On the night of President Bush's State of the Union address
, I thought it would be interesting to assess the state of Red Sox Nation.Defense
The 2006 Boston Red Sox will be a much better defensive team. Mark Loretta, Alex Gonzalez, Mike Lowell, and Coco Crisp will all be defensive improvements over last year's Sox. Kevin Youkilis is yet to be proven at first base but will be platooned with gold glove winner J.T. Snow. Manny will be Manny
; Trot will be Trot; and Varitek will be Captain. The Sox will be an elite defensive team next season.
Last season, the Sox were MLB leaders in runs scored (910), hits (1579), doubles (339), RBI (863), batting average (.281), OBP (.357), and OPS (.811). Those are simply crazy offensive numbers and frankly, offense isn't what makes world champions! Take the 2005 World Champion Chicago White Sox as an example. They only cracked the top ten in MLB in one offensive category last season (5th in the majors for home runs). The Red Sox are going to take a step back offensively next season. Coco Crisp and Alex Gonzalez will most likely not provide the offense that Johnny Damon and Edgar Renteria provided. Mike Lowell and Kevin Youkilis are question marks. With this said, the Sox can afford to lose a little pop from their bats next season and still be quite fine.Pitching
On paper, Red Sox pitching has improved all around. First of all, we have an abundance of starting pitchers (Schilling, Beckett, Papelbon, Wakefield, Clement, Wells, Arroyo). This depth is a great advantage, especially considering Schilling's & Beckett's health concerns and Clement's drop in performance in the second half of last season. Julian Tavarez, Rudy Seanez and David Riske are nice, experienced additions to the bullpen, providing some solid set-up men for the 6th & 7th innings. A healthly Keith Foulke is an important part of a successful Sox team, especially with the expected drop in offense. Let's hope that the successful mantra of "Timlin in the 8th; Foulke in th 9th" is revived in 2006. The lack of left handed pitchers is a bit worrisome (the only lefties on the roster are Abe Alvarez, Lenny DiNardo, and David Wells), especially since they gave up two of our left-handed specialists in Myers and Bradford. Ultimately, it will all come down to pitching next season. A healthy staff will propel this team into the playoffs.
The offseason has been very busy for the nation. "Tonight the state of our union is strong." It's going to be an exciting 2006!