This is it, folks. The last recap of the offseason. In five days, Jon Lester will take the mound to face the newly Prince-infused Detroit Tigers, while his Red Sox teammates try to figure out reigning Cy Young and MVP Justin Verlander. In even more exciting news, it's an afternoon game, guaranteeing that the collective productivity of New England workers will flatline after lunch on Thursday. Well planned, MLB.
Speaking of weird scheduling, there was in fact real baseball this week. In Japan. Between the two teams likely to scurry about in the AL West trying not to get stomped into oblivion by the Rangers and Angels. So "real" might be a bit strong. Still, it counted, there are two games in the books, and home runs in the stat line for Seattle's Justin Smoak and Dustin Ackley. Neither of whom were on my fantasy team's bench because I forgot Seattle was playing this week, why would you even think so? (weeps quietly)
Regardless, all the signs say that real baseball is around the corner. The rotation is finally sorting itself out, Josh Beckett and Jon Lester are looking like their dominant selves, and there's a fresh new inch of snow on the ground. Because I live in a place that climatically just ain't right.
Let's get to it.
Yesterday saw the latest chapter in the adventures of Cody Ross, Spring Training Stud. Ross hit his sixth and seventh home runs of March yesterday against Toronto, putting him on a 49-HR pace for the 2012 season, a result that would certainly... what? Sorry, I'm being informed that none of those homers count toward the regular season. And may not reflect anything at all other than that spring training is weird sometimes. Well, then why the hell are we even paying attention? Partly because we've been desperate for baseball all winter and it's better than nothing, but partly because, as Marc Normandin points out, sometimes spring training stats can give us a clue that a power spike is imminent.
The aforementioned Ross was acquired by the Sox not long after they traded Marco Scutaro, and it was generally assumed he'd be the right-handed half of a platoon in RF with Ryan Sweeney. However, Marc discussed on Thursday why he might well wind up nabbing a starting spot.
Cody Ross wasn't the only Sox player who got his turn under the magnifying glass this week. Monday saw a look at Darnell McDonald, and the ease with which a can't-miss prospect turns into a role player. Keeping up the depressing theme, on Tuesday, Marc chronicled the slow descent into irrelevance of once-promising pitching prospect Michael Bowden. On Wednesday, Adrian Gonzalez's remarkably high BABIP came in for analysis, a subject that should cheer all of us up a bit.
Along similar lines, Matt Kory delivered some thoughts on Kevin Youkilis, the man who reminded us all that Biz Markie exists. Also, more importantly, the guy who when healthy gives the Red Sox five murderously effective hitters at the top of their lineup rather than just four. Rounding out the individualized player breakdowns, Marc gave us a peek at Felix Doubront, who's all of a sudden quite likely to be Boston's fourth or fifth starter.
Know what was awesome, and not so frustrating it made you want to slam six Macallan neatses? The Theo Epstein compensation negotiations. I bet you thought they were over, didn't you? Well, get those scotch glasses ready, because it turns out Chris Carpenter needed elbow surgery. Matt Kory gave us the rundown.
Marc continued his series on Boston's AL East foes with a piece on the Toronto Blue Jays, a team with a brilliant front office, a solid pitching rotation, a homer-happy offense, and virtually no chance of finishing higher than fourth. I'd feel bad for them if they weren't in the same division as the Sox. Then again, if they weren't in the same division as the Sox, they'd have a great shot at a playoff berth, and I wouldn't have to feel bad for them. I don't feel bad for the Blue Jays, is I guess what I'm saying.
All manner of conversation has centered around new Sox manager Bobby Valentine this spring. Some has been brilliant and incisive. Most has been decidedly less so. Matt Sullivan made a strong contribution to the former category, looking at Valentine's past managerial stints to figure out how he might run the Red Sox bullpen this season.
Discussion of Valentine this week mainly centered around the shortstop position. Who would Bobby V start? Would it be the slick-fielding, fleet-footed, and oh-so-dreamy prospect Jose Iglesias? Or older, slower, heavier-hitting (ugh) career utility guy Mike Aviles? The wrong decision could spell doom for the Red Sox! Doom, I tells ya! Being of a more rational bent, Ben Buchanan made it very clear why this shouldn't even have been a giant media freakout in the first place. Swiftly thereafter, the Sox themselves made it doubly clear, sending Iglesias to Pawtucket to work on improving his career .316(!) SLG. And thus ended the great shortstop controversy. Oh, who am I kidding, it's Boston, we'll start hearing all this again the minute Aviles is tagged with his first error of the season.
Let's end it on a happier, more nostalgic note, yeah? Marc gave us a quick look at an incredibly cool project, the Red Sox Hall of wWAR, a sabermetrically-flavored alternative to the Sox Hall of Fame. The actual Red Sox Hall of Fame inducted five new players, among them childhood favorite Marty Barrett and playoff legend Curt Schilling. I imagine that's going to be one fun handshake with Bobby V at the induction ceremony.
Enjoy the weekend, all. Five days till real baseballing.