Another quiet week as the slow crawl toward spring training continues. We are, however, at the point where we can start to see tangible milestones, and make the wait seem less interminable. Three days until the equipment truck leaves. After that, it's six days until pitchers and catchers report. Position players show up four days after that. From there, it's a week to the split-squad thrashing of BC and Northeastern. The World Baseball Classic gets under way 12 days later. That, and the rest of spring training, goes on for 17 days. From there it's just another 12 days until the Rangers and Astros kick off the season, and then we really get things started on April 1 in the Bronx. We'll be back to baseball before we know it.
How's that season going to start, though? The last two Red Sox squads stumbled out of the gate, and while the 2011 team recovered (for a while, anyway), the 2012 team never really got into a groove. Ben discussed our hopes and fears for this year's club, and whether we can at least enjoy a better start to the season.
While Boston's roster is at least intriguing for 2013, I think everyone's agreed that contention isn't really the top priority this year. Most of us are focused on the future, waiting for the strong Sox farm system (recently ranked by prospect expert John Sickels as the ninth-best in baseball) to kick into gear and produce the next great Red Sox club. Matt Kory talked about one possible shape that club could take, examining the potential roster of the 2016 Sox. One player not included on that roster was Pawtucket outfielder Alex Hassan, whose freakish plate discpline makes him, as Matt Sullivan points out, utterly fascinating.
Two players who emerged from that farm system to make huge contributions to last year's (admittedly terrible) team were pitchers Felix Doubront and Junichi Tazawa. Doubront logged a substantial number of innings in his first big-league season, leaving him vulnerable to the dreaded Verducci Effect. Of course, as Marc points out, there's basically no evidence whatsoever that said effect exists. At all. In any way. You might as well worry about Doubront catching rabies from the Easter bunny. (Having said that, Felix will be attacked in Fort Myers tomorrow by a giant, rabid, egg-chucking mutant rabbit, and it will be my fault. Sorry, guys, that's on me.) Tazawa, meanwhile, was a revelation out of the bullpen, putting together an astounding K/BB rate and shouldering a lot of hi-lev innings. Matt Collins wondered if he can do it again. Having lost the services of substitute geometry teacher/reliable reliever Scott Atchison to the Mets, Boston could certainly use a repeat performance from Tazawa.
One of the major issues last year's team faced was, of course, managerial difficulties. The front office went out of their way this offseason to fill the clubhouse with high-character players, and their choice of John Farrell as manager was about as safe as can be. However, this is still Boston, and nothing in this town is easy. We looked at the potential issues facing the new Boston manager in his first year. Adding to those issues is the recent departure of longtime Sox coach Gary Tuck, leaving the squad with a vacancy in the bullpen staff just weeks before spring training.
The major roster move by Boston this week was the signing of Lyle Overbay to a minor-league deal. This for some reason caused a lot of snarking about retreads and scraping the bottom of the barrel and such. Why having a cheap backup plan in case Mike Napoli's hip explodes is worthy of scorn is utterly beyond me, hopefully someone can explain it. I mean, Overbay's pretty meh, but it's that or trying to give Daniel Nava the Scott Hatteberg speech.
Enjoy the weekend, all.