Friday, February 26, 2016

Playing Pepper 2016: Boston Red Sox

I had the pleasure of being a part of group of Red Sox bloggers from the Baseball Bloggers Alliance who took part in  "Playing Pepper 2016: Boston Red Sox." A number of us were asked questions concerning the club for 2016 by Daniel Shoptaw, who runs the fine St. Louis Cardinals blog "C70 At The Bat."

Every year Daniel asks bloggers from all 30 teams questions about their teams chances for the upcoming season. This is the third straight year I have taken part.

My thanks to Daniel for letting me take part again. Here are the questions and my answers:

C70: What are your thoughts on the team’s offseason? Did they do what they needed to do?

MQMM: New General Manager Dave Dombrowski certainly made some bold statements this past off season. Above and beyond anything else, the Red Sox needed an ace to anchor the starting staff. And they unquestionably solved that problem by signing David Price to a long term deal. Last season reminded me so much of 1997, as the Sox had just lost Roger Clemens and didn’t have an ace for the following season, and they staggered to a losing record. Then that off season, they traded for Pedro Martinez, who like Price, was a proven winner and Cy YoungAward winner elsewhere. It allowed the staff to shift, took the pressure off other pitchers, and Pedro began a streak of dominance rarely seen in baseball. I don’t know if Price will do that, but with him at the head of the class it takes the heat off the other starters.

Many so-called “experts” say the Sox “won” the off season, but they don’t award trophies for that (the Padres would have gotten that last year and look where they ended up). But I am definitely pleased with the moves they made, especially bolstering the bullpen, which was one of the team’s Achilles heels in 2015.
C70: There are a good number of new faces on this squad. Which one are you most excited about?
MQMM: I love the moves the Red Sox made in the bullpen. Craig Kimbrel is a flamethrower and one of MLB’s elite closers. They traded four prospects to San Diego to get him, and two were players who definitely looked like they could help the Sox down the road. But they were trading from strength, and I loved the deal. Koji Uehara will be 41 years old, and coming off an injury, so you don’t know how he’d be as the closer. I also liked the trade for Carson Smith from Seattle, as he very quietly had a solid season in the Seattle pen last year. The deals also takes the pressure off Junichi Tazawa, who has clearly been overused the last few years.
C70: Will the David Ortiz farewell tour threaten to overshadow what happens on the field?

MQMM: I don’t think so. He will be lauded during the year for his many accomplishments by friend and foe alike, and deservedly so. If the Sox are in a heated pennant race late in the year, it will take a backseat to the team, but if the Sox aren’t in the race, it will take on more significance.

C70: What player do you expect to make the greatest strides this year?

MQMM: All eyes will be on outfielders Jackie Bradley and Rusney Castillo, as they both made their cases late in the 2015 season that they should both be starting outfielders. Both need to get off to good starts. If either start slowly, Chris Young, Travis Shaw and Brock Holt would get more playing time in the outfield. This is especially true for Bradley, as 2016 could well be make-it-or-break-it for him.
And no doubt there is pressure on both Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval after signing big free agent contracts last season and having less-than-stellar first seasons in Boston. Ramirez’ conversion to first base will be especially under the microscope. Sandoval showed up to camp this past weekend and all the talk was on his weight. He REALLY needs to get off to a good start in 2016.
C70: What’s your projection of the team’s record and where will they finish in the division?
MQMM: I think this team can win the AL East, and it will take at least 93 wins to do it. The Blue Jays will be formidable again, and I really think it will be a two-team race. So, I’ll go with 93-69 and first in the AL East for the Red Sox.
C70: Which team in the division do you most enjoy beating and how do you think you’ll fare against them in 2016?
MQMM: Who else? The Yankees. I see them fighting for third. They could give the Red Sox fits with their strong bullpen, but they could split the season series with the Red Sox in 2016.

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