Phew! That nasty July-August lull is over. You know what I’m talking about, that period of time when baseball is the only thing on TV to watch and it becomes boring. Every day the top ten plays on Sportscenter are web gems or upper deck home runs. For me baseball isn’t a main course, it’s a side dish. Baseball should be a warm, buttery roll fresh out of the oven, but during July and mid way through August, it becomes breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert.
Once the calender flips to September, the baseball becomes competitive. The bandwagon fans have all found something better to do, and only the true die-hards remain. We all start peeking at the standings listed in the news paper to find out if the Yankees took two of three in Baltimore and who the heck is going to come out with the National League Wild card birth. Every pitch begins to matter, and every Red Sox fan shivers in his boots (come on, we are in New England. Everyone wears boots) thinking that Tim Wakefield may need to start a postseason game. What was once a routine ground ball in, say, June, is now a do-or-die putout opportunity. Everybody wants a little slice of October baseball pie.
So lets take a gander at the 2011 Boston Red Sox. Do they have what it takes to bring home the trophy? Or are we once again going to learn that money can’t buy happiness (or in this case, World Series rings)?
When discussing the men in red stockings, we must being with this little tidbit: if they hadn’t started out 22-22, they would be coasting to Pennant right about now. Instead? They are chugging away tied with the New York Yankees. Had they started off 28-16? We wouldn’t even be having this discussion.
The Red Sox offense has been like the Titanic- the unsinkable ship (wait, we all know what happened there… gulp). Their lineup includes:
a budding superstar (Ellsbury)
a recent Sports Illustrated cover boy (who has the ghastly nickname of ‘Pedroia the Destroyah’… yuck) in Dustin Pedroia
a bonafide superstar/MVP candidate who is currently top 5 in the Bigs in OBP, Slugging, Runs scored, RBI, and leads the league in batting average with Adrian Gonzalez.
a first baseman playing the hot corner to accommodate Gonzo, who also looks like he should be a member of the Dropkick Murphys rather than batting cleanup for an MLB franchise. (Youk). Lets move on.
a lovable designated hitter who has been actually having a decent year (.300 BA, .388 OBP, 30 doubles, leads team in homers) in Big Papi.
a #1 hitter by nature who is batting sixth because he currently has an on base percentage under .300 (Carl Crawford) whom the Sox still owe 7 years and $142 million. Yikes.
a two headed monster, appropriately nicknamed Jasod Varitemocchia by Bill Simmons, playing catcher and combining to hit .240 with 20 homers and 68 RBI.
a committee of players, ranging from the departed Yamaico Navarro, to Darnell McDonald, to Marco Scutaro, to Jed Lowrie, to Josh Redick who have all stepped in and contributed when called upon.
Needless to say, the Red Sox have the most fearsome offense in the Major Leagues, ranking first overall in batting average, on base percentage, runs scored, and slugging.
Of course, the bats can only take you so far, and the Red Sox rotation will most likely be the key to the teams success. With a little bit of run support, Josh Beckett would probably be in Cy Young conversations (actually, whats the conversation? We all know Justin Verlander is a shoe-in). Jon Lester has been typical solid Jon Lester, with an ERA just above 3.00. The question marks lay with John Lackey, Erik Bedard, and Timmy Wakefield. Although we all cheer for the ancient knuckleballer, too much of him is not good. He’s like Tylenol, a little bit will get you through a day, but it’s very dangerous to overdose. Erik Bedard relies heavily on his loopy curveball for strikes, and doesn’t seem to have an “out” pitch. John Lackey is amongst the league leaders in run support, but has actually been pitching well lately (7-1 in his past nine starts). One of these three will need to step up and make October starts if the squad plans on having success.
With a lethal combination of hitting and pitching, the Red Sox are in good position to make a deep postseason run. The next step? Sit back, relax, and watch it unfold.
Remember baseball fans, there’s only ONE October!