (who's almost GG-caliber himself sometimes) or Weeks in center.  So, where exactly is Nava to play, except to spell Napoli at first.  And what if Napoli is healthy again?  I like Nava, but...Bradley, Moncada and Castillo all open in Pawtucket (or Providence?!?) this year--and all three are potential Gold Glove winners.  And Moncada and Castillo are at least very good hitters.  And there are too many outfielders even without those guys.  If I'm Nava, I don't buy another house around here.

--Though he probably stays around if Napoli never gets fully healthy.  Might see a platoon there.

--It should also be said that great three-quarters players like Nava have much better careers in the NL.  Like in Philly, for example.

--Pedroia looks revitalized to me.  Hopefully his hands and fingers stay healthy.

--Not having an ace is not the worst thing in the world.  But Cole Hamels probably nails down the division for them.

--A trade for Hamels probably means Bogaerts and Betts and someone else from the outfield leaves, maybe Bradley if someone needs a GG-fourth outfielder, which NL teams often do, especially if the pitcher's spot comes up in the late innings.  If that happens, Nava still probably doesn't have a job, as Ramirez, Victorino, one or both of the newest guys, and Brock Holt are still around.  (Holt might go in that trade as well.)

--With this many pitchers who pitch to contact this year, the Sox infield had best be flawless.

--And I don't know that such a staff goes too far in the postseason, where firepower generally rules.

--Unless you're Detroit.

--Late-inning relief looks a little iffy, but I wouldn't be surprised if Uehara or one of the newest guys steps it up and does well.  Mujica, I'm guessing, is gone as part of a trade.

--Betts and Holt are the lead-off batters this year.  Victorino, Pedroia or Weeks in a pinch.  But there's no shortage of table-setters this year.

--Pencil Big Papi in for 25-30 and 90-100 this year.  But his 40/125 years are over.

--Youkilis and Manny are two more ex-patriots working for the Cubs this year, for those keeping track.  Now, with the Dodgers, there are two NL Red Sox teams this year.  Oakland used to be one.

--So...where will Boston finish?

--I don't see Baltimore repeating, though it could.  But there seems too much uncertainty, bitterness, and flat-out hostility and strangeness going on there.  Even Duquette didn't know if he wanted to come or go.  Very odd for a Cinderella team like that to suddenly hate itself.  I don't see Adam Jones or Davis producing like that again, at the same time.  The relief looks shaky again, especially with Andrew Miller gone to NY (!).  Markakis left and wasn't replaced.  If they finish in first, it won't be by much.  But I don't see it.  Baltimore had better start off very well, or it'll implode. 

--Toronto could surprise.  Nobody outside the offense really stands out, but...they could win 93 games, which might be enough to win this weak division.  And it should be said that the Wild Card will not come from the American League East this year.

--The Yankees, who have not replaced Rivera or Jeter, will not do well this year, as they are old, and hefty, and still A-rod-ridden.  (And boring to watch.  If John Sterling is the most interesting part of your team, that's not good.)  A-Rod will be a huge distraction, and will undoubtedly do something to get himself released or suspended.  Still, a bad team, and a circus.  No, thanks.

--Tampa Bay?  Maybe, but doubtful.  Often, they were a decent team held together by black masking tape and Joe Maddon.  And Maddon leaving tells me there was handwriting on the wall I couldn't see from here.  (And the Cubs definitely colluded to get him.  Where's that investigation?)

--So...Boston or Toronto or Baltimore finishes first.  I'll go with Boston, with reservations.  Toronto's second.  Baltimore will crash and burn, then right itself when Buck Showalter gives everyone the Death Glare, and micro-manages everyone into submission.  And then Dan Duquette will become his socially-endearing self and bore everyone into submission.  Baltimore then floats and finishes third, at, or slightly-above, .500.  New York will sink to the bottom, then panic and spend billions on over-the-hill but-still-good players and not finish in the basement.  Which is where Tampa Bay will be.  (Though it could be a flip with those two.)

My picks for the American League East, then:

New York
Tampa Bay

That looks weird, but that's how I see it.

Any thoughts?