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Five Red Sox Topics to Discuss

Spring Training has barely gotten under way for the world champs in Fort Myers and there are already many questions coming to the forefront. Among them…

Coco vs. Ellsbury?

Jacoby Ellsbury will be patrolling the Fenway triangle for the next ten years. You can take that to the bank. If the Sox brass ultimately wouldn’t package him for Johan Santana, he’s not going anywhere for a long time. The question now becomes what to do with Coco Crisp. For a guy who inspired very little confidence at the plate last year, Crisp was nothing short of mesmerizing as the Red Sox center fielder in 2007. The catch he made to formally clinch the pennant and ease an otherwise rough ALCS was a fitting summation of his ’07 season: almost nothing offensively but a savior in center. Ideally for Coco and the Red Sox, both he and Ellsbury start hot this spring. That will enable Ellsbury to ensure Terry Francona and Theo Epstein that he is ready to be the man at the top of the order (as if hitting .353 down the stretch and .438 in the World Series without even qualifying as a rookie wasn’t enough). Coco will be able to earn the starting job he wants (and deserves). And Theo will be in good selling position. Dealing Coco and a mid-level prospect of his choice would probably be enough to get a number two or three starter (Joe Blanton?) in return.

Extension for Francona?

He took over for a guy who had made the most egregious managerial blunder in Red Sox history. He arrived in a historically wounded baseball city that was at the time stuck in a collective coma. He entered a baseball atmosphere where he wasn’t being counted on to win, he wasn’t expected to win, he absolutely, positively had to win. The livelihood of a Nation was at stake. And he did it. He managed the first team to ever climb out of an 0-3 hole. He led the first group of world champion Red Sox in 86 years. Then he did it all over again two seasons later. Tito will get his extension and it will be a significant pay raise from the $1.65 million he was paid in 2007. Theo and the Trio know it’s a small price to pay to the man who has struck the right notes with his players and delivered the goods.

Manny being Manny?

Manny was the first to admit that he wasn’t Manny all last season. However, he figured things out in the playoffs. He hasn’t forgotten about his very ordinary ’07 regular season though, which broke a streak of nine-consecutive 30+ home run/100+ RBI campaigns. In response to the first average season of his career, he changed his offseason workout regimen, opting to train at the Athletes Performance Institute in Arizona. He reported for spring training on time (no sideshows or car shows). And when he volunteered his time to reporters in Fort Myers, he professed his love for Boston and desire to end his career as a Red Sox. Is it a coincidence that Manny’s eight-year, $160 million contract expires after this season? Or that he has two exercisable option years at $20 million a pop? Is anything a coincidence with Manny? He said he would gladly trade his stats from last year for the ring he won, but don’t interpret that as his being content with a sub par output in 2007. As for 2008? “I’m just gonna go play the game, man,” he said. “Whatever happens, happens.” That’s probably as close to a verbal forewarning as we’ll ever receive from Manuel.

Will Dice-K turn it up?

This time last year was Dice-mania. All of the focus was on catering to Dice-K and trying to do everything possible to make a monumental transition manageable. All and all the cultural adjustment was ameliorated by the dogged efforts of the Red Sox front office. They brought in specialized trainers, translators and chefs for Dice-K. They expanded the clubhouse to accommodate the Japanese beat writer contingent. John Farrell, the Red Sox pitching coach, studied Japanese. Jason Varitek put in countless hours getting to know the tendencies and intricacies of his new battery mate. And that’s only scratching the surface. Dice-K’s first season in America ended up reflecting that period of adjustment. He showed an ability to overwhelm MLB hitters with his array of stuff and biting fastball. But his control was a major issue and prevented him from consistently going deep into ballgames. Too often his inability to find the strike zone forced him to go away from his secondary pitches. This year he will have the chance to concentrate more on working with Varitek and less on assimilating to daily life half a world away from his home.

Drew year two?

