At the end of last season, the Sox were in the basement. But over the winter, they’ve been mixin’ up the medicine big time, moving the payroll up to the $200 million mark with the signings of Sandoval, Ramirez, Porcello, Miley et al.
And things are looking good as a result.
I haven’t been able to watch as many of the spring training games as I would have liked – though more, I suspect, than another English Sox fan, Ed Miliband – but what I have seen is encouraging. There is no doubt that this team can hit. A line-up which runs Betts, Pedroia, Ortiz, Ramirez, Sandoval, Napoli, Victorino, Bogaerts, Hanigan is going to score runs. Lots of them.
And it is not merely because of that middle-of-the-order power trio of Papi, Panda and Hanley. It’s because Pedroia is looking like his old self, because the colossus Mike Napoli can get some sleep, because Victorino is back.
Most of all, it’s because of Markus Lynn Betts, the man whose initials spell out his future (similar to Michael Colin Cowdrey, the England cricket captain). Their parents knew the destiny of their offspring.
Mookie is one of the most exciting rookies I have ever seen. His spring training has been nothing short of sensational. And although Farrell is properly cautious about throwing the kids in too early (Swihart, for example), there is no doubt that Mookie is the real thing right now, hitting .458 with .490 on base percentage in Florida last time I checked.
There is good reason to believe that the Sox can do it this year simply by scoring more runs, however many they concede. But in fact, I am not as sceptical as many about our rotation. I have seen them all, and at this stage of the year, they are all looking fine.
So no, we don’t need Hamels.
But we may need a closer. I am unclear what is going on with Koji’s hamstring. And I am unconvinced by Mujica. But then I was unconvinced by Koji when he first took the role, after we had flirted with Bailey, Hanrahan and Tazawa. We’ve got an extremely strong bullpen. Maybe one of them will step up in the same way as Uehara did.
The catching? It’s heart-breaking to see Vasquez on his way for Tommy Jones surgery before his season has already started. But I am confident that Hanigan can do a good job for us. He’s caught a couple of no-hitters in his time. He knows what he’s doing. And Swihart is sitting in Pawtucket – are the Pawsox still in Pawtucket? – if we need help.
And if we do, we’ve got Brock – should have been our MVP last year – ready to play almost anywhere. We’ve got JBJ, the best centre field in the AL last year. And we’ve got the likes of Henry Owens, and Barnes and Johnson honing their talents in Triple-A.
So are we once again going to go from worst to first? Are we ready for another season which goes into October?
As Ed Miliband might say, “Hell yes, we’re ready”. And so will I be at 9pm UK time on Monday.
Today from the everysmith vault: As I write this, I am listening to the Floyd in Oakland in 1977. But what will take me through to first pitch on Monday evening will be the debut of the new combination of The Swaps and The Rosenberg Appeal, playing live in Wilde's on Easter Sunday.