Why yes, that is Adrian Gonzalez, in uniform, hitting a baseball. Spring's here! Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-US PRESSWIRE
It's March 10th. This means, by my admittedly liberal arts-major calculations, that there's less than a month to go before the 2012 MLB season gets under way. It also means it's a little over a week until everyone in Boston calls into work on Monday morning with "flu-like symptoms" acquired in Southie. Exciting times, to be sure.
It's been a fun week here at OTM. We've had actual game action to talk about. We've seen Jose Iglesias become "the best shortstop in camp." I'm eagerly looking forward to three weeks of media pressure to give Jose the starting gig based on his spring training stats. I'm even more looking forward to his 0-4, three strikeout outing on Opening Day against Justin Verlander, and the swift "why the hell is this kid starting, he's clearly overmatched" columns. Can't wait.
To the observatory!
It's only 25 days until pitches will first be thrown in anger, and the battle for the AL East crown begins anew. Ben Buchanan continued his position-by-position breakdown of the division of titans this week, with looks at first base and second base. And cries of bias be damned, the Red Sox come out on top at both positions. An Adrian Gonzalez-Dustin Pedroia tandem that put up a combined 14.6 fWAR last year will do that for a club. (Incidentally, 14.6 fWAR is the exact total put up by the entire Cleveland Indians roster last season. Yikes.)
The last two seasons have given all of us a crash course in the importance of depth to a team. Matt Kory took a look at two players on the Red Sox who may well be irreplaceable: Jacoby Ellsbury and Clay Buchholz. Ellsbury, whether he replicates his godlike 2011 or not, has clearly become the best outfielder on the team, and his backups are less than awesome. Buchholz isn't the ace of the staff, but a healthy Buchholz means three reliable arms rather than two, taking a lot of pressure off Daniel Bard and the Rotationettes. The performance of those two could spell the difference between a playoff berth and another calm, quiet, and thoughtful October.
The Sox roster extends beyond the big-name players, of course. Marc Normandin's been taking a look at some of the role-players on the team this week, and asking a key question about each. Will Ryan Sweeney ever hit the way his broad, uniform-filling shoulders suggest he should? Freed from the pitch-flattening air of Denver, will Franklin Morales's curveball start haunting the dreams of AL East hitters? Speaking of nightmarish pitches, will not having to deal with Wake's knuckler turn Jarrod Saltalamacchia's defense into a plus? Finally, will the Sox be pleasantly surprised by Mike Aviles's production if they hand him the starting SS job?
In honor of Fenway Park's 100th anniversary, the Red Sox are assembling the "All-Fenway Team," an all-star squad of the best Sox at every position from the Fenway era. Voting's been open for a while for best right- and left-handed pitcher, and now it's opened up on first base and catcher. Marc provided some thoughts on catcher defense to reinforce what we all already knew: that Carlton Fisk is the best player to don the tools of ignorance for Boston.
Nothing says spring training like a bit of sports radio-style poop-stirring. And noted philosopher Jonathan Papelbon provided, declaring his new fanbase in Philly more knowledgeable and less hysterical than the Bostonians he left behind. Which, meh. We'll see how that goes after he blows an April save against the Mets and wakes up to an avalanche of "$50 MILLION FLOP" headlines.
It's weird to realize that, as much as we've been looking forward to it all winter, spring training doesn't really mean that much. The stats and game records are effectively useless, since teams are focusing much more on drilling and restarting routines than on playing the way they will once the calendar hits April. Still, spring can be meaningful in two ways. As I covered on Monday, spring training can give us some insight into the style, thought process, and dance moves of a new manager. Less encouragingly, the injuries suffered or revealed in spring training are just as significant as those in May. The Sox have had a bit of bad luck here, with Andrew Miller claiming elbow soreness and Carlos Silva suffering a serious setback with his shoulder. Of course, the potential loss of Miller and Silva as rotation possibilities may not strictly fit the definition of "bad luck," but it's still unfortunate for those two guys.
Opening Day's just around the corner, folks. Just a few more weeks.