The Battle for Third Place

Pitchers and catchers report soon, the equipment truck is off to Lee County, FL and after an off-season with seismic changes at General Manager and Field Manager, the Boston Red Sox appear poised to do battle...for third place in the American League East.  Leap-frogged in young talent by the Tampa Bay (not Devil) Rays and in personnel savvy by the accursed New York Yankees, the ownership group of the Liverpool FC  Boston Red Sox have dedicated the off-season to trying to hold off the Toronto Blue Jays and Baltimore Orioles for that precious real estate as "Middle-of-the-Pack".

What is the team slogan for 2012? 

  • A proud return to mediocrity.  
  • A call back to the proud tradition of the post-1946 and pre-1967 Red Sox teams.  
  • Remember 1981 through 1985? Who would want to? Well, them days are back again (minus the Oil Can Boyd cocaine extravaganza, hopefully). 
There are problems in the starting rotation, question marks in the bullpen, a giant hole at shortstop, and issues in the outfield:  

    • Provided they stay healthy, Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, and Josh Beckett match up with any starting rotation.  Any of the three have the talent to put up a 20 win season at any time.  This group has been plagued by bizarre inconsistencies and injuries.
    • I guess the plan is to have bullpen stalwarts Daniel Bard and Alfredo Aceves fill out the rotation.  With mega-bucks contracts John Lackey and Daisuke Matsuzaka filling out the disabled list, the Sox have Andrew Miller, Clayton "Son of Mort" Mortensen and the usual retreads brought in for a look-see in spring training.   Not a lot of options after a quiet off-season.
      • Did I say retreads? Maybe I was too kind.  
        • Rich Hill, didn't they try and fail with that attempt last year and the year before? 
        • Vicente Padilla? When he was healthy, he was never that good. I guess  his beer gut on the mound is out there in spring training will help fill the seats in the exhibition games.
        • Aaron Cook? A great signing I would heartily 2007.  Cook could not get anyone out in the NL West the last three years, how does that translate to outs in the AL East? 2007 stands as the only season the NL batted below .280 against him for the season.  
        • John Maine? At least when healthy Maine got batters out.  Of course, it has been a while since he was healthy.  Since 2008 he's been burning the Mets as they waited for him to return to health. 
    • The bullpen had three dependable pitchers last season: Jonathan Papelbon who left via free agency, and Alfredo Aceves and Daniel Bard who appear to be in the starting rotation in 2012. Who is left to pick up the ball?
      • Andrew Bailey, a cheaper replacement for Papelbon is closer quality if healthy. IF HEALTHY. CHEAPER. As dependable as Papelbon? Heck no. As expensive as Papelbon? Definitely not!  Seriously, this team had to go so cheap that they would not entertain a Franklin Morales closer on the free agent market rather than trade prospects for a dinged-up closer?
      • Mark Melancon, a decent set-up pitcher. A nice, cheap bullpen part.  Emphasis on CHEAP.  Closed some games for the Astros when it became obvious 100 losses was in their future. A decent set-up man, no more, no less.
      • Bobby Jenks, IF HEALTHY.  A real question mark more likely to sit his fat ass on the sidelines all year and collect $6 million again for nothing. Why is it every time the "Chicken and Beer" story was in the news, I pictured Bobby Jenks sneaking into the clubhouse and chewing the left-over fat from the chicken bones and drinking the larrys left behind in the bottom of the beer cans. 
      • Matt Albers and the Cosby kids did alright last year when he got healthy and before he ran out of steam.  Middle reliever. Nothing special.  
      • Franklin Morales. Umm, they kept this guy? A shot to be the lefty specialist, I guess. Is there a reason Terry Francona refused to put Morales in any kind of high-leverage situation?  I mean, it seemed the Sox were up four or down four  before Morales picked up a ball in the 'pen.
      • Felix Doubront, Michael Bowden, and a boatload of free agent minor-league contract spring training invites. Once again,  not a lot of options after a quiet off-season.
    • I am throwing up in my mouth just thinking of this. I have to move on. Mike Aviles, Jose Iglesias, and Nick Punto.  Seriously?  No, I cannot even think about this mess rationally. 
    • Cody Ross. Blah. His dream was to be a rodeo clown, seriously. Were there not 15 players in the same mode as this clown? Josh Willingham not available? Marco Scutaro had to be jettisoned to make room for Cody freaking Ross? 
    • Ryan Sweeney. Meh. Another Cody Ross level fourth or fifth outfielder. Never going to be anything super. 
    • Darnell McDonald. Still around? Really? Wow. Guess someone needs to be there to fill in for JD Drew on the disabled list.
    • Ryan Kalish and Carl Crawford are injured and Crawford unlikely to be healthy to start the season, and Kalish out until mid-season and likely ticketed to Pawtucket anyway. Crawford at least should bounce back with better production than last year. Kalish looks like a maybe for right field in 2013. 
    • So other than Jacoby Ellsbury (who the WEEIdiots wanted run outta town on a rail last year) the Red Sox have a whole lot of nothing exciting in the outfield.

Spending almost $180 million and still having to deal with that mess? Good luck, Red Sox. Time to start the bidding on when the first public Bobby Valentine-Larry Lucchino blow-up stirs up the excitement as the team on the field fights to hold off the surprisingly decent Blue Jays .