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Offseason in review: Boston Red Sox

By Edwin Gonzales

Section: Sports, Top Stories

February 18, 2011

As the dust settled after the World Series last fall, the 2011 Red Sox began their preparations for Spring Training. The 2010 Red Sox finished with a record of 89-73 that landed them in third place in the highly competitive American League East Division (AL East). General Manager Theo Epstein had to be very ambitious this off-season if he wanted his team to stand a chance against the Yankees and the other teams in the AL East. With the right amount of fresh blood the Red Sox can have a chance to compete again, assuming that the players manage to stay healthy.

In late October, Tim Wakefield, the longest-serving member of the Boston Red Sox was awarded the Roberto Clemente Award presented by Chevrolet. In his career, Wakefield’s knuckleball style earned him 193 wins, a 4.38 earned run average (ERA) and 2,063 strikeouts—impressive numbers for a pitcher with a fastball in the low 60 mph. The Roberto Clemente Award foreshadowed the successful off-season the Red Sox would later have.

Several of Boston’s coveted players became free agents this off-season. Those coveted players who also finished their contracts included David “Big Papi” Ortiz, who had a .270 batting average, 32 home runs and 102 runs batted in; Adrian Beltre, who had a .321 average, 28 home runs and 102 runs batted in; and Victor Martinez, who hit for a .302 average, 20 home runs and 79 runs batted in. Jason Bay, who replaced Manny Ramirez in left field, additionally became a free agent. In 2010, Bay hit for a .257 batting average, six home runs and 47 runs batted in. With all that run production, the Red Sox potentially could have lost a large portion of offensive power this off-season, going against the Red Sox’s history as a powerhouse. If Theo Epstein did not plan on signing any of these players again, the Red Sox would have been left crippled offensively.

The players that were released included left fielder Jason Bay, catcher Victor Martinez,and third baseman Adrian Beltre. Bay, Beltre and Martinez hit a combined 54 home runs during the 2010 season and they also batted in a combined 228 runs. The Sox would be in series trouble if they did not replace these power hitters.

The Red Sox countered their losses with acquisitions of major talent including former right-handed setup pitcher for the Chicago White Sox Bobby Jenks. In the 2010 season Jenks had a 14-18 record, 3.40 ERA and has earned 173 saves in his career; Jenks now has a two-year $12 million contract with the Red Sox. The Red Sox also acquired Adrian Gonzalez, former first baseman for the San Diego Padres for eight years, for an estimated $161 million. Gonzalez was the No. 1 draft pick in 2000 and since then has hit 161 home runs with the Padres with 501 runs batted in. The Red Sox also signed defensive all-star Carl Crawford. Crawford played center field for the Tampa Bay Rays and was awarded the 2010 Golden Glove award for outstanding defense in Center Field. Crawford will be in Boston for seven years at $142 million.

Crawford, Gonzalez and Jenks were the three biggest acquisitions for the Red Sox during the 2010-2011 off-season. At a combined $315 million, these three players add to the Red Sox the key element that haunted them last season—stability. Crawford has won many Golden Glove awards for his outstanding defense in the outfield and his speed on the bases will only help the Sox produce runs. Gonzalez is a power threat and is never afraid to hit a home run in the ninth and, since the Sox released Jason Bay and Victor Martinez, Gonzalez’s power is surely welcomed. Jenks is a solid addition to the Sox’s bullpen and will help set-up for the closer, Jonathan Papelbon.

My predictions for the batting order for 2011 are as follows: Jacoby Ellsbury batting first, followed by Dustin Pedroia, Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez, Kevin Youkilis, David Ortiz, J.D. Drew, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and, batting ninth, Marco Scutaro. The pitching rotation most likely will be Jon Lester pitching first, followed by Clay Bucholz, Josh Beckett, John Lackey and lastly Daisuke Matsuzaka. Daniel Bard, who had a 1.93 ERA in 2010, Bobby Jenks, Dan Wheeler and the closer Jonathan Papelbon will most likely be in the bullpen.

The Red Sox had a quiet off-season from October through November, but in December the acquisition of Crawford, Gonzalez and Jenks sent the strong message that the Red Sox are gunning for the top spot this season. With injuries and health maladies plaguing the Red Sox in 2010, a priority this Spring Training must be health. Recently acquired Adrian Gonzalez is fresh from surgery and Kevin Youkilis is as well. Assuming that all the players are healthy, the Jenks, Bard and Papelbon trio could prove to be deadly deep in games. Both Papelbon and Jenks are coming off of a subpar season in 2010 and will have plenty to prove in 2011. Sitting on top of the Red Sox rotation are two of the best pitchers in the league: 27-year-old Jon Lester and 26-year-old Clay Buchholz. Bucholz and Lester in 2010 combined for a 36-16 record and only allowed 23 home runs between them in 381 2/3 innings. It is difficult to imagine how pitchers facing the Boston lineup will be successful. A lineup that includes names like: Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis, Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and David Ortiz. With Golden Glove-caliber defense and a powerful offense, the Boston Red Sox have once again set themselves up to be a dominant force in the AL East.

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