Spring training is right around the corner, and Red Sox fans across the world are getting excited for the new season to begin. Although some teams spend ridiculous quantities of money during the off-season to improve their team, the Red Sox are always in the running for a post-season spot. Here are my top ten New Year’s resolutions in no particular order for the 2009 Boston Red Sox.
1. Acquire or rehire a catcher in 2009 – With the release of Kevin Cash and Jason Varitek’s status as a free agent, the Red Sox need a catcher. George Kottaras and Dusty Brown are the catchers on the active roster at the moment. If either of these players were called on to be the everyday catcher, expect the opposing teams to have higher runs per game based upon the way the game is called and the chance for more bases to be stolen. Varitek is the best choice. Last year was a terrible offensive year for him (AVG .220), but I believe this was a fluke. If he re-signs with the Red Sox (and stays away from on-field reporters), he will do better offensively. Despite what some fans may feel, he has proven himself as the leader of this team. There has not been much interest in him this off-season (probably due to his age and his performance last year), so look for the Sox to re-sign him to a two year deal for about 8 million per season. The quality of the team would be lower without him.
2. Lose some weight – specifically Julio Lugo – The Red Sox made a mistake in signing Lugo. He has not added any value. His defense is horrible. Jed Lowrie proved himself to be the man for the job last year. He led Lugo in runs, doubles, triples, home runs, and almost every other stat last year. And although Lowrie only started 45 games to Lugo’s 79, he did not commit a single error while Lugo had sixteen. The Sox should release Lugo, replace him with Lowrie, and Lugo can follow Kevin Mench to Japan.
3. The Red Sox need to sign Jon Lester, Jonathon Papelbon, and Kevin Youkilis to long term deals – The Red Sox made a great move by signing the reigning MVP, Dustin Pedroia, to a long term deal. In a year or two he probably would’ve made more money going elsewhere, but he is here to win. Jon Lester is a consistent pitcher who gives it his all every time he steps on the mound. He has overcome a bout of cancer, thrown a no-hitter, and performed at peak level when the Red Sox needed him most. Papelbon is arguably one of the best closers in the game today. He steps up big in the games that count. No one in the game can catch up to his fastball high in the strike zone. He is adored by Red Sox Nation. (Can you all hear the Irish Jig music in your heads now? Are you shipping up to Boston?) Youkilis is also a fan favorite. He became even better after the departure of Manny. He makes pitchers earn ever y out against him. Youkilis made his case for MVP during the 2008 campaign. These three players are proven, and need to be rewarded before the season starts.
4. Accept you can’t buy everything, but you can bring Derek Lowe back to Boston – In Boston, Derek is a solid #2 or #3 starter. He will demand at least a 4-year, 60 million dollar deal. He will turn the Sox from a “just missed the playoffs” into a championship team. All of the big free agents have been bought by the New York Yankees. We can at least sign one or two 2nd tier free agents now.
5. Focus on staying healthy – The starting rotation must remain healthy all year. The rotation is shaping up to be Beckett, Dice-K, Lester, Wakefield, and Masterson. Hopefully Derek Lowe will take Wakefield’s spot in the rotation and Wake will pitch out of the pen. I feel that each of these pitchers should be on a 100 pitch count every game and go no more than six or seven innings. We need their arms in August and September. The hard part about spring training will be to figure out what our bullpen will look like. Look for Ramirez, Okajima, Delcarmen, Lopez, Littleton, and Tazawa.
6. Have more faith, namely in the current every day outfield. – Jason Bay, Jacoby Ellsbury, and J.D. Drew are the answers to success in the outfield for the Red Sox. Drew needs a day off every four days to rest his back. Chris Carter or Jeff Bailey are good substitutes during his day off. Drew knows how to hit in clutch situations. His lack of emotion used to bother me, but that’s how he is, and there is no question he wants to win. Did the Red Sox overpay for him? Probably, but he has been solid on defense and offense, and was the MVP of the 2008 All-Star Game.
7. Get more rest: David Ortiz needs to rest his wrist until opening day – Big Papi’s bat affects how the rest of the team plays. If he plays well, the rest of the team always steps up. The slow start he had in 2008 will not happen in 2009 if he is completely healthy. Although it took him a while to get warmed up in 2008, look for a 40 HR, 120 RBI season from him in 2009. His presence and power scares pitchers when he is at the plate.
8. Offer more promotions – The Red Sox need to have additional promotions offered through their website to Red Sox Nation members and non-members. Christmas at Fenway and various other events held throughout the winter are good ways for all fans to buy tickets at face value. Sox tickets are of such high demand that unfortunately ticket prices are high to the common person, especially through Ace Tickets or Stubhub. A possible promotion could be to buy a regularly priced loge seat, and get a bleacher seat for the next day’s game at a discounted price.
9. Give back – Red Sox players need to continue to give back to the community. One of my favorite parts about being a part of Red Sox Nation, and being such a die-hard fan is knowing that many players give their time and money back to the Boston community. I hope the Red Sox players host many more charity events throughout 2009.
10. Win the 2009 World Series – On paper, it may seem the Red Sox will be the underdog behind the Yankees and Rays to win the AL Eastern Division. The one thing the Sox have over those teams is their overwhelming desire to connect as a team and fight until the final out for the win. The Red Sox have shown us they are capable of great comebacks in the regular season and post-season. My prediction for 2009 would be the Sox will win the wild card in the final weekend of the year due to a combination of consistent hitting and great management of the bullpen. Once the postseason madness arrives anything can happen!