As the prognosticators and media preachers at their pulpits on radio, TV, the papers and the net decry the demise of the Red Sox in 2006 before the season has even begun. The whining about losing Johnny Rock Star, and the whining about other major losses like, um, er, eh. Who did they lose again? Doug Mirabelli? Kevin Millar? Bill Mueller? Edgar Renteria? My, a veritable modern day Murderers Row right there. I think it is important not to look at replacing offense by position (since no one can argue against defensive changes, since the team as currently constituted is far superior to the error-prone 2005 edition):

1. Coco Crisp versus Johnny Damon: Crisp had a higher OPS than Damon last year. One on the way up, the other on the way down. One will be in the friendliest hitters ballpark in the game, the other in Yankee Stadium.
2. Mark Loretta versus Edgar Renteria: Excuse me, I just spit out my drink all over the laptop laughing. Renteria just fit like George Muresan into my carry-on bag.
3. Papi
4. Manny
5. Mike Lowell versus Kevin Millar: One is a former all-star, the other is a likely cut down victim this spring. Lowell at his worst equals Millar. Somehow, I think friendly Fenway can only better.
6. Varitek
7. Nixon
8. Kevin Youkilis versus Bill Mueller: See Coco Crisp versus Johnny Damon.
9. Alex Gonzalez versus Alex Cora/Tony Graffanino: Yeah, like anyone cares about the number nine spot.

The offense is going to be fine. The pitching is much improved. Way, way improved. But other than Chad Finn at Touching all the Bases everyone else is hedging their bets, talking up the Yankees and Blue Jays and White Sox and Oakland and Anaheim and the Twins, but the Sox won 95 games last season and are much better than they were last season.

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