After last year's historic collapse, Boston released Terry Francona and allowed GM Theo Epstein to depart. Correctly predicted on this very blog *back pat* the Sox hired Bobby Valentine to be the new skipper.
Valentine's been a breath of fresh air since coming on board with his manic intensity. He's also done some good pr and basic managing stuff that's been a little overdue for the team. Outlawing alcohol in the clubhouse was a simple way to scrub away the taint from last year's faux scandal, and forcing the pitching staff to work on basics like fielding their positions -- I think the Sox have the worst pitcher's fielding percentage in baseball, sends a message to the team that no one playing for Boston will be given elitist status.
Ownership also dropped some coin to bring back David Ortiz for one more season. A good move from both a pr and run production standpoint.
But from there it gets a little muddy. The pitching staff is oddly weak. Daniel Bard is attempting to be a starter for the first time since college. Bard was supposedly the heir apparent to Papelbon, but struggled as a closer. He seemed suited to be a set-up guy well enough, but pushing him into the four slot as a starter? Hmmm . . .
And platooning the five slot? Double hmmm . . .
I get the impression the team is biding its time waiting for Dice-K to come back from Tommy John surgery later this year. But with no one solidly there as an insurance plan, what happens if Dice cannot come back?
The team also released solid shortstop Marco Scutaro and appear to be willing to platoon that position as well. This is the Sox we're talking about here, right?! Not some low income team like the Rays?! What's with all the rotating players bit guys?!
They're hoping that under Valentine's hands-on style of coaching, $140 million man Carl Crawford can actually earn his income this season.
I mean all this finger crossing and what if action is a bit amazing for a team with one of the top payrolls in baseball. I don't know. I'm really on the fence about this team. With the expanded playoffs this year, they have a shot at getting in as a wild card. I'm not optimistic about the Sox challenging for the division, but if everything breaks right . . .
What a wierd way to look at the season for this team.