Thursday, March 31, 2005

The Red Scare

Since there’s three days left until Randy Johnson throws the first pitch to Johnny Damon at Yankee Stadium, it’s time to dissect the Red Sox roster and analyze the strengths and weaknesses of each and every Fenway prowler. Today will be the hitters, tomorrow I’ll talk about the pitchers…

1. Johnny Damon

We all know Johnny can score runs. He tends to go on streaks at times, but usually busts out of those streaks with big games. This happened many times during the season. For example, he went 0-13 in three straight games in May, then went 5-6 in the following game at home vs. Oakland. He also had this streak in the ALCS. Damon finished second in the league in runs scored, improving vastly on a disappointing 2003 campaign which almost got him traded. I’d love to see another .304 this season.

2004 Stats: .304, 20 HR, 94 RBI
2005 Prediction: .311, 18 HR, 88 RBI

2. Trot Nixon

Francona will most likely start the season out with Nixon in the 2-hole, contradictory to some projections by experts who have Renteria in this slot. Let’s go with the dirt dog, Nixon. Trot was out all of the first half in 2004 with a herniated disk in his back, but bounced back strong and helped the Sox in the playoffs. He may be getting older, but his defensive ability in right field is unlike any other player the Red Sox might replace him with. He masters that tricky wall, playing bounces perfectly and saving many runs. Trot is a favorite of mine and a true gamer.

2004 Stats: .315, 6 HR, 23 RBI
2005 Prediction: .289, 21 HR, 82 RBI

3. Manny Ramirez

The lovable, coddled, grinning hero we all call Big Manny. Who doesn’t love it when he’s giving that point to Millar or rocking back and forth in the dugout with his best pal Ortiz? A stat showed last summer that, at the rate Manny is going, he will have better numbers than Hank Aaron in most categories. That’s phenomenal. Ramirez should have won the American League MVP last year, along with his World Series MVP. We know he can go on serious hitting streaks, rip clutch doubles off the monster (that is, if he feels like running) and even give us a good-hearted laugh with his play in left field. Whatever the case, the Sox and their fans love Manny, and we hope he remains here for his entire career. Pretty much, the guy is Superman.

2004 Stats: .308, 43 HR, 130 RBI
2005 Prediction: .321, 47 HR, 137 RBI, AL MVP

4. David Ortiz

Manny’s sidekick. Senor Octubre. Big Papi. Barney. Whatever nickname you want to throw at David Ortiz, I’m sure he’d just laugh and show you his wide grin. This guy is the best clutch hitter in the game today. He hit numerous walk-off hits in 2005, his first being on Easter at Fenway and his last keeping the Sox alive in Game 5 of the ALCS. Ortiz, after being dumped by the Twins in 2002, was given a chance by Theo and the Sox after requests from the players. In 2003, he exploded as an AL MVP candidate and never really looked back. The Curse Of The Big Papi!

2004 Stats: .301, 41 HR, 139 RBI
2005 Prediction: .299, 42 HR, 131 RBI

5. Edgar Renteria

My favorite Red Sox pickup in the offseason. The front office did an excellent job of providing the team with an upgrade from Orlando Cabrera at shortstop. He has the same defensive skills as Cabrera, and even a better bat. He’s played in pressure-filed St. Louis, where they love their baseball, so he knows what it feels like to play with a sellout crowd on his back. Everyone is forgetting that Renteria started for the National League All-Stars in Houston last July. I can only see his stats climbing with Ramirez and Ortiz batting in front of him.

2004 Stats: .287, 10 HR, 72 RBI
2005 Prediction: .310, 19 HR, 88 RBI

6. Kevin Millar

Millar gained 20 pounds of muscle over the winter after there was much discussion whether Theo would keep him or defensive stud Doug Mientkiewicz. He was worried he might not be back with his Sawx, even though it was clear to Red Sox Nation there was no way we could trade the man who “believed” after Game 3. Millar put up steady offensive numbers in 2004, and I don’t see any reason to decline. If he can work on his defensive skills at first base, Millar would be the ultimate tool player Theo and Francona need.

2004 Stats: .297, 18 HR, 74 RBI
2005 Prediction: .283, 18 HR, 73 RBI

7. Jason Varitek

The captain. With his genius signing this winter, Jason Varitek, the mold that keeps the Red Sox together, officially became the ultimate leader of the Sawx. The man who caught every single inning of Games 3, 4 and 5 is back behind the plate in 2005, playing in the best shape of his life. He recently hired a new personal trainer in the offseason and they’ve been working constantly so Varitek can live up to his “captain” trademark. Curt Schilling and the fans all agree, without Varitek behind the plate, it’s hard to believe the Red Sox can repeat in 2005. Brian Schneider isn’t quite World Championship caliber.

2004 Stats: .296, 18 HR, 73 RBI
2005 Prediction: .302, 21 HR, 84 RBI

8. Bill Mueller

The unheralded and unappreciated hero of the 2004 season. He woke everyone up with his walk-off home run on Mariano Rivera on July 24, officially beginning the Red Sox hot streak. Then, he drove in Dave Roberts in Game 4 of the ALCS with his single up the middle, keeping the season alive. With outstanding defensive play all season at the hot corner, it’s only appropriate that the Sox front office signed him to a new contract extension. I’d love to see Mueller as the Red Sox third baseman for years to come.

2004 Stats: .283, 12 HR, 57 RBI
2005 Stats: .295, 10 HR, 55 RBI

9. Mark Bellhorn

Yeah, he pissed me off a lot. But when it all came down to it, Bellhorn delivered with his biggest home run in his career. Actually, make it two. First, he broke open Game 6 of the ALCS with his homer off Jon Lieber in the fourth inning, then won Game 1 of the World Series with his pole-shot dinger off Julian Tavarez. Not to mention another homer in Game 7 of the ALCS. The walk-and-strikeout machine earned his spot at the Sox starting second baseman with his playoff heroics.

2004 Stats: .264, 17 HR, 82 RBI
2005 Prediction: .266, 17 HR, 73 RBI


Jay Payton- .260, 8 HR, 55 RBI- Payton may get some valuable playing time if Manny decides his hamstring isn’t working well enough to play.
Ramon Vasquez- .235, 1 HR, 13 RBI- Might be the Dave Roberts of 2005 if he can stay healthy.
Kevin Youkilis- .260, 7 HR, 35 RBI- The Greek God of Walks will improve those numbers with more playing time, but essentially is trade bait at the deadline.
Doug Mirabelli- .281, 9 HR, 32 RBI- The best backup catcher in the major leagues. Great clubhouse guy, and very valuable at times.
David McCarty- .258, 4 HR, 17 RBI- Spent most of last season in minors; could be the same case this season.


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