Thursday, March 31, 2011

Will Anyone Stop the Sox?

Even though we are in the midst of March Madness, most Americans have had the words “Opening Day” on their lips for several months now. Baseball is the game of choice in the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave—no doubt about that. Along with the first real pitch of the year comes the speculation about which team will be the last one standing this fall. This debate this year should be somewhat different...not who will be the World Series Champion, but rather, will anyone be able to stop the Boston Red Sox?

The 2010 campaign was only the second year in the past nine where the Sox failed to eclipse the 90 win threshold. Although many fans around the country would be glad to see their team post 89 wins (as the Sox did last year), that didn't sit well with the Red Sox Nation. These aren't your ordinary fans. They not only expect to win...they believe it is their divine right for Sox to rule the MLB. The scary thing about the 2011 Red Sox roster is that it can fully back up the "Masshole Mentality" that the fans of Fenway bring to the game.

The Red Sox drove in 818 runs last year, second only the the Yankee's 859. They had the MLB's highest slugging percentage at 45.1%. This is a team that had no trouble thriving on offense, even in the face of decimating injuries to key players in the rotation. Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis all missed major time due to injuries and being placed on the DL. For large stretches of the season, the Sox were playing with a disrupted batting lineup. A slew of other injuries plagued Boston throughout the season, diminishing productivity and overall team chemistry.

This year, Boston seems to be back and badder than ever. The heart of their lineup will be difficult to navigate through smoothly. Ellsbury, Pedroia, Youkilis and Ortiz are all healthy and ready to play. Add to the mix the two biggest off season acquisitions in recent memory, first basemen Adrian Gonzalez and outfielder Carl Crawford, this lineup is going to be deadly to say the least. The Opening Day lineup consists of Ellsbury, Pedroia, Crawford, Youkilis, Gonzalez, Ortiz, Cameron, Saltalamacchia and Scutaro. No other team can put together a more potent lineup than this. On top of this, the Boston rotation projects to be one of the best in baseball. Although the Phillies may have the name recognition, the Red Sox rotation could be better overall. Beckett, Lester, Lackey, Buchholz and Matsuzaka are as a strong a starting pitching staff as any. Behind them is a proven bullpen led by Jonathan Papelbon and Tim Wakefield.

The bottom is that, barring unforeseen injuries, this team has no glaring weaknesses. One of the best lineups in baseball from last year is completely healthy and has added two monster additions, additions which could make it impossible to beat. The pitching staff, in particular Beckett, is healthy and pretty strong from top to bottom. This team has the passion of a determined fan base lighting a fire underneath them. If Lady Luck favors Boston this year, Major League Baseball should be afraid....because the Red Sox will be their own worst enemy on the road to the 2011 World Series.

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