Boston Red Sox 2008 Season Preview

Leading up to the start of the 2008 Regular Season, Diamond Hoggers will preview each of MLB’s 32 teams. Teams will be rated on a 10-point scale in the following 5 areas: Lineup, Pitching, Manager, Intangibles/Chemistry, and Overall. Today’s team is the Boston Red Sox.

Diamond Hogger’s Boston Red Sox Blog of Choice: Red Sox Monster & Call of the Green Monster

This is going to be a very good lineup. The lineup is very experienced, with many of the integral parts still in tact that helped bring home the first Boston World Series Championship during the 2004 season, and almost entirely returning from last year.
It will begin this season with center fielder Jacoby Elsbury. Ya know, I’ve never heard anyone but me say it; but this kid is a carbon copy of Grady Sizemore. Everything about him. It’s very hard for me to believe that no one else has picked up on this. Elsbury is the type of guy I fully expect to put up similar numbers to Sizemore right now, and if he does it in his first full season might cause reason to argue; but Elsbury should score 100 runs, steal 30-40 bases, hit 18 or so HR, and drive in 60-70. He’s the igniter of one of the best lineups in baseball. Batting second and at second base should be Dustin Pedroia. Scrappy, doesn’t impress me a ton, but he’s a World Series Champion.
Batting third you have the centerpiece of the lineup and baseball’s best clutch hitter, Big Papi David Ortiz. He played on one leg for much of last season and the bottom line is the guy was born to hit. As was Manny Ramirez. These two aren’t going to experience much drop off or problems in what they’ve always done. They’ll show up, wind themselves up, hit over .300, drop the 30-40 bombs, drive in over 100, and they’ll finish up in October.
You’ve got more of the usual suspects. The solid and steady Kevin Youkilis had a career year last season. I think he’ll settle into a guy that does that the rest of his career and posts high OBP. Mike Lowell will be at third base after signing a 3-year, $37.5 million dollar deal. While I think Lowell is a solid player, that deal made me scratch my head a bit. I heard and read an awful lot of people saying that Mike Lowell’s best days behind him. And maybe the Red Sox don’t care if they are. Lowell is a leader and as good of a personality in the clubhouse as you will find in the game, I can tell you that coming from a variety of sources firsthand.
Catching will be Jason Varitek, and I’d expect the Sawks to be in the market for a catcher by August. The wheels might be ready to fall off that machine. Julio Lugo is the shortstop and JD Drew is the right fielder.
There’s a lot of directions I could go with this. I won’t rattle anyone’s cages by saying they aren’t good. This bunch stole a World Championship last year, they’re very talented as a group. Health is the only question if even that.
Rating: 8.8
The Red Sox have the big game hunter everyone wants in their #1 pitcher, Josh Beckett. Back spasms not-withstanding, Beckett will be the horse that anchors this staff all season long and probably does his thing and grabs the headlines in the playoffs again (fucker). Then again, this year I thought I wisened up by taking him in my fantasy baseball draft pretty early; so maybe he is really cursed for the year.
People want to say Daisuke Matsuzaka is a #2 starter and I don’t see it. I think he’s among the best in the game in terms of #3 and beyond; but he’s gonna get beat almost half the time if he’s going up against #2’s and he’s damn lucky he is on the Red Sox. I’m not impressed, and not by his arm. He’s got big time stuff he just is afraid to pitch to contact. He’d rather fuck around with you and get you to swing at shit in the dirt and go full to every hitter rather than challenge the guy in the 6-hole with his fastball. That kind of stuff doesn’t fly in MLB.

From there, the Red Sox look for Bartolo Colon (signed when the news about Curt Schilling got worse), Jon Lester, and Taylor Bucholz to contribute. I’m not forgetting Julian Tavarez or Tim Wakefield as possibilites, but Tavarez probably is in long relief and the release of Doug Mirabelli might spell the end for his butt-buddy Wakefield too.

The closer is where I’d like to direct this conversation now. Jonathan Papelbon has had one of the most dominating starts to a career in Major League History. I heard Peter Gammons (fucking shocked) say the other day that Papelbon has the lowest lifetime ERA for all pitchers that have thrown 100 innings or more. Peter it could go up from there; but clearly when Papelbon comes into the game, start warming the car or making dinner plans quickly. He’s better than the mid-90’s Mesa and better than say the Gagne when he first began in Los Angeles. He’s at the level of Eck in his prime with the A’s. He’s that good.
This is still a loaded staff, but not as loaded as it would have been if they’d gotten Johann Santana like they wanted, and if Curt Schilling was healthy. Still, it’s good enough to win a World Series, and only 3 or 4 other teams in the league can say that right now.
Rating: 9.0
We here at Diamond Hoggers love Terry Francona. The number one reason is because he chews. Yes, he still chews. He’s now saying that if he doesn’t stop–he’s going to cut a hole in his cheek. Terry….Terry…..Terry. Haven’t we been down this road before? We can tell you from experience, we’ve made those same stupid promises. We’ve full thrown tins out the window while driving down the road in our Chevy, only to go out later that night and search on the side of the road for the tin. We’ve promised, we’ve sworn and at the end of the day we’re back with our dick in our hands and a wad of li
pper in de mouth.

Tobacco aside, Francona’s starting to stockpile World Series rings. He’s the perfect manager for this team, he’s one of the very best in the game.

And as we wished you last year Terry–good luck. We have a feeling that this could an annual start of the season ritual with us and Francona.
Rating: 9.1
The Red Sox play in the most magical and mystiquest type ballparks in Major League Baseball. There’s as many ghosts lurking around those green, battered, scarred walls as anywhere in the league, if not more. When the Indians had them down 3 games to 1, I knew they’d come back and win it. There’s plenty of magic in Boston. It makes sense really: there’s a lot of Irish Catholics in Boston. Old English pricks. The Irish are a lucky and opportunistic breed of people.
This is a group that will play well together and it will really flow. Watch them have two win streaks of over 10 games during the season. No one knows how to play balls off the monster like the Sox’s left fielder does. They have tremendous advantages over teams coming in to play them.
Rating: 9.0
They’re going to win the AL East outright. It’s not even a story. The Yankees you ask? They’ll be fighting it out with the others in the AL for the Wild-Card. However, I don’t think this is a World Series winning team again as it sits. Something just tells me that the ‘they’ll be a year older, a year wiser’ thing won’t be helping them, but hurting them. Manny and Ortiz are not spring chickens.

The Red Sox will get deep into the playoffs, but someone’s going to have their number this year before the final series of the year.

Rating: 8.98