About a year ago, I began a series titled 5 Questions. It was an opportunity for me to ask top baseball writers in New England a set of 5 questions and share them with all of you here on BoSox Injection. Now that Spring Training games have begun and baseball is in the air, I am bringing back the series. Our 1st sports-writer is a well-respected writer from the Hartford Courant in my home state of Connecticut. He writes about the Boston Red Sox/New York Yankees rivalry and since joining the Courant, Dom Amore has won 12 regional or national journalism awards, four in the last five years for his coverage of major league baseball. A graduate of Southern Connecticut State University, Dom teaches journalism as an adjunct professor at his alma mater. Without further ado, here is the 1st installment of 5 Questions for the 2011 season with Dom Amore.
1. If you had decision-making power, who would be your opening day starter and why?
I would start Josh Beckett on Opening Day if he is healthy. Here’s why: He is still the emotional leader of the staff, and he probably feeds off that to some extent. To get Beckett back to where was he was in 2007-08 is, arguably, the most important factor for the Red Sox this year and to start by making a statement – that they don’t believe 2010 is what he is, and still believe he is a bonafide No. 1, might help his psyche and the team’s. Over 162 game season, it makes no difference on paper who starts the first game and It probably makes no difference to Jon Lester if he starts Game 1 or Game 2, so annointing him as the ace can wait another year. It’s an emotional investment in Beckett that’s worth making.
First of all, I wouldn’t guarantee Scutaro is the starter. Lowrie played very well late last season and opened some eyes and I am sure he will get every chance to win the job, or at least a share of it. Either Scutaro or Lowrie would make an ideal utility player, though Scutaro has more experience playing part-time. Once Iglesias proves he is MLB-ready, one imagines Scutaro would be phased out and Lowrie would become the utility player. If, in the meantime, Lowrie shows he can be an every-day shortstop, he would be a very valuable trading chip.
3. What do you feel is the greatest weakness of the Red Sox going into the 2011 season?
Weakness is the wrong word. Anyway you look at it, this team is stacked. There are question marks, but good players to plug into those areas. The biggest question mark is the catching position. With so much invested in the roster and the pitching staff, they are taking a significant risk that Jarrod Saltalamacchia can handle the job, or that varitek can still play regularly if Saltalamacchia can’t. And catching is not a position where you can easily go out and get help.
Hard to pick one without splitting hairs, but I am going to say Carl Crawford for the simple reason that he has such a unique skill-set. There are a lot of sluggers, but only a handful of players with Crawford’s speed, power, and overall game. Also, his arrival means Tampa Bay doesn’t have him, significantly weakening a division rival.
5. Looking at the off-season moves for each of the AL East teams, which team impressed you the most? Knowing that anything can happen over the next several months, how do you see the AL East panning out when the regular season is over?
There’s simply no way to pick against the Red Sox. Just by getting their injured players back, they would have been better this year. The upgrade of Crawford and Gonzalez over the players who left, and the massive beefing up up the bullpen, giving them options if Papelbon falters, makes them the most complete team in the AL. They are a candidate to win 100 games, even though the 72 games within the division will not be easy and the strength of the East will be a drag on win totals.
The Yankees, as presently constituted, are not good enough to keep that pace. But with their offense and bullpen, they figure to win 90 games, which would put them in a dogfight for the wild card. Tampa Bay will still be a contender, and I see Toronto, under John Farrell, making a big move, perhaps even to second place. Baltimore, a contender in anotehr division, will be more competitive here, and very tough to pitch to at Camden Yards.
Topics: 5 Questions, Adrian Gonzalez, AL East, Boston Red Sox, Carl Crawford, Dom Amore, Hartford Courant, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Jed Lowrie, John Farrell, Jon Lester, Jose Iglesias, Josh Beckett, Marco Scutaro, New York Yankees, Tampa Bay Rays