The official start of spring training is two days away and the excitement of a new season starts to build. Time to finally put away the images of last year’s historic collapse and focus on a new beginning. This spring is very different than the expectations of last spring were. Last year the talk was just how many games can this team win, 100-115, maybe even 120. No one is talking like that this spring and maybe that is a good thing. The American League became much stronger this off season and the Yankees or the Sox are the favorites this time out. Arguably the best team in the American League is in the AL West. The Albert Pujols era is about to begin in Anaheim and the Rangers look just as good as they did last year. The pitching strong Tigers also will make an impact with the coronation of a “Prince.” What about this years Sox, what will it take to erase last year? Simple the Sox need two things, “A”ttitude and “H”ealth.
This is still a team that is going to put enough runs on the board to make them competitive every night. Yes, I do think some of the off season moves left them some holes, especially at short and right. They actually made themselves better by subtraction. Gone is J.D. Drew and at least for this year, John Lackey.
First is the attitude. It was attitude that caused the collapse. If every player on this team doesn’t think that their attitudes were the only reason for a complete overhaul in management and medical staff then they have a blind eye to reality. I don’t blame them for not wanting to rehash the whole chicken and beer conspiracy. Time to move on from it, but on the other hand learn from it. They need to show up this spring determined to right the wrong. We all know Josh Beckett dislikes the media and don’t expect him to answer any questions about him being the ring leader of the pitching demise. We should expect for Beckett to be ready to play. He should be in good shape and mentally prepared to go out every fifth day and be the pitcher we know he can be. He does that and no one will ask him about last year. This team gave up last year. Why? We may never know. The team looked lost at the end and attitude was a big reason.
Second is Health. It is no coincidence that the Sox failed to make the playoffs the past two years with Kevin Youkilis and Clay Buchholz on the disabled list for most of the year. The injury bug has hit the Sox hard the past two years and already Carl Crawford is expected to miss at least a few weeks at the start of this season. Injuries are always a big part of any team. But, this team not only was injured, it was out of shape. They became lazy and it showed. Both Gonzales and Ortiz lost their power at the end of the year. The pitching staff’s habits are well documented. Can a healthy Andrew Bailey replace Jonathan Papelbon? Time will tell. Bailey’s stats say if if he can stay healthy that he will actually be better than Paps.
I would match any team position by position to the Sox and there is an argument that the Sox can play with the best of them. Are they the best team in the AL east or the American League? Let’s see if they have their head and heart into winning this spring training. If they do, then look for a wild ride this season.
No reason this team can’t prove last year was a fluke.