Even though the Red Sox are off to a much better start this season than last year, there are still many reasons to be concerned with the team. The rotation is shaky to say the least and Ellsbury’s shoulder injury will severely affect the offense. The fact that players on the disabled list account for sixty million of the team’s payroll is also downright embarrassing. Even with an extra playoff spot this year, many analysts doubt that the Sox will make the postseason. But I think it’s too early to write the team off.
This is essentially the same team that many people picked to win the World Series last year. Jonathan Papelbon is pretty much the only players of value who left via free agency. Losing John Lackey for the year isn’t much of a loss nor were the departures of J.D. Drew, Jason Varitek, and Tim Wakefield. The Marco Scutaro trade is puzzling, but Mike Aviles is a very similar player.
While this is pretty much the same team who were picked to win the World Series, it’s also the same one that was responsible for the September collapse. That month should not be belittled by any means, but this was still a team that was one of the best in baseball for the rest of the season.
I don’t think that the rotation is as big of a concern as it’s being made out to be. Provided that Beckett, Lester, and Bucholz can stay healthy, Felix Doubront and Daniel Bard don’t necessarily have to be lights out. The team has made the season with worse rotations than this one such as in 2009 when Daisuke Matsuzaka, John Smoltz, and Brad Penny provided the team with absolutely nothing. The team is fortunate enough to have an offense that can offer plenty of run support for the rotation.
The bullpen however, could be a big problem. Mark Melancon and Alfredo Aceves have been asked to do an awful lot for the pen in Andrew Bailey’s absence. Melancon was obviously asked to do too much as he was just demoted for posting an ERA of over 45. They’ll get support when Bailey and Bobby Jenks (maybe) return and if Bard gets moved to the pen, but they have to shoulder a lot of responsibility for the next few months. If they can’t get the job done, this team is going to be in a lot of trouble.
I wouldn’t read much into the altercation between Bobby Valentine and Kevin Youkilis. This kind of behavior was to be expected when Valentine signed on and the media knows that. While that doesn’t excuse what he said about one of his own players, I wouldn’t expect this to carry many repercussions.
If the rest of the team can stay healthy, this team has a great chance to make the postseason. As good as the Rays are, they have plenty of problems themselves. Hopefully Ben Cherington will bring a starter like Roy Oswalt in to solidify the rotation, but this team is too good to write off in April.