BOSTON — After a winter of soul searching, the Red Sox open their 112th season Thursday against the Detroit Tigers.
Given how the Sox closed out last season, with the infamous “September collapse,” there’s a lot at stake.
Sportswriter and author Glenn Stout joined WBUR’s Morning Edition to preview what’s ahead and take a look at this years Red Sox squad and its prospects.
Bob Oakes: Let’s start by talking about the elephant in the ballpark: Can the Red Sox wipe out the memories of that historic collapse last year and, you know, the chicken and beer in the clubhouse controversy?
Glenn Stout: Well, I think it has really helped that there have been a number of changes since the end of last year. The most important probably being Bobby Valentine. And I think Valentine has a way, whether you like him or not, of getting people on his teams to look forward. I mean, they don’t have a past with Bobby to look at.
I think the Red Sox right now are more focused on Bobby Valentine and what he wants them to do rather than what they did last September.
I’m looking at a quote by team CEO Larry Lucchino who says, “We feel individually and collectively that we have something to prove in 2012.”
What does he have to prove?
Well, I think what they have to prove is, you know, last September was an anomaly and not a sign of things to come. I mean, that’s been their attitude going forward into this year. That’s why Bobby Valentine is here, is to turn the page as quickly and as rapidly as they can. Whether that’s going to happen is another question, but they definitely want to put that in the rearview mirror and look forward and they want everyone to focus on Fenway Park this year anyway.
The 100th anniversary of Fenway Park this year. As they look forward though they start the season with a lot of players injured or recovering from surgery. Andrew Bailey, the new closer, out with surgery on his thumb. Daisuke is out, Carl Crawford, among others. Is health a major issue for the Red Sox as they begin?
Certainly at the beginning of the season. I mean, you know, if you were to look at this roster, what you thought it was going to be a couple weeks ago, it’s quite a bit different now.
They are going to open the season with 13 pitchers and only three backups as position players because they are so concerned about their pitching. And, you know, pitching is where it is all going to be with the Red Sox this year, I think, because if you look around the American League there are a lot of other really good teams. If the Red Sox pitching doesn’t come through, they’re not as offensively potent as they were last year.
Did they pick up anyone on the offseason, when they really didn’t spend a whole lot of money? Who is going to help them in any kind of a big way in that regard?
Well, not in a huge way. I mean, more of what they did in the offseason was just kind of tweak things a little bit but, you know, there aren’t the big splash additions that there were last year with Crawford and [Adrian] Gonzalez. This year’s team is going to have to scuffle for runs a little bit. That’s the thing that concerns me, as much as anything is, you know, the pitching really has to be there because I don’t see this team scoring as many runs as they did last year.
A lot of baseball writers and analysts call this Red Sox team that takes the field Thursday underdogs in the American League. Are the 2012 Red Sox, in your view, a playoff quality team?
I don’t think they are a playoff-quality team right now, but the one thing you always have to keep in mind with the Red Sox, and also with a couple of the other powerhouses in the American League like the Yankees, is that the team that starts the season is often not the team that ends the season. And I think if the Red Sox get into the middle of the year, if they can kind of weather the start, get into the middle of the year, still be competitive, still be within reach of a division title, or certainly a playoff spot, then you might see some tweaking to the roster done.
By that time they’ll have Crawford back, by that time they should have Bailey back, they might have Daisuke back even, so then they have a lot more options and that’s the time where perhaps a move or two can put them over the top.