Another day passes without anyone making a serious move towards changing the balance of power in the American League East. Sure, Toronto made some moves to add salary with some crazy-ass deals like A.J. Burnett and B.J. Ryan (talk about paying for potential!). The Yankees have made one move of significance, signing Johnny Damon, and basically exchanged Flash Gordon for Kyle Farnsworth in the bullpen. I guess Aaron Small & Shawn Chacon are both being counted on to win 20 games each. Or maybe the time-warp that scientists in the Bronx and Tampa are frantically working on will come about and the Moose and the Big Eunich will return to their 1999 performance levels. Baltimore is not worth mentioning as 80 wins would be a jackpot season and Tampa, while improving, is in the midst of trying to build a starting rotation out of fairy dust, construction paper, and elmers glue.
Red Sox. 100 Wins. Division crown hands-down no contest after August. You heard it here first.
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No, I am not talking about VH1 Classic and their constant attempts to fill my television screen with the ugliest man in Rock & Roll: Geddy Lee of Rush. Never was a big fan. Anyway, I think the Red Sox front office has to be applauded for taking their time and not rushing and making knee-jerk decisions regarding shortstop and centerfield. I think they made a great move unloading Edgar Renteria for Andy Marte and also grabbing Josh Beckett and Guillermo Mota (along with Mike Lowell) for Hanley Ramirez and Anibel Sanchez. Josh Beckett has the capability to turn the tide in the AL East. Despite all the moves by Toronto and the lack of moves by the Yankees, the AL East will be won by pitching (since EVERYONE in the division can put up double-digit runs any day of the week). No one has a staff as balanced and deep as the Red Sox.
OK, maybe the White Sox can match the rotation depth, but their bullpen is shaky. The Angels have the bullpen depth to compete with the Sox, but there are still questions regarding the starting rotation. Within the division, the Blue Jays are improved, but cannot compete with the starting seven and back ten the Sox presently have for a pitching staff. The Yankees rotation is held together with baling wire and duct tape, while the bullpen looks like it always does: pray they can score enough runs to keep it close for Mariano in the ninth. Baltimore needs yet another deconstruction and rebuild. Tampa has a great young lineup, but a severe shortage of major league pitching talent.
Since the Sox can run out Alex Cora at shortstop and a cheap alternative in centerfield (Adam Stern anyone?) there is no reason to panic and make a deal they will regret later. They have a huge chip still available for trading in David Wells. Someone is going to lose a starting pitcher in spring training or the first half of the season. Having Wells available as trade bait puts the Red Sox in the position of power to name their terms and get the centerfielder or shortstop they want. Like Billy Beane constantly does in Oakland, the first months are a time to evaluate some players who may or may not work out. By the trading deadline in July, the team is ready to make a huge push into the playoffs by restocking the team and being ready to pull the trigger when teams are desperate for the players you have on the roster.
Obviously, the return to health of a few prominent pitchers is paramount to success for the Red Sox this season. A healthy Curt Schilling making 25 to 30 starts along with Josh Beckett gives the Sox a 1-2 punch akin to Manny and Big Papi give to the lineup. Also, adding Guillermo Mota, Julian Tavarez, and Rudy Seanez to the bullpen gives the Sox the depth they missed last year when Keith Foulke was out and Mike Timlin stepped in as closer. This year, Foulke can take his time to get up to speed and resume his role as stopper for the crimson hose.
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