I have arbitrarily determined that today is the day I will celebrate the return of the boys of summer. It probably goes without saying that I have been relentlessly reading, researching, and conjuring fantasies about all aspects of the off-season and spring training, but I was waiting for that ineluctable internal spark to spur me to return to the blogging venue. Rudy Seanez finally pissed me off enough to drive me back. Let's begin.
I think I speak for many of us when I say I've been waiting for the other shoe to drop, somewhere. Wells, certainly; Graf, certainly; Arroyo and Clement maybe. We have guys that want out, and we still need a solid 4th OF, unless you have more faith than I do that Dustan Mohr is the answer (which is not to say I'm anti-Mohr, I just think we can do better, and get younger). The shoe is not dropping. Wells came around this week, and made a sensible decision in my mind. Hell, he's about done, he's on a great team in the very heart of all that is baseball - what better way to go out? Next year he can get anonymously loaded all he wants. This year is the year to go for it.
That's not really important, though, in my mind. At this point I don't advocate making a trade. We have pitching depth, and that's excellent. We have some old pitchers, some older even than me. They could snap like twigs, at any moment. We have infield depth, and veteran leadership, and I think that's great for a playoff run too. We're a little light in the outfield, but if the Archangel Gabriel returns from injury, Mohr plays up to par, and we find a spot for Willie Harris on the roseter I think we're fine.
The thing to remember about this team is that as of right now this is a great "paper team". If you take everyone's best year, they are phenomenal. Even taking PECOTA averages this team projects to score a lot of runs. They've upgraded the rotation and the bullpen. From a front office perspective the 2006 Boston Red Sox are a solid contender. But there are a lot of Ifs on this squad, and we've heard them all. Will Lowell rebound, has Loretta's injury sapped him, can Gonzalez hit at all, will Youks adapt to playing everyday, can Crisp hit leadoff and play CF, will Foulke and Schilling regain their healthy form, etc., etc. In the end I think the roster's flexibility, and the quality of the guys they have on the squad in those positions in question, will be the difference if this team hits obstacles. In baseball they usually do.
The benefit of all this flux, from the fans' perspective, is that we will get to enjoy (hopefully) watching each of these sub-plots play out as the season progresses. We have a chance to root for several smaller but meaningful victories over the course of the season, each of which can contribute to the greater goal of a world championship. Plus, our high-level prospects are starting to flourish, and that will add some spice to the campaign. Finally, we still have some core members remaining to hold up 2004 as an example of what could be, and to take us back to the days when anything was possible.
It's too difficult to predict how the season will end in terms of the standings and playoff berths, but after some careful thinking, and some positive adjustments, I've come to one conclusion: this should be a very exciting year to be a Sox fan. Now that the Curse Monkey's off our backs, we can just focus on watching a great group of players try to catch a falling star again. And these guys have a chance, they really do.