Two things are certain. 1) J.D. Drew grossly underachieved in his first year as a Red Sox; he was a $14 million mess for five months, and 2) He made up for it all with a single swing of the bat. There is no player in my lifetime who endured more scrutiny only to end up being heralded as a hero. Until J.D. Drew. So what should we expect in his second season? More of the Drew we saw last September and October. It’s apparent he had difficulty making the transition to the most critical sports town in the country. He also dealt with an illness to his son throughout the ’07 season. But he came through when it mattered and he has that, in addition to the worst possible first year in a Sox uniform, under his belt. If he can avoid significant injury, expect a nice bounce-back year in 2008 for the guy who struck the $14 million grand slam.

3 Comments Post a comment
  1. eddy #

    excellent points. you are right about many things. for personal (and contractual) reasons manny will have one of the most impressive seasons of his career. coco will be what he was last year which is trade bait, and francona will OBVIOUSLY get an extension. question marks remain for dice and jd drew. on the whole i’d say people are too critical of dice and too forgiving of drew. dice went (not sure on this) 15-12 but with at least 6 of his losses getting two runs or less of support he could easily have won the 18 games people were dreaming about a year ago. Dice will get more comfortable and has the stuff to be one of the game’s best pitchers. drew on the other hand got paid far too much to shit the bed all season. as for the so called 14 million dollar grand slam, drew could have grounded out to first like we all expected him to and we still would have won the game 8-2. the rookie carmona choked and the sox pounced on it. drew was a-rodesque in his ability to come up big in a not big way, and yet red sox nation pulled a flip flop john kerry would have been proud of on the “hero” of the postseason. he has not redeemed himself, and until proven otherwise is the greatest blunder theo has made. my question is how will the pitching staff do? i like our bullpen alot but am i the only one who worries about wake, lester, bucholz, and tavarez making up the back end of the rotation? isn’t there a risk of bucholz getting hurt (physically or emotionally) if he throws too many innings or goes through a bad stretch? tavarez and lester can be unreliable, and wake is on his last legs. looks like we will trade for a 3rd starter. i’m sick of having conversations with myself on this site so someone post something.

    February 23, 2008
  2. el rif #

    alright firstly, i definitely agree with the prevailing sentiment on here that manny will have a quality season. im thinking he’ll post equal to better numbers than our big papi by the all-star break.
    the coco-ellsbury fight for center-field is nothing more than a little show for the benefit of a veteran like coco, to assuage his ego a bit and keep him calm. the sox will run through the motions, pretend there’s a competition going on during spring training, then, assuming ellsbury can catch and doesn’t get injured (knock on wood), magically declare ellsbury as the starting center fielder. this boy has way too much talent/skill to be riding the pine, especially since he’s MUCH BETTER than coco. whether we trade coco or dont, i really don’t see much coming our way in return.
    as for dice-k, he needed a season to acclimate himself to this country and culture. he’ll be a better pitcher this year, more refined, more conditioned, and uh, more used to the size of the baseball. he’ll lower that era, post 16-18 wins.
    jd drew is a mystery wrapped in an enigma..or something like that. he earned his keep in the postseason where he drove in around 14 runs. so he found his stroke at least to some degree when it mattered. but yes, his regular season was, one might say, piss-poor. i expect at least some of the 07 playoff jd drew, and less of the 07 regular season-embarassing jd drew, this season. i mean, he can’t fare much worse than he did for those 160-odd games…and i think we still won the world series….
    i’m not as concerned with our rotation as others might be, but there are always lingering issues. but beckett is a non-issue. he’ll be money. the aformentioned dice-k should be a competent no.2. as for wake, hes a knuckleballer, so there’ll always be a question mark on a pitcher who relies on the weather conditions of the day as much as his own prowess. but hes proven reliable, and should continue to do enough. lester and bucholz are our young’uns. to many they’re still green and considered works in progress…which is weird considering the former threw a no-hitter last yr and the latter won us a world series game…these guys are formidable and will progress so long as the innings they see are kept to a reasonable amount. seriously the red sox should be in fine shape this season.
    …and in summation, the yankees suck.

    February 24, 2008
  3. afrascati #

    From the barely baseball literate I am delighted to hear that “eddy” and “el rif” agree that Drew was a 14 million dollar travesty who did NOT redeem himself in the post season. I can only applaud should he depart.

    March 1, 2008

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