Happy last month before Spring Training, boys and girls. We're in the final stretch of the worst time of year, when baseball fields lie empty and covered in snow. Or, this year, not covered in snow, which is unsettling and wrong. In a few weeks, pitchers and catchers will show up at shiny new JetBlue Park. Soon after, position players will start to trickle in. Fans will clamor for autographs and sportswriters will tell us who's really in great shape this year. Then, Aaron Cook will give up a run to Northeastern on a bloop hit, and a million "the Sox should just sign that guy" jokes will bloom. Frankly, I can't wait.
On to the recap!
Of course, this would have been a lot more fun if it weren't for those meddling Washington Nationals, who signed Jackson to a one-year deal. One result of this, because it's been that kind of offseason, was Marc speculating on whether the Sox should ask the Nats about now-maybe-jobless lefty John Lannan. The thought of Lannan with a B on his cap doesn't excite you? Well, sure. I mean, it's John Lannan. But Lannan is Not Bad. And as Marc pointed out on Thursday, Boston has a good enough team that Not Bad is almost certainly fine. And very probably an improvement on last year.
As much fun as it is to tear our hair out worrying about the pitchers the Red Sox don't have, what about the pitchers the Red Sox do have? Boston just signed erstwhile Mets starter John Maine to a minor-league deal, and Marc discussed the ways in which he might shore up the bullpen. Along bigger lines, the loss of Clay Buchholz was a devastating blow to the 2011 team, and his health could well be the difference between a 2012 playoff berth and another offseason of ...unpleasantness. Marc took a look at how Buchholz's back injury is likely to affect him going forward.
Also still on the Sox roster: Daisuke Matsuzaka. No, really. He still exists. He's even throwing off a mound. Can the Sox expect anything at all from him? He's never been what you'd call a reliable arm, but as Matt Kory points out, he's an arm capable of striking a few guys out, and if nothing else, absorbing 100 innings. Maybe that's enough.
Speaking of players the Red Sox already control, it's almost arbitration time. Despite a rather impressive run of avoiding arbitration hearings, the front office seems likely to face hearings with both swingman extraordinaire Alfredo Aceves and DH/Boston legend David Ortiz. What does this mean? Well, as Marc wrote, probably not much budget-wise. On the other hand, Boston has been generous to its players in an effort to avoid arb hearings. As Ben points out, that seems likely to change, and could be a good thing in the long run.
I understand that, as a Red Sox fan in my late twenties, I've been pretty damn spoiled. The Sox have been at or near the top of the league for most of my adult life, I've seen two World Series titles while I was young enough to celebrate them with minimal hangover, and I've gotten to watch some of the greatest players to don the uniform in their prime. One of those players was Manny Ramirez. Sure, he was a complete knucklehead, and yes, I have heard that he was twice suspended for failed drug tests. But watching that man swing a baseball bat... I will always treasure those memories. Matt Kory discussed Manny's current search for a 2012 roster spot, and the selfish (but reasonable) hope that he doesn't find one.
Matt Sullivan continued his analysis of the best individual tools on the Sox with a look at "Best Batting Eye." In retrospect, I probably should have picked Pedroia, given that I've seen him actually fooled by a pitch maybe five times in his career. Maybe I'm still pissed at Dusty for being a day younger than me and having a RoY, MVP, and WS ring. Ah well.
Marc discussed Bullpen Banter's ranking of the top Red Sox prospects. Or, the guys Kenny Williams is currently trying to pry out of Ben Cherington's hands for Gavin Floyd. He also covered a reacquisition of sorts: Matt Stairs will now be one of NESN's studio analysts. No word on whether he's also the secret backup plan in case the Ortiz arbitration hearing goes terribly wrong.
On the lighter side (I always say that to myself in a Charles Kuralt voice, which is weird, because I neither sound like Charles Kuralt nor have several mistresses in assorted Midwestern states), Matt Kory chronicles the madcap adventures of John Henry and his wacky sidekick, Tom Werner.
Folks, it's been a disheartening offseason. The Yankees snagged Hiroki Kuroda seemingly out from under Boston's nose, and traded for Michael Pineda, a 22-year-old starter who throws 150 MPH. Tampa's got an entire season of Matt Moore ahead. Texas won the AL last year and just added Yu Darvish, whose name happens to be both Farsi and Japanese for "wicked fastball." Anaheim snagged some dude named Pujols, who I hear is good defensively. Our beloved Red Sox, in an effort to keep up, have traded away two shortstops, signed a bunch of retread back-end starters, and replaced Jonathan Papelbon with Andrew Bailey.
At the same time, this is a team that went 72-37 from May through August. We watched Jacoby Ellsbury go from a solid center fielder to a HOLY CRAP amazing ballplayer. Adrian Gonzalez spent all season raking, and Dustin Pedroia did Dustin Pedroia things. For four months last year, the Boston Red Sox were an absolute joy to watch. Cee reminded us of the highlights on Monday. I have no idea how this season's going to turn out. But I want it to start already. 61 days to go.