Previewing the 2012 Red Sox | Interview Series
Over the course of the next month or two, we will be previewing the Yankees’ competition in the American League. To do this, I will interview one blog for each team in the league.
What better team to start off with than the Boston Red Sox? I had the pleasure of interviewing Derek Stykalo of BoSox Injection.
Let’s get started….
1. The Red Sox didn’t exactly end the season the way they would have liked, falling out of contention for the playoffs. What are your thoughts about the “meltdown”?
Despite the final night of the 2011 regular season being one of the greatest night’s for baseball, it was also gut wrenching that brought on days of misery for myself and all Red Sox fans. To spend six months loyally following your club and to have them shut down and basically quit playing for Terry Francona for the last month was downright despicable. It was frustrating, maddening and tragic all at the same time and when Joe Girardi decided to rest his regulars on the final day against Tampa Bay, well that was like rubbing salt in the wound. They say time heal’s all wounds, we’ll see about that. The 2011 collapse will come up and linger over this team all season long until they make the postseason again.
2. With Terry Francona and Theo Epstein gone, the Red Sox went out and brought in Bobby Valentine and Ben Cherington. How do you think this new regime might bring a new dynamic to the Red Sox organization?
I think the new regime was needed. It was no secret that Epstein was gone after this season anyway thanks to his riff with Larry Lucchino. It’s went from bad to ugly between the two and Theo couldn’t wait to leave. Cherington is a nice replacement, although no one is really sure who is making the decisions, with Cherington being a puppet for the three headed monster. None the less, he’s taken the conservative approach this offseason and has made some nice additions in Melancon and Bailey. It’s been a difficult adjustment to not have the team go out and bring in the top free agents, but that’s life with the luxury tax threshold.
Bobby V will be the more scrutinized move once the season gets going. I personally wanted Bobby V to be named the new manager after Mike Maddux withdrew his name. Bobby V is a no BS type of manager and that is what this club needs. They have too many primadonna’s and egos and last year’s epic collapse just won’t be accepted. As I said, changes were needed and whether Bobby V is a bridge until John Farrell is finished with his contract in Toronto, he’s going to demand a better work ethic from his players. He tends to get the best out of his players and if they don’t respond, they won’t play. He’s a little old school which is needed, but at the same time he’s adjusted to the new era of baseball with the whole sabermetrics etc.
3. Ex-Red Sox Jonathan Papelbon signed with the Phillies early in the offseason. Ben Cherington then went out and acquired former-Yank Mark Melancon from the Astros, and Andrew Bailey from the Athletics. Do you and other Red Sox fans believe that (a) these were fair trades from a Boston perspective, and (b) that Bailey and Melancon will be able to provide a similar level of late-inning assurance that Papelbon did?
I think these trades were excellent for the Red Sox, in fact I did a piece on whether or not the Red Sox stole Bailey from Oakland. They receive a closer who’s successfully closed 75 games through his first three seasons and that’s for a less than stellar Oakland club. His ERA spiked last year which is a concern as is his drop in velocity on his fastball, by more than 1mph. His cutter was also inconsistent, but he did have a stint on the DL early on last season. But he’s young, under team control for a few more years and if he can regain his control, he’s going to do great things in Boston. Giving up Josh Reddick was a loss, but he showed late last season he needs more plate discipline, often swinging at pitches outside the strike zone. But the Red Sox got Ryan Sweeney in return which will help from a defensive standpoint. The Sox did give up prospects Miles Head and Raul Alcantara, but both are many years away from being major league ready. Cherington did well on this one and he satisfied the fan’s burning desire for a closer.
The Melancon deal was another nice trade for Boston. While we parted ways with Jed Lowrie, we get a great set up man who can also close should Bailey struggle or go down with injury. Lowrie has a ton of potential, but his inability to stay healthy is a concern and was reason enough to part ways with him. The club picked up Marco Scutaro’s option for this year and Jose Iglesias could become the fulltime shortstop next year, so Lowrie suddenly became expendable. Kyle Weiland is another young arm that needs some seasoning, but could become a valuable piece out of the bullpen or as a starter. None the less, it was a good deal for Boston as they solidified their pen and now have options with Daniel Bard who wants to start.
4. It’s been going around that the Red Sox may try to use Daniel Bard as a starter in 2012. Do you think he is the kind of pitcher who is able to handle the switch from the bullpen to the rotation?
Yes, I believe he has what it takes to start. He has developed a nice changeup to go with his fiery fastball and is still working on his slider. It has been his desire to become a starter and when Papelbon left, if Bard wanted the closer role he would have stepped up and asked for it. Rather he asked to be a starter so the organization has no choice but to give him a shot. I think he’ll stick as the number four maybe five guy. C.J Wilson did it in Texas and look at the promising career he has in front of him. With a new training staff in Boston along with a new pitching coach, they’ll be sure to monitor Bard’s arm and be weary to not wear him out. He’ll likely be on a pitch count as we’ve seen this become the norm with young arms, just like the Yankees did with Joba a couple years ago.
5. How do you feel about the current state of the Red Sox prospects, and minor-league system? Are there any prospects that you think could have an impact on the 2012 team?
I feel the Red Sox did a nice job of making a couple deals without touching their top 10 prospect list. Guys like Will Middlebrooks, Ryan Lavarnway, Jose Iglesias are very close to being ready and Cherington couldn’t afford to strip the farm any further than what Epstein did over the last couple of years. It’s still thin, don’t get me wrong, but there are a couple guys who could see action with the big club throughout the season. Ryan Kalish is likely to remain with the big club once he returns in late May, early June. Lavarnway could challenge for the backup job providing he has a solid spring training which would make the newly acquired Kelly Shoppach expendable. Iglesias needs to improve at the plate and if he can do that by August, he could find himself as a September callup. Middlebrooks is the one to watch however. With Kevin Youkilis breaking down, Middlebrooks has been pegged as the third baseman of the future. Coming off injury, Middlebrooks will be under much scrutiny and if he can’t produce, he could be used as leverage in a trade while he still has some value.
6. Finally, how do you project the team will do in 2012?
This is a tough question simply because Cherington could add another starter before spring training. If he does and it’s a guy like Roy Oswalt who, if he stays healthy, could be a great number four guy and add a veteran presence to the locker room and the top three in Lester, Beckett and Buchholz can regain their dominating form, I think the Red Sox could push the Yankees for the division. This of course is dependent upon whether the Yankees bolster their rotation and whether Phil Hughes can regain his form. So lots of of “what if’s.” This Red Sox offense isnt’ a whole lot different than last year so scoring runs shouldn’t be a problem. The new look bullpen will be tested, but the biggest concern is the starting pitching. If the front three can stay healthy and in shape (shot at Beckett) then I honestly feel the postseason is a viable expectation. Of course if the ego’s remain and don’t want to buy into Bobby V then it’ll be another third place finish in the division, maybe even fourth. But for this article’s sake, I project the Red Sox with 94 wins and making the playoffs via the Wild Card.