If you're a Boston Red Sox fan and you've been "waiting for next year," well, next year is almost here.
The Red Sox open the 2010 regular season Sunday night against the rival New York Yankees — the defending World Series champions — at Fenway Park.
Though the Red Sox have somewhat transitioned from an offensive-minded team to a team that should excel at pitching and defense, baseball author and analyst Glenn Stout thinks Boston can supplant New York atop the baseball world.
"This team can do a lot of more little things," Stout said in an interview with WBUR. "They can win closer games. They can play a little bit more inside baseball. That's always helpful in the postseason."
And while Stout says the team's transition means the Sox are more flexible and no longer as dependent on big hits from David Ortiz and the now-departed Manny Ramirez, he concedes the impact of "those three-run home runs as well."
As such, Stout is keying on Ortiz's performance. Though he thinks Ortiz isn't the same player he was a few years ago, Stout is looking for flashes of old dominance from the designated hitter.
"I think one of the big keys is to whether the Red Sox are going to be a powerhouse or just a good offensive team is if David Ortiz rebounds and becomes anything like the player he was two or three years ago," Stout said.
Stout thinks the ceiling on Ortiz has lowered: he says the Sox would be happy with roughly 400 at-bats, 20 home runs and 80 RBIs. If he can't deliver those numbers, Stout says the team won't hesitate to find another power bat mid-season.
Luckily for Sox fans, the team has the ability to address potential struggles that persist.
"I think the one thing you have to keep in mind with the Red Sox is even if they end up a little short in one area or another, this is a team that has the resources, both within its minor league system and financially, that if they need to make a change mid-stream, they can retool and add a missing piece," Stout said. "This is a team that is almost bulletproof from falling off a cliff."
Still, a mid-season acquisition may not make the difference in the competitive American League East Division. Stout is excited by the varied strengths of the Sox, Yankees and the Tampa Bay Rays. The competing strengths could, of course, lead to a playoff scenario in which "one very good team is going to be left out of the mix, perhaps through no fault of their own."
This program aired on April 2, 2010.