This past weekend I attended my first Red Sox game of the season, a 13-5 route of the Rays. We’re now 11 whole games into the 2012 baseball season – a whopping 6.79% of the regular season is complete. While it’s still far to early to draw any significant conclusions (hell the Orioles are leading the AL East at the moment), it’s not too early to have learned a bit about who this team is. Here are my five early takeaways from this young season.
1) Papi’s still got it – Hell with Stella, I say. David Ortiz never needed to get his groove back, yet it seems as though every year he ends up defending himself against the “he’s washed up and old” argument. Ortiz is off to a torrid start this year – through the first three games against the Rays this weekend, Ortiz was 9-13 with 1 home run, 3 doubles, and 8 RBIs. He’s hitting .395 on the season, and I think it’s fair to say he appreciated Bobby Valentine immediately flying down to the D.R. when he became manager and letting him know that he was wanted and was a priority. Better yet, Ortiz is hitting lefties this year – historically his weakness. In his own words, “they throw the ball over the plate just like righties do.”
2) Felix Doubront’s got some filth – Sure, it’s not like Felix Doubront has pitched a great game yet. But having watched both of Doubront’s starts, this guy has a serious opportunity the help the Sox this year. He’s lefty, has fantastic accuracy with a 92-94 mph fastball, and his curveball in particular has been impressive to me. I’m not saying we have an ace in the making – far from it – but I’m very pleased with what I’ve seen out of Doubront.
3) Bobby Valentine is a clown – We’ve all known this in the back of our minds, and I know I’ve been calling for patience. No, Valentine hasn’t had a fair shake yet and if the Sox go on to do anything good this year we’ll hear all about how people wrote him off so early. Regardless, I think this guy is an absolute clown. I saw it in person on Saturday for the first time as Valentine charged out onto the field and caused a stink (and interruption) about a phantom balk that no one else saw. He then made comments that were far to easy to misconstrue about Kevin Youkilis of all people, which were bizarre to the extent that Dustin Pedroia had to shut him up. “Maybe those tactics work in Japan, but not here,” was Pedroia’s sentiment. “He’ll learn.” When you are hearing that from Pedroia of all people, you know you’ve got a problem.
4) Your move, Benny boy – While the Red Sox still have a plethora of talented players, an injury to a starting pitcher could really derail the season. If the Sox are serious about contending this year, they’ll need to add another pitcher – and a good one at that. Whether it’s Roy Oswalt or somebody else, Cherington will need to make a move. Seize the day Ben.
5) The AL is as good as advertised – In what I’ve been calling the most competitive season in the AL that I can remember, I think the teams we all expected to be great will live up to the hype. Sure, the Angels and Red Sox aren’t off to hot starts, but they’ll stick around. The Yankees have been pretty good, the Rays have proven to be better than expected (as they always do), and let’s just say the Rangers pounded the Red Sox 18-3 yesterday. Detroit is far and away the best team at this point and they show no signs of slowing down.
It’s a young season still, and I’m not as optimistic about the Sox as I have been in past years (see 2011). That said, this year is going to be one hell of a fun season to watch unfold. What will the standings look like at the All-Star break?