BOSTON RED SOX
2009 RECORD 95-67, 2nd in AL East
BIG ACQUISITIONS: Right-hander John Lackey(notes) gives them three top-of-the-rotation guys. Marco Scutaro(notes) and Adrian Beltre(notes) give the left side of the infield a whole new look. Beltre can be a plus offensive player in Fenway. Is Scutaro really worth the contract given by general manager Theo Epstein? Cameron in center and Jacoby Ellsbury(notes) in left is defensively a million times better — yes, literally a million — than Ellsbury in center and Jason Bay(notes) in left.
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1. Will the revamping done by Epstein work? The Red Sox seem significantly better on defense. Analogy time: One of the big keys to keeping a grocery store profitable is "loss prevention." Stop "customers" from stealing from you and it helps keep you in the black. Same goes for baseball teams, when it comes to "run prevention." Don't give runs away, score the same amount — or better, of course — and you are in better shape. That's what Epstein is hoping his upgrades will do, anyway and his success will be measured on how far those improvements take the team in the postseason.
2. Who's the ace — Josh Beckett(notes) or John Lackey? I hate this question. What does it matter, really? Who was the ace of the 2001 Arizona Diamondbacks, Randy Unit or Sen. Schill? Exactly, both of them were.There was no "one" ace. Even if you're worried about a playoff series and who starts first, it doesn't matter. They'll both probably pitch twice if it goes seven games. And why are you worrying about the playoffs right now, anyway? Get out of here with this stuff. Next.
3. What if the answer turns out to be Jon Lester(notes)? Ah, I see what you did there. Lester started the season horribly, but if you look at the .242 batting average against, 225-64 K/BB ratio and 1.23 WHIP, you'll notice he pitched about as well as Beckett and better than Lackey. Three guys vying for the ace title? What a problem for the Red Sox to have.
4. What will be the most important part of Terry Francona's job this season? That's a little better. I'm going to say how he handles resting Victor Martinez(notes). He's probably going to bat third, so taking the catcher out of the lineup becomes problematic. Shuffling him among the plate, first base, DH and the bench requires a deft touch. Francona's up to it.
5. Will both Ramon Ramirezes make the Opening Day roster? One can dream! Opening Day for the Red Sox already has a charge in it because they're hosting the Yankees. Now, on top of all that, imagine if Fenway's public address announcer introduces TWO guys named Ramon Ramirez(notes) in a row. Who goes first? Ramon A. Ramirez(notes), who is younger by a year, probably, even though he has much less major league experience than Ramon S. Ramirez, who has turned into one of the better middle men in the league. At least one guy is from Venezuela (Ramon A.), the other from the Domincan, and they look nothing alike.
- Theo Epstein