The page has been turned. The banner has been raised. The rings have been received. The 2013 Boston Red Sox were one of the greatest things I have ever witnessed as a sports fan, and the best part was that it was completely unexpected. All they had to do was play hard and we would have been back on board, but they exceeded the expectations of even the most delusional of fans. That was awesome and it’s something we can cherish forever as fans, but now it’s time for the players to play again. Here are some thoughts
The excellence that was the Ring Ceremony was balanced out by the Sox getting swept by the Milwaukee Brewers of all teams. As great as it was to see representatives from the Red Sox, Patriots, Celtics and Bruins championship teams from the last twelve years on the field together with victims of the Marathon bombing, and the families of firefighters, and to see Mayor Menino hand the ball off to Mayor Walsh for the ceremonial first pitch, the poor showing in the opening series put a but of a damper on a great moment.
The Red Sox are not as good as the team that won it all last October, but that was to be expected. Jacoby Ellsbury has found a new home in The Bronx, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia has taken his talents to South Beach, but it’s an opportunity for young players to develop. We shouldn’t expect them to be in the World Series this year because that championship was such a gift. They’re sticking to the plan of building through the farm system. Look at the San Francisco Giants for example. They won the World Series in 2010, but were eliminated from playoff contention in the final week of the 2011 season. They won the World Series in 2012, but finished at the bottom of the NL West in 2013. This year, the Giants currently hold the best record in the National League early on in this young season. They are staying the course, and so should the Sox.
JBJ has arrived. Jackie Bradley Jr. was not supposed to make the big league roster to start the season, but he ended up making the team for Opening Day because of an injury to Shane Victorino, but he’s proven he deserves to stay. He’s been getting hits, drawing walks, and lighting it up in the outfield. He’s not Jacoby Ellsbury, but he can be a fine replacement in time.
When Victorino comes back, there will be a serious logjam in the outfield. Shane Victorino. Grady Sizemore. Daniel Nava. Jackie Bradley Jr. Jonny Gomes. Mike Carp. Somthing will have to give. Victorino, when healthy should be the starter in right field, as he put together a Gold Glove performance last season. Grady Sizemore should be a starter as well, provided that he stays healthy (which is no guarantee). In spring training, the narrative was that of a competition between Sizemore and Bradley for a spot on the roster, but they have both played well enough to stay. Nava, Gomes, and Carp have not done much to impress this season. Carp has more value, in my opinion, as he can play first base if Napoli is injured or needs a day off, but I believe that at least one of those three players will not be on the team by the end of the season.
Jon Lester and John Lackey should pitch every game. These guys have been awesome so far. Lester has yet to record a win, but he’s been strong in both his starts. Lackey has successfully rehabilitated his image and made the first three years in his Boston tenure seem like a distant memory. He has gone from being one of the most hated figures in Boston sports to one of the most dependable.
Jake Peavy still shows flashes of brilliance. His velocity may not be as high as when he won the National League Cy Young with the San Diego Padres in 2007, but tonight, Peavy looked like an ace against the Texas Rangers. His only setback was a solo home run to Mitch Moreland in the 7th inning leaving him with a no-decision, but he had his way with the Rangers’ roster tonight. Lester and Lackey are who they are, and the Red Sox are better for it. Clay Buchholz and Felix Dubront are who they are as well, and the Red Sox may be worse off for it. Peavy is not the guy he was in 2007, but if the Red Sox have another great season, Peavy will be a big reason why.
The Yankees are next. It’s early in the season, but it’s time for Red Sox/Yankees once again. It will be our first chance to see Jacoby Ellsbury as a Yankee, and the first of many chances to see Derek Jeter on his 162 game farewell tour. Both teams have struggled a little bit out of the gate, and this series will be a great chance to see how the Red Sox stack up against their bitterest rival.