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Feel-good times for Red Sox in Fort Myers

Posted by Obnoxious Boston Fan  February 20, 2013 09:01 PM

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Big doings in Fort Myers these days.

Jason Varitek is behind the plate.

Pedro Martinez is on the mound.

Justin Timberlake and Jay-Z are coming to Fenway Park.

If only it was 2004.

The Red Sox rolled into 2012 with the hope and change of Bobby Valentine, who was going to fix all that was wrong with the end of 2011. The players were more or less the same, save for the departure of Jonathan Papelbon, who was eventually going to be replaced by Daniel Bard and/or Alfredo Aceves. So there was no way of selling the 2012 Red Sox as a winner on the field based on the actual players on the roster. This time last year, there was no way anyone who used reside in Red Sox Nation, or those fans who have renounced their citizenship, was going to buy the line that the actual "talent" on the field was good enough to get this team to the postseason. Eventually, not even the "Grand Illusion" of the second wildcard could keep the unruly masses in line as things fell apart early and often under Bobby Valentine's reign.

We all saw how well "The Year of Bobby V." turned out.

In 2013, the Red Sox are facing a gargantuan task. The Bobby Valentine Error is long gone, but the pesky problem (yes, I meant to say that) remains that this team will be lucky beyond its ability to win 84 games this season. That alone would be a 15-game improvement over 2012, no small feat. The lineup is littered with No. 5 and 6 hitters.

At least they've got cool nicknames.

And the fate of the pitching staff hinges on John Lackey. He came to camp slim and trim, perhaps because he's back on the market after his not-so-pretty divorce. But he's saying all of the right things and the buzz among the "insiders" is that he's poised for a stellar comeback this season. I'd settle for 10-9 with an ERA under 5.00. The over/under on Red Sox complete games this season remains at 2 1/2. Clay Buchholz (11-8, 4.56) managed to go the distance twice last season. Jon Lester (9-14, 4.82) was able throw more than 200 innings in 2012, a fact that is as astonishing as the team's 93 losses. Pedro should threaten to drill him in the ass if he ever gives up four home runs and 11 runs in four innings again like he did against Toronto last July.

Mike Napoli, the big-name, big-money, catch-of-the-off-season free-agent signing that took about 14 years to complete turned out to be unable to catch. The Red Sox are hoping he learns the ropes at first base by Opening Day. Meanwhile, the best fielding first-baseman the Red Sox had since Yaz is now playing for the Yankees (thank you Bobby V.) because of chemistry issues. At least Kevin Youkilis said he'd "always be a Red Sock" until he was reminded that he's now a Yankee. Perhaps he got those lessons in tact from his sister-in-law Gisele at Christmas.

Speaking of Gisele, that provides us a gratuitous opportunity to run this recent Tweet from Mrs. Brady. Thanks, Youk.

From Gisele Bündchen via Facebook.

The photo was from 2011, but who's counting?

"Chemistry" is a big word with the Red Sox this season. John Farrell is supposed to have some built-in good chemistry with his pitching staff. Shane Victorino, Gomes and Napoli, among others, were brought in to help maintain chemistry in the clubhouse. Even John Lackey, it's been said, is going to help things out because of his chemistry with Napoli behind the plate when they played together in California. Oops, never mind on that one.

The Red Sox dumped $262 million or so in salary last August when they underwent their triple-organ-transplant, also known as the Josh Beckett/Adrian Gonazlez/Carl Crawford trade. (Don't worry, Nick Punto, you will never be forgotten.)

But that hasn't done much to pare the payroll this season, which sits at about $160 million. That would put the Red Sox only about $20 behind the Yankees if New York is ever able to void A-Rod's contract. At least John Henry isn't trying to finish in third place on the cheap.

One sign that a team doesn't have much to offer in terms of players when it comes to getting fans excited about the upcoming season is when the new manager is a featured player in the pre-season marketing campaign and media coverage.

The notable exception to this rule is Dick Williams in 1967. Wonder if Farrell will tell the assembled media multitudes: "We'll win more ballgames than we lose." It wouldn't be the first time the team would be guilty of misleading its fans (see: "sellout streak.")

Another party line being propagated this month is the "depth" of the Red Sox bullpen. The Red Sox always seem to be loaded with relief pitching in February but have no bullpen by July. That chemistry has already been put to the test by Aceves, who had his issues throwing BP. Farrell has smoothed everything over, supposedly. And the cries to get rid of Aceves are ringing from Bangor to Cape Coral. But successful managers are successful because they're able to handle problem employees. If Aceves can perform on the field and shore things up in that "over-loaded" bullpen, then Farrell needs to make the extra effort to get him in line. If Bill Belichick didn't want to deal with problem players, the Patriots would not have won three Super Bowls in four years or finished 18-1 with Randy Moss.

Spring training games began Thursday, against Northeastern and Boston College. State Run Media will televise Saturday's game against the Tampa Bay Rays. To see just how far the Red Sox have fallen, regular-season games in St. Petersburg (pre-sale under way now) are no-longer considered "premium games" by the Rays when it comes to ticket pricing. There's the silver lining in last place we've been looking for.

Pedro, Tek and all that good chemistry won't help the Red Sox drive in any more runners from second base with two out, or pitch a 1-2-3 ninth when they have a one-run lead, or take two out of three against the Yankees in April. Even if Tek decides to beat up A-Rod again, the Yankees would probably send him a thank you note. But it's OK feel good about things on Feb. 21 since everybody's tied for first.

The Red Sox wouldn't have it any other way.

As always, let us know what you think. Post your thoughts here, on our Obnoxious Boston Fan Facebook page, on Twitter @realOBF or e-mail me at obnoxiousbostonfan@hotmail.com.


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Obnoxious Boston Fan offers a fun, unique and biting perspective on the Red Sox, Celtics, Bruins, Patriots and whatever else people are talking about in the world of sports. We More »
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