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Old 01-19-2002, 03:23 PM   #1
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Default Are the Red Sox headed in the right direction?

The 2002 Red Sox will look a lot different come spring training. There will be some new faces on the team, some familiar faces gone and a new owner for the team. Will all this add up to an A.L. East title? Let's examine that possibility and see where it takes us.

The Boston Red Sox found themselves in a familiar spot after the conclusion of the 2001 season. Second-place. Not first. Beat out by the New York Yankees once again. The Red Sox faithful have grown accustomed to that scenario many times over. So what will it take to break the "Curse of the Bambino" and make Boston a World Champion again? Something that hasn't been realized or achieved there since 1918.

The Red Sox will have a new look about them for sure. Gone is moody and sometime controversial, outfielder Carl Everett. Everett was a lot of trouble, but he usually made up for it with his bat. But, in 2001 he hurt his knee and was pretty much ineffective most of the season.

I still think the team is reeling from the loss of manager Jimy Williams. He was popular with the players and fans. Or at least most of them. Pitching coach Joe Kerrigan took over toward the end of the 2001 season. The team took a nosedive and never came out of it after Kerrigan took over. There was also a lot of complaining from injured pitcher Pedro Martinez and slugger Manny Ramirez and so on.

But that is all behind us now. At least we hope so. So, does Boston have what it takes to win their division and advance to the World Series in 2002? I think the team is vastly improved and could very well achieve that goal. I really think they made some smart moves. Getting rid of Carl Everett was one of them.

During the winter meeting the Red Sox picked up outfielder Johnny Damon from the Oakland Athletics. Good move. He is a great leadoff hitter and has plenty of speed to steal bases. He kind of had an off-season with Oakland, but I predict he will have a great season with Boston. Damon is good for 20 homeruns and possibly 100 RBI's. He can usually hit for a good average. I really think he will flourish in the lead-off spot.

If shortstop Nomar Garciapparra is 100% healthy come spring, watch out. Garciapparra is a two-time batting champ and could very easily win that title again in 2002. Damon and Garciapparra will be quite a combo at the plate.

Batting clean-up with probably be slugger and outfielder Manny Ramirez. Ramirez had a good offensive year in 2001, but he can do better. He hit 41 homeruns and drove in 125 runs last season, while batting .306. He's capable of driving in over 150 runs.

Another guy in their outfield who produced offensively is Trot Nixon. Nixon hit 27 homeruns with 88 runs driven in. Nixon really became an important player on this team in 2001.

The Red Sox were beset with a lot of injuries in 2001. That is the main reason for their downfall in my opinion. Catcher Jason Varitek was one of the many casulties. He should be 100% now. He's good for 15 to 20 homeruns and 60 to 80 runs batted in, if not more.

Another big acquisition for the Red Sox was ex-Detroit Tigers first baseman Tony Clark. He stands 6-7 and weighs 245 pounds. He can be very imtimidating looking. Clark has not yet fulfilled his potential. He has had a lot of injury problems in his young career. If he can stay healthy most of 2002 for the Red Sox this team's offense will be dyanmite.

The Red Sox should be very explosive on offense in 2002. Just think if Ramirez and Garciapparra really get hot with their bat in 2002. Yankees take cover.

The bottom line for Boston and most other teams is their starting pitching. Nobody has a better starter than Pedro Martinez. He had some arm trouble last season, but it seems he is now 100%. The Red Sox lost pitcher Hideo Nomo to fre agency, but they are hoping that ex-Atlanta Braves pitcher John Burkett can take up the slack. Burkett is aging quickly, but he may have one or two good years left if he's lucky.

The Red Sox also picked up pitcher Dustin Hermanson from the St. Louis Cardinals. Good choice in my opinion. He was 14-13 with an ERA of 4.45 with the Cardinals in 2001. He is 29 years old. The Red Sox also have a good closer in Ugueth Urbina, whom they picked up from Montreal toward the end of the 2001 season. He can be good for 30 to 35 saves if he is healthy and happy.

The Red Sox are really hoping pitcher Rolando Arrojo will come around. He was picked up late in the 2001 season, but never got on track. He has great potential they say. The Sox still have pitcher Frank Castillo. He also had the injury bug last season. He was 10-9 last season. He is a good pitcher.

That's the key for Boston's success in the 2002 season. Staying healthy. Of course, that is what every team needs to be competitive. Seriously, the Red Sox did well during the off-season. I feel they made some good acquisitions. I'm just not sold on Joe Kerrigan as manager. General manager Dan Duquette has all the confidence in the world in Kerrigan, but if Duquette himself is still around and Kerrigan flounders for long, it wouldn't surprise me a bit to see him fire and replace Kerrigan. Duquette's position is up in the air because of the recent sale of the team. Let's see how things play out.

In closing, I see the A.L. East race going down to the wire, as long as both teams stay healthy. I really like Boston's offense better than New York's. Yes even with Jason Giambi playing for the Yankees. I think Garciapparra, Damon, Ramirez and Nixon together in the same lineup, will create or cause a lot of fear to fall upon any pitcher that must face them.

Keith "baseball nut" Thronson
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