BOSTON (CBS) – It’s time to say good-bye to the 2012 Boston Red Sox and hello to the 2013 edition in Fort Myers.
Perhaps due to the fact that 2012 was one of the worst — and strangest — years we’ve seen around here, we enter 2013 with questions, questions, and even more questions.
So here we go:
– How will the ownership trio turn their image around? I write this with the premise that John Henry, Tom Werner, and Larry Lucchino have done everything a fan could want and more since their arrival in 2001. However, when you lose, some fans get angry. We’ve been spoiled around here with how good it’s been. Patience will be important while the Sox try to rejuvenate the organization. The best thing the trio did was ridding themselves of $250-million of bad contracts to give themselves a fresh start. It may take a while, but it was a brilliant move.
– How will Ben Cherington be in year two as Sox GM? Can’t go any worse than year one. The hiring of Bobby Valentine was a disaster from day one and got worse. Cherington made some good moves (signing Cody Ross, dumping that quarter of a billion dollars in August) and some bad ones (the Andrew Bailey-Josh Reddick swap). How this winter’s signings of Mike Napoli, Shane Victorino, and Stephen Drew impact 2013 and beyond, and how the young players grow, will decide Ben’s fate.
– Is John Farrell the right guy to manage this team? On paper, yes. I think when Terry Francona left the plug was pulled on the entire rhythm of the organization; when Farrell was named, it was plugged back in. I know the Sox were impressed with Brad Ausmus, but Farrell’s familiarity with the organization makes this seem like the best move.
As for the players, there are even more questions:
– Can Mike Napoli handle every day duties at first base? I think he will be adequate, but I think the Sox may need better defense. Will Middlebrooks and Jose Iglesias struggled with throws to first, and Napoli will have to make those plays. The question is can he? His bat should be a welcome addition to the middle of the lineup, as he provides some pop and protection for David Ortiz.
– Can Stephen Drew stay healthy? He can be very good, but needs to stay on the field. If not, Iglesias can field, but will he ever hit?
– Can Middlebrooks avoid a sophomore slump? He’s got incredible power and should be a middle of the order guy for years to come. He’ll just need to start making the adjustments as pitchers get a book on him.
– Who will man the corner outfield spots? The candidates include Jonny Gomes, Shane Victorino, Daniel Nava, and Ryan Sweeney. If healthy, it can work out. Losing Ryan Kalish didn’t help, so any addition injury will put further strain on Boston’s outfield depth.
– Which Jacoby Ellsbury will show up? The 2011 edition that was an MVP-caliber player, 0r the 2010 and 2012 edition that was hurt? Just remember, Ellsbury is in a contract year and looking to make some big bucks next winter.
– Can Ryan Lavarnway or Jarrod Saltalamacchia be a solid, productive number-one catcher? Both have the potential and having David Ross around is arguably the best move Ben will have made when we look back at 2013.
– Can David Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia stay healthy?
– There are plenty of questions with the starting rotation as 2013 gets underway. Can Lester and Buchholz bounce back, and can newcomer Ryan Dempster pitch in the American League? Can John Lackey return from Tommy John surgery and be anywhere near the guy we saw with the Angels? And, can Felix Doubront take the next step?
– In the bullpen, can Joel Hanrahan close in Boston? He did a fine job in Pittsburgh, but this will be a whole different beast.
– Can Daniel Bard ever regain his form? He sounds comfortable after taking some time off during the off-season, and is feeling confident, but can he return as a dominant set-up that man he once was.
It is awesome that Spring Training is finally upon us — even if it comes with a truckload of question. But that adds another element of fun to the equation, and it will be nice to actually start watching for answers.
As always, enjoy the ride!
Follow WBZ-TV’s Dan Roche on Twitter @RochieWBZ.