There are officially 48 days until opening day. Most fans are excited for the upcoming 2016 season and are counting down the days. However, I am counting down the days for the Sox’s opening day, not because of excitement, but because I want to stop running “what if” scenarios in my mind. The team possesses several storylines heading into Fort Myers, and I just want to know what is going to happen this season already.
The team left us last season needing an ace pitcher for our rotation, a reliable closer, and one backup outfielder. Dave Dombrowski came in last summer as our new General Manager and gave us a reason to be hopeful, if everything works out as anticipated. Nonetheless, if you know sports more times than not these hopes die out soon cause things don’t usually work out, except for 2013, that was a surprisingly good year for us Sox fans.
The first aspect of our team that needs to work is our 7-year, $217 Million, supposed ace pitcher, David Price. He is a perennial CY Young award contender, and Sox fans are reasonably requesting for him to continue to be a contender as he is costing $30 million or more a year that we could be spending elsewhere. He is also known to be a clubhouse player and a team leader. With a team full of young players, with on field success, this can go a long way towards the club’s overall success.
The next thing that is keeping me up at night is knowing that Hanley Ramirez will be manning first base. Anyone who has seen him play even one inning knows this will not work. He was arguably one of the worst left fielders the Red Sox have ever seen, and this is while having a 37 foot high wall behind him to bail him out for misread fly balls. This is not a “what if” it works; the question is, what is the answer when it doesn’t. Travis Shaw has proven to be a strong backup, but why do we feel like we owe Hanley another chance? Let’s start thinking of ways to get rid of him.
One player who can be detrimental to our success is Jackie Bradley Jr., but what type of player are we going to see in 2016? We can be assured we will see a stud defensive centerfielder, but what type of hitter we will see in 2016? Are we going to see the hitter who couldn’t hit a beach ball and possessed a .121 batting average with a .426 OPS (on-base plus slugging) in 71 plate appearances, or we going to see the guy who after that stretch hit a .446 batting average with a 1.441 OPS in 90 plate appearances? There is no middle ground; in my opinion, it is stud or bust for Jackie at the plate.
The one person who I can strongly count on for having a solid season, and possibly a great one is Mookie Betts. From June on, he hit .327 with a .914 OPS in nearly 400 plate appearances. Last year Mookie blossomed into the player who the Red Sox thought he would become. I don’t see him slowing down from where he left off last season. Possible MVP run, who knows?
There are many areas of this team for which we can be optimistic and they can all quickly turn to disappointments, except for Mookie, as he can do no wrong. But, if everything goes well and all our “what if” scenarios happen Sox fans will have a lot to be happy about this season. But that’s a big “IF”.
Some players who didn’t make the cut but can’t be counted out for “what if” scenarios: Clay Bucholz actually pitches like he can, Xander (X) Bogaerts finds power, Rick Porcello proves something, Dustin Pedroia can stay healthy, Rusney Castillo learns how to get extra base hits, Pablo Sandoval has a comeback season, Blake Swihart keeps his starting role over Christian Vazquez, and I guess I should just add the rest of the team as mostly everybody to this point is a WHAT IF….
If none of the “what if” scenarios work out, and we start to tank, maybe our Fenway Franks and individual sized pizzas could drop from $9.00 to $7.50. Can never hate on cheaper Fenway food.