By Kevin DuCharme
A new season is upon us, and it’s finally time for baseball. With the Red Sox season opener set for April 1 against the Texas Rangers, there is a lot of buzz surrounding this upcoming season, especially when it comes to Boston’s team.
Last season, the Red Sox finished with an 89-73 record, which was good for third place in the American League East. Although key contributors Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis all suffered from injuries, the Red Sox still competed. Bench players such as Darnell McDonald and Bill Hall, along with minor league call-ups Ryan Kalish and Daniel Nava, all saw extended playing time with starting players riddled by injuries.
Despite having the better part of their starters on the disabled list, the Red Sox finished just seven games behind the eventual division winners, Tampa Bay; and six games behind Wild Card winners, the New York Yankees. The sting of missing the playoffs eventually disappeared as the baseball off-season began.
The Red Sox had arguably one of the best off seasons in recent memory and vastly improved through free agency and trades.
First, they traded a batch of prospects, including Casey Kelly, Anthony Rizzo, and Reymond Fuentes, to the San Diego Padres for first baseman slugger Adrian Gonzalez. Gonzalez, who is 28 years old, has averaged 32 home runs and 100 runs batted in, along with a .288 batting average during his five seasons with the Padres.
These statistics should stand out even more when you consider that the Padres, who play their home games in Petco Park, have a stadium that is considered a pitcher-friendly ballpark, meaning it is much tougher to get hits playing there. Since Gonzalez will now play his home games at a hitter-friendly Fenway Park, his numbers could increase as he no longer has to play 82 games at a field better suited for pitchers.
Just two days after the Red Sox traded for Adrian Gonzalez, General Manager Theo Epstein made a move that stunned, as well as excited, the fan base as the signing of former Tampa Bay Rays outfielder Carl Crawford was announced. The Red Sox signed the free agent outfielder to a seven-year, $142 million deal, the second-largest contract in team history. The acquisition of Crawford gives the Red Sox two great speed threats in their lineup, along with outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury.
The pickups of Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford poses some questions as to what the batting order will be to begin the season. The man who has to come up with this answer is Red Sox Manager Terry Francona, who will eventually send out the lineup on opening day.