There are plenty of storylines to be followed this season, from who will make the rotation to who will be trolling out by the triangle in center field, to who could or should be in the bullpen and on the bench, to the kids in the farm system making their way up and the veterans who might be on their way out. Pretty much every team has a question mark somewhere or other to deal with, and the Red Sox are no different… what is different is that there seems to be a general sense of calm, that all will get sorted out, and that there’s no need to be in crisis mode. It’s a nice place to be.
The most interesting question to me as we enter spring training is the pitching. There’s really not a lot of wiggle room here, but it’s too early to assign Clay Buchholz that fifth spot. He’s the most likely to get it, but it would be a mistake to ignore Julian Tavarez and Kyle Synder. Both have had success in a Red Sox uniform, not always consistently, but they’ve nonetheless been important. I’ve always enjoyed watching Julian Tavarez pitch; he’s animated in a way that few other pitchers are, and while the results can be somewhat nerve-wracking, you can’t say it’s not an experience.
They say that sometimes the best trades are the ones you don’t make, and no offseason has exemplified that sentiment more than this one. The Johan Santana trade shouldn’t have been made by the Red Sox, and I’m glad it wasn’t. I’m not quite ready to say Jacoby Ellsbury is The Best Thing Ever In The History Of The Universe (ditto for Jon Lester), but part of the fun of following a team for 162 games for multiple seasons is watching players develop and watching a team chemistry form. On paper you can have the best lineup, the best rotation, the best bullpen, the biggest stars and highest paid players, but it always seems to have a way not being that simple. Ask your friends in the Bronx if you have doubts about that. Ellsbury could be underwhelming, Lester could be mediocre, and the rest of the kids mentioned in the trade could never make it to the majors, but I’d still rather watch them everyday and follow that story. The 2008 Red Sox could stumble and fall, they could collapse like the 2006 Red Sox, but at the very least, you can’t say that it’s not our team. I’ll take that any day over bringing in a Johan Santana when the cost is far more than money.
And speaking of our team, for what it’s worth, let’s all take a deep breath and not be so quick to send Coco Crisp packing just yet. He might not be with the team when they leave spring training, or maybe he’ll be gone after the All Star break, but as Tito pointed out, right now he is still the incumbent. His bat might not have been impressive, but I’ve seen few things as thrilling as watching Coco in center field all season. The Red Sox don’t make it to the World Series in 2007 without Coco’s defense. Just like they don’t make it there if Julian Tavarez doesn’t go out and start every fifth game for the first half of the season, and fill in during the rest of the season whenever he’s asked. Not everyone is going to be Josh Beckett on the mound, Manny Ramirez at the plate, or Kevin Youkilis on defense. Doesn’t make them any less a part of the team or any less important in the big picture. Just something worth remembering. For anyone chomping at the bit to sign a free agent pitcher to fill Curt Schilling’s spot… is there really anyone out there on the open market with the potential that Clay Buchholz has? Or anyone who can eat innings like Julian Tavarez (and at the price we pay Tavarez)? Didn’t think so. No one’s asking these guys to be the ace of the staff, just a guy on the back end of the rotation, and I think the Sox have good candidates in house to be that guy.
So there’s all of that and more to look at as spring training begins. No team has had back-to-back World Series wins in this decade, and to the best of my ability to be objective, the Red Sox have as good of a chance to do that as anyone. It’s going to be fun to watch. And since I have for friends apparently the only people in Boston who don’t like baseball, it’s going to be fun having a forum to talk about the Red Sox. Play…blog?