Red Sox fans have many reasons to be excited about 2011

Throughout the 2010 baseball season, the Boston Red Sox and their fans were looking for a team identity. Despite overachieving and overcoming numerous injuries, the team still finished third in the American League East with a record of 89-73.

The front office obviously saw the same thing and set out to correct that for the 2011 season, making a huge splash by trading on the hot stove market and out playing the Yankees at their own money-spending games.

But in the end, it is the fans that need to be impressed. After a winter of reshaping, they should be more than exciting, and here's why:

Red Sox Fans Should Be Excited By A Strong Line-up

A season of watching Terry Francona have to plug in Darnell McDonald(notes), Kevin Cash(notes), Eric Patterson(notes), and Daniel Nava(notes) almost daily took its toll on the fans last season. While that group did what it could to keep things interesting in the playoff race, they did little to spark excitement amongst the fan base. With the additions of Carl Crawford(notes) and Adrian Gonzalez(notes) to cover the losses of Adrian Beltre(notes) and Victor Martinez(notes), the Red Sox will be adding balance and flash to the order, something the team has been missing since the trade of Manny Ramirez(notes).

Red Sox Fans Should Be Excited By The Returns of Pedroia and Youkilis

Dustin Pedroia(notes) and Kevin Youkilis(notes) are the two most professional players on the Red Sox and two halves of the fire underneath the team. When both of them went down unexpectedly last season, the team was really missing something, and not just the production they both contributed at the plate. Pedroia and Youkilis bring leadership to the team and as fan favorites, excitement to the stands.

Red Sox Fans Should Be Excited About the Balance

Let's forget for a minute that the line-up is looking extremely left-handed right now. The line-up will be extremely balanced this year in terms of how it can beat you on any given night. The addition of Crawford and Gonzalez gives Boston two extremely consistent hitters that aren't prone to slumps. Having Pedroia and Youkilis back in addition puts two more hitters in the line-up that make consistent, hard contact.

Red Sox Fans Should Be Excited About the Speed

There was electricity running through Fenway a couple of years ago when Jacoby Ellsbury(notes) stole home base against the New York Yankees. Ellsbury was lost to the Red Sox in 2010 after a rib injury that allowed him to play just 18 games on the season. Likewise, the Red Sox finished 25th in the league in stolen bases last season, after finishing 5th in 2009. Now, with the return of Ellsbury and the addition of Carl Crawford, Boston has a speed dynamic that it has never seen. It will be interesting to see how the two speedsters, who have stolen a total of 545 career bases between them, try to one-up each other on the way to the stolen base crown.

Red Sox Fans Should Be Excited About the Starting Rotation

The Red Sox had two pitchers place in the top ten in Cy Young voting, in Jon Lester(notes) and Clay Bucholtz. Still, the team finished 22nd in team ERA, thanks mostly to the struggles of the other three starters, Josh Beckett(notes), John Lackey(notes), and Daisuke Matsuzaka(notes). Things have to look up in 2011 for both Beckett and Lackey, who arguably had their worst seasons of their careers. The last time Beckett had this tough of a season; he bounced back in 2007 and carried Boston to a World Series title. Beckett's example could also hold true to Lackey, who could follow Beckett's example of a tough first season in Boston before finding his groove. Matsuzaka if he isn't traded before the start of the season, is likely on his last straw in Boston, and will need to bring himself back to some semblance of his 2008 form if he wants to stay with the Red Sox.

Red Sox Fans Should Be Excited About New Field Dimensions

Fenway Park has a reputation as a good hitters park, but it is about to get a little better in 2010. Thanks to an expansion of the bullpens, the right field wall will move in a bit, meaning more home runs for Boston's predominantly left-handed line-up. Of course, this also means that the opponents, like New York, will have the same advantage, but it still means a welcome up tick in the long-balls for Boston, a year after they finished second only to Toronto.

Sources:

- MLB Standings, MLB.com

- Adrian Gonzalez, baseball-reference.com

- Carl Crawford, baseball-reference.com

- Jacoby Ellsbury, baseball-reference.com

- Sortable Team Stats, MLB.com

More from this contributor:

- Red Sox Now Officially Mirror Yankee Model

- Sources: Red Sox On Verge Of Acquiring Adrian Gonzalez

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Updated Monday, Dec 20, 2010