|Playing pepper at Fenway Park (courtesy pepperbaseball.com)|
As in previous years, other bloggers also particiapted including fellow Baseball Bloggers Alliance members Christine from Boston Red Thoughts, John at The Mighty Quinn Media Machine, Tyler from Monstah Mash as well as Michael from The Big Mike Blog and Mike from Seamheads.
To see how these Red Sox bloggers answered these questions, take a look at the Red Sox "Playing Pepper" page at C70 at the bat.
Below are the questions with the answers that I provided. As always, I welcome your comments and thoughts:
1 - What are your thoughts on the team’s offseason? Did they do what they needed to do?
The Red Sox’ main needs heading into the offseason were to improve the pitching staff and figure out what to do about 1st and 3rd base. They signed David Price and Chris Young as free agents and traded for Craig Kimbrel, Carson Smith and Roenis Elias. Other than a few of Mr. Henry’s greenbacks, the acquisition price of all these was just prospects Manuel Margo and Javier Guerra and starter Wade Miley. Someone was going to be bumped out of the rotation to make room for Price, so Miley was a small piece to give up, and more importantly Boston still has a lot of top prospects in their system. Price will certainly improve the rotation and Elias will give them some extra depth. Kimbrel was brought in to close which will lessen the load on Koji, who together with Carson Smith and the retuning Junichi Tazawa will give the bullpen a formidable set up crew. Chris Young will be a 4th/platoon outfielder and insurance against Jackie Bradley Jr or Rusney Castillo extended slumps or injuries. Since the “Hanley Ramirez as a left-fielder” plan did not work out last year, they are hoping he can play a passable first base. Third base will be manned by Pablo Sandoval again. He had a subpar season last year on both sides of the ball, and his age and physique make a lot of people worry that his skills will continue to diminish. But realistically, he’ll be given a chance to show he can perform before the Red Sox see him as a sunk cost. If his struggles continue, or Hanley can’t handle first base, then they’ll need to use some of their aforementioned prospects to upgrade those areas. Overall, very happy with the offseason, but not convinced they did everything they needed to do.
2- There are a good number of new faces on this squad. Which one are you most excited about?
I’m going to admit to having a man-crush on David Price. And seeing Craig Kimbrel strike out three batters every time he pitches an inning will be pretty cool. But it’s actually the under the radar acquisition of Carson Smith that I’m most excited about. I think he’ll really lengthen our bullpen and be the new face that is most likely to quietly exceed expectations.
3 -Will the David Ortiz farewell tour threaten to overshadow what happens on the field?
With apologies to Ted Williams, David Ortiz has probably meant more to this franchise than anyone in their history. But if his farewell tour is the highlight of the summer at Fenway, then something has gone horribly wrong. The team’s success and pennant race will hopefully be at the forefront of daily stories, and the farewell tour just a sideshow to that. If, however, the Red Sox find themselves out of the race by the trading deadline, then Ortiz will be the only reason fans will have to look forward to Red Sox fans. I don’t expect that to be the case.
4 - What player do you expect to make the greatest strides this year?
Blake Swihart only got called up to AAA Pawtucket at the end of the 2014 season, and was not expected to get a cup of coffee at Fenway until at least September 2016. But early season injuries to Boston’s catchers caused an accelerated timeline and he was called up by early May. Not much was expected of him after playing less than 40 games at AAA. And he didn’t disappoint those lowly expectations batting sub .200 most of his first month, and having fans worried that his early callup might affect his confidence and long term development. But he progressed quickly, hitting over .300 with an OPS above 800 in the 2nd half of the season, and started showing some power, hitting three of his five home runs in September. I expect he will continue to develop into an offensive force, and by the end of the season they will keep his bat in the lineup at first base or DH, when his body needs a break from squatting behind the plate.
5 - What’s your projection of the team’s record and where will they finish in the division?
The optimist in me says this could be the year they win 100 games (as I’ve said every season since I can remember….). If the young stars continue to develop, Sandoval and Ramirez return to form, the vets maintain their all-star caliber play and everyone avoids injury, it could happen. But more likely is that some of the youngsters will hit slumps, the older players won’t be able to defy aging and their skills will deteriorate, some unexpected injuries will occur and the fill-ins will underperform. If this all happens at the same time, then another last place finish isn’t out of the question either. But since I’m not a politician, I’ll get off the fence and just give a straight answer: 88 wins, good for 2nd place and a wildcard playoff berth.
6 - Which team in the division do you most enjoy beating and how do you think you’ll fare against them in 2016?
I’m going to go out on a limb, and guess that the rest of the respondents will all say the *$&@ Yankees. But to me it’s the Blue Jays. Maybe it’s because I used to live in Toronto and had to put up with Jays fans when those two teams consistently fought for the division title every season from the mid 80s to the early 90s. Also, their fans and media constantly whine about not being able to compete with us because of our higher payroll – never hear a Yankees fan complain about that! I suspect we’ll finish ahead of them in the standings this season. They still have an explosive offense, but I don’t think they have enough arms to contend all summer. And for that reason I expect we’ll beat them in the season series 11 games to 7 (although 18-0 would make me very happy!)
I can't believe it's been five years already that I've participating in this annual series. Feel free to see what I've said going into the 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015 seasons.
First Spring Training game in a couple of days. Can't wait!!!!