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Fan perspective: Five reasons the Red Sox won’t win it all in 2011
There is an old adage that nothing is a given, and it goes without saying that it especially holds true when it comes to sports. There have been very few exceptions when it comes to a team looking good on paper and actually performing up to expectations when it counted.
That's why they play the game right?
The 2011 Boston Red Sox will enter the season under a huge burden of expectations brought on by an active off-season that saw them add Adrian Gonzalez(notes), Carl Crawford(notes), and Bobby Jenks(notes) to the fold. However, as Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman recently pointed out, "you don't win championships in the winter; you win them in the summer."
So while Red Sox fans have a lot to be excited about, there are also very realistic weaknesses in the armor that could stand in their anointed way. And let's face facts here, every Red Sox fan in New England and beyond can tell you how often their teams simply found ways to not live up to the hype. Aside from other teams, Boston has shown a propensity for standing in its own way in some shape or another.
With that in mind, here are five things that could make fan fears a reality and doom Boston's season:
1.) The Starting Rotation Continues To Under Perform
The fans were excited about the possibilities of the rotation heading into the 2010 season. As we all know, the pundits can be wrong and most certainly were in this case. The addition of John Lackey(notes) to Josh Beckett(notes) and Jon Lester(notes) was supposed to give the Red Sox a solid top three in the rotation. Instead the wheels fell off Beckett in a big way, both in regards to his health and his production, Daisuke Matsuzaka(notes) was never remotely useful last season, and Lackey continued to trend backwards after his stellar 2007 season, rather than step up after landing the big free agent contract from Boston. These same three will be counted on in 2011 to produce much better numbers if Boston wants to compete for a championship.
2.) The Outfield Health Scare Continues.
2010 was a sad time for the Red Sox outfield, when it wasn't uncommon to see some combination of Darnell McDonald(notes), Daniel Nava(notes), or Ryan Kalish(notes) starting alongside JD Drew(notes), while Jacoby Ellsbury(notes) and Mike Cameron(notes) missed most of the season with injuries. Ellsbury is due back this season and the addition of Crawford, who has averaged 146 games during his 8 full seasons, will do wonders to improve the production from the outfield. Drew is in the final year of his contract with Boston, so he'll be motivated to stay on the field as much as possible as well. While Kalish and McDonald turned into fan favorites in 2010, most fans will like them better sitting behind Ellsbury and Crawford.
3.) Crawford and Gonzalez Do Not Offset The Losses of Martinez and Beltre.
Fans were quick to get excited about the additions of Gonzalez and Crawford, and rightfully so. Both will be exciting players in Boston for years to come. But while Crawford's speed will be a boost, there seems to be a thought that the two of them will dwarf the production of Beltre from last season and a healthy Martinez. Well, that may be asking a lot, even given Beltre's likely return to Earth. Gonzalez will enter the spring still nursing a shoulder that underwent surgery this off-season, so he may not be completely healthy and productive until late April, early May. The point here being is that they may not truly upgrade the team overall. However, the one thing they will bring to the table is two marketable stars, which Boston has been missing for a few years now.
4.) The Catching Corps Lack Any Serious Talent
The move of Kevin Youkilis(notes) to Third Base makes it easier to justify losing Beltre. However, Boston did next to nothing to cover the loss of Martinez behind the plate. Instead, they opted to allow Jason Varitek(notes) a chance to play more and tutor Jarrod Saltalamacchia(notes) behind the dish. Saltalamacchia has always carried the talent tag with him, but no one has yet to tap into it. The Red Sox are hoping that the veteran Varitek will be able to do it, but if he can't, and Varitek is unable to produce at the plate, Boston could have a serious hole in their line-up, both offensively and defensively. The fans aren't going to put much expectation into either Salty or Varitek carrying much offensive load, but they'll take a nice surprise.
5.) Still No Left-Handed Stopper In The Bullpen
If there is one tried and true hole that fans hated about the 2010 Red Sox, it was the bullpen. A collective sigh could be heard around Fenway Park every time someone other than Daniel Bard(notes) was handed the baseball. Boston set out to fix that for 2011, signing both Bobby Jenks and Dan Wheeler(notes) to make the pen deeper. However, they were completely unable to bring aboard an impact left-handed reliever and has to resort to resigning Hideki Okajima(notes) instead. The thought at one point was that Felix Doubront(notes) would step into the role, but the Red Sox are instead stretching him out as a starter for depth purposes. So the weight will fall on Okajima to have one more magical season. He'll need three or four strong performances out of the gate to ease fan tension though.
Of course, none of these things may come to fruition and Boston may steamroll to a World Series appearance, but a championship teams needs a lot of things to fall into place to bring home the trophy, but if they can avoid these pitfalls, they'll have a fighting chance.
- Depth Chart, redsox.mlb.com
- Cashman: Red Sox are better than Yankees, Boston.com
- Red Sox Fans Have Many Reasons, sports.yahoo.com
- Carl Crawford Stats, baseball-reference.com
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