This the Year - Not!
By Dean Shutt
It is April again. That magical time of year when hope springs eternal (unless you happen to live in Minnesota) and every local nine has a shot at the pennant (excepting the aforementioned Twins). It is also the time of year that I write my baseball column. When I come out, reminisce a bit about the great Sox teams of the past, rail against the hated Yankees and generally make a fool of myself.
I do this through the time honored Red Sox Nation tradition of loudly proclaiming that this is in fact "the year". "The Year" being that time when my beloved Red Sox not only defeat, but destroy the hated Yankees and win their first World Series in nearly a hundred years. Of course it never is "the year", it is always just beyond our grasp (and it is usually the hated Yankees holding it there) and our hearts are broken yet again. Year in, year out, a lifetime of futility and impotent hatred. God, I love baseball.
This season will be different though. This season I plan on telling exactly why my beloved Red Sox will NOT win the pennant. This year I will detail certain inherent weaknesses in the Sox lineup that will keep them from moving beyond the second round. If by doing so I can keep just one Red Sox fan from unrealistic expectations (and that one fan would be me) I will have done my job.
- Pedro is just one man - Granted he is one man that you can pencil in for 20-25 wins a season. He is one man that will contend yet again for the Cy Young, the strikeout crown and numerous other awards that certify he is indeed the best pitcher of his generation. He is one man that insures that the Red Sox never have to deal with a long losing streak. He is one of the very few pitchers in baseball that can win a game 0-0. But he is still just one man and unfortunately they don't let him start every other day. This sad fact leads us to...
- The rotation is suspect - It is unfortunate at best when you can mention "rotation" and "suspect" in the same sentence regarding a pitching staff that features Pedro Martinez. The names are mostly new, but familiar, David Cone, Rolando Arroyo, Frank Castillo, Tim Wakefield, Hideo Nomo, Tomo Ohka, Juan Pena. That is the collection this year that is vying for the other four spots in the Sox rotation. Once again, the Red Sox enter the season with the hope that if the rest of the staff can just be adequate, Pedro can do the rest. While that is OK to win the wildcard race, it will not get it done against a Yankee team that boasts Clemens, Hernandez, Mussina and Pettitte in a playoff series.
- Manny is not enough - Manny Ramirez is incredible. He is far and away the best off season pick-up the Sox have ever made. But, yes there is a but, the Sox have no one on the corners and after Manny and Carl in the outfield, the depth is suspect. He will most certainly help an anemic Sox offense, but let's not ask him to save it single-handedly. Plus he is going to be playing a very tough right field in Fenway Park that may well hurt his offensive numbers.
- No team chemistry - This team is an odd collection of fading veterans, uncertain youngsters and legitimate superstars (and the occasional head case, hi Carl). There doesn't seem to be any chemistry on this team and if there is any, you can be certain that the Boston media will hunt it down and kill it. You know I don't believe that it is a coincidence that most of the Sox stars past and present have been media shy. I think that the Boston press is easily the most difficult to deal with in the nation. And don't think for a moment that doesn't translate to fewer wins for the Olde Towne Team.
- Nomar is hurt - I know, I know, he is going to be all better by opening day. Sure he is, this is a man legendary for his off season training regimen. Can someone explain to me why a man so in tune with his body and so religious about taking care of it comes to camp with an injury lingering from last season? They have no one to replace him long term. It will seriously cut down on the pitches Manny sees if he is the only weapon in the Sox lineup. Even if Nomar does make it back sooner than we think, the lack of any spring training action is going to affect him adversely.
- They are the Red Sox - This is a catchall category for all of the weird, unfortunate and generally cursed happenings that surround this team year after year. Someone will feud with the media and his performance will suffer. Someone will tear an ACL climbing out of a cab and be lost for the season. Someone will be at the wrong after hours club. Someone will get busted for something and the ensuing media firestorm will consume a month or two of the season. They are the Red Sox, this is what happens to them.
Dean's House of