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2006 Boston Red Sox Baseball Preview

Boston Red Sox PREDICTIONS – AL EAST

OVERVIEW:

Despite the fact that the Red Sox were near last in fielding and pitching last season, they made it to the playoffs as the Wild Card. They finished with a record of 95-67, the same as the Yanks. Also like the Yankees, they were out of the playoffs early. Why? Pitching.

PITCHING:

Last year, the BoSox struggled with their first starter Curt Schilling (8-8, 9 SV, 5.69 ERA) and closer Keith Foulke (15 SV, 5.91 ERA) both injured. In 2004, both guys were stellar, helping to take the Sox to a World Championship.

The hope and need for the Sox is that Schilling and Foulke will be back in form this year.

Knuckle ball artist Tim Wakefield (16-12, 4.15 ERA) will serve as the second starter, with newly acquired Josh Beckett (15-8, 3.38 ERA), vet Matt Clement (13-6, 4.57) and rookie John Papelbon (3-1, 2.65 ERA) rounding out the rotation.

If good health prevails, this can be a tough staff for opponents. If some part of the equation isn’t working, the Red Sox will, like the Yanks, actively try to find a solution.

HITTING:

Free agent center fielder Johnny Damon went to the other side-- the Evil Empire-- which resulted in the Red Sox trying to fill the gap with new guys Coco Crisp (.330, 16 HR) and Willie Mo Pena (.254, 19 HR).

With David Ortiz (.300 BA, 119 R, 47 HR, 148 RBI) and Manny Ramirez (.292 BA, 112 R, 45 HR, 144 RBI) the team has probably the most potent combination of 3-4 hitters in the majors.

Catcher Jason Varitek (.281 BA, 22 HR, 70 RBI) provides some good offensive numbers and Kevin Youkilis (.278) becomes an everyday player this year, giving him the opportunity to make good use of his aggressive plate behavior.

Overall, this is a sound hitting team with little base running potential. Will Damon be missed? Maybe.

DEFENSE:

In 2005, Boston made 109 errors, with 30 of those going to shortstop Edgar Renteria. Alex Cora takes over for the traded Renteria; at least until the Sox find a full-time solution to their shortstop woes.

In the outfield, Crisp in center should cover well, Trot Nixon in right will be aggressive and Ramirez in left will have trouble playing the ball but will also make some good, crisp assists.

Varitek is a master at game calling and plays at the plate, and Youkilis should be better than Kevin Millar at first.

Overall, this is a much sounder fielding team than last year’s; especially at the infield positions.

MANAGER AND FRONT OFFICE:

* GM Theo Epstein could not work out his contract or his disagreements with President Larry Lucino. Epstein was courted by numerous teams, but to the Sox’s relief came back.
* Terry Francona is liked by players and works well with the front office.
* Epstein will aggressively try to solve team woes. He’s well liked by majority owners John Henry and Tom Warner.

INTANGIBLES AND/OR OTHER STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES:

* Foulke may be permanently damaged, who will close?
* David Wells wants out and is being petulant.
* Roger Clemens may come back-- that would be a coup!

CONCLUSION:

Although many feel the Red Sox will end up out of the running this season, the fact is they have as many negatives, positives, and question marks as both the Yanks and Toronto. If they field better, hit like they did last year, and have a healthy pitching staff, they stand to be competitive in 2006 and get back to the playoffs.

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For more information on the 2006 Boston Red Sox visit their official MLB website by clicking here.

 

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