Coco Crisp, Manny Ramirez Help Give Revamped Red Sox Winning Look

Although the AL East is shaping up to be the most formidable division in professional baseball the Boston Red Sox made all the right moves during an off-season riddled with turmoil to insure themselves a spot in the pennant race.

Their GM quits. Their star center fielder turns to the dark side. An influential figure in the clubhouse is lost to free agency and arguably the best hitter in the game is (still) asking for a trade (again ) or is he? This all within moments of the completion of this year’s winter meetings. So what does the Red Sox front office do? They turn losses into gains. They wring blood from the stone. They make chicken salad out of chicken poo.

There isn’t a player in the game that could replace Johnny Damon in center field or at the top of the order, other than CoCo Crisp. Thankfully, that’s exactly who the Red Sox acquired to do the job. A career .287 hitter, the ex-Cleveland Indian comes to Boston sporting much more than a winning smile and funky nick name. He is considerably younger than Damon who is always playing hurt and not getting any younger but his range is equal to or greater than Damon’s, as is his speed. CoCo may take more hacks than a traditional lead-off hitter but his on-base percentage is right on par with Damon’s. (last year it was .345, the same as Damon’s in 2003, in 2004 Damon’s was only .380) While Damon’s prime years are waning, Crisp is just coming into his. He has seen a significant increases in runs, hits, doubles, walks, batting average and on-base percentage over the last 2 seasons. That’s a good indication that the Red Sox will see these numbers continue to improve.
Defensively Crisp brings speed, range and an improved throwing arm. His fielding percentage has never been below .985. Not too shabby, Mr. Crisp. Welcome to Boston.

Every now and again we come across a player that, like that beloved family dog, is truly irreplaceable. Kevin Millar is one of those players. Regardless of how many times he gets into the trash, poops on the rug or barks at the neighbor (I hate that guy anyway) you can’t help but love him more and more each day. The spirit and camaraderie that Kevin brought to the ballpark and into the dugout each day was truly inspiring. He was always professional, optimistic and a great sportsman. We won’t forget you Rally Cowboy, I was born in the USA too.

So, seriously, who’s on first? The Red Sox acquired J.T. Snow who will likely play second fiddle (as a late inning defensive replacement or left handed bat off the bench) to “the Greek God of Walks”, Kevin Youkilis. Youkilis may be untested as a full timer in the big leagues and he may be appearing on the opposite corner of the infield than we’re used to but this kid grinds out at-bats. It’s nice to see a product of the farm system getting a shot to play everyday. Any inconsistency we’ve seen from him could certainly be attributed to a lack of AB’s. If Youk can’t hack it, a guy that won 6 consecutive Gold Gloves (from Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½95 – Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½00) isn’t a bad second choice.

Theo Epstein returned to his post as the Red Sox GM just in time to make sure this year’s spring camp was laden with both a solid veteran presence and the exuberance of youth. There will be no shortage of options. Upwards of 60 players will be competing for roster spots at the Red Sox spring training complex in Fort Myers, FL.
As usual, everyone will be wondering if Manny Ramirez will show up on time this year. Only recently did I really believe I would see #24 patrolling left field, or grinning in the dugout but as of now Manny Ramirez is still a member of the Boston Red Sox. This is nothing but a good thing for Boston. Manny might not show up on time but even if he doesn’t show up until opening day he’s going to hit the cover off of the ball once for every 3 trips to the plate. With all of his eccentricities comes the propensity to hit 30 homers and 100 RBIs, all the while maintaining a solid .300 batting average. Usually he exceeds those numbers. His defensive prowess may be less than predictable but his ability to play caroms off of the green monster goes largely unnoticed. He quietly and sometimes clumsily earned 17 assists and a .974 fielding percentage last year. In 149 games and 250 chances he only made 7 errors. I’d let him stand in left field with his mitt over his face if he kept hitting like he does. The fact that he even tries to catch the ball is a bonus as far as I’m concerned.

The rest of the new infield consists of 3 Gold Glove caliber players in 2B Mark Loretta, (one of the NL’s top offensive 2B) SS Alex Gonzalez (ex-Marlins slick fielding defensive wizard) and 3B Mike Lowell. (NL record fewest errors by 3B in 2004 with 7)
Mark Loretta should provide more offense than the Red Sox have seen from their second basemen in a while. Alex Gonzalez isn’t an offensive powerhouse but he more than makes up for it with his tenacity in the hole at short and above average arm. Mike Lowell had a down year offensively last year but he could bounce back and hit 30 + home runs like he did in 2003. (He hit 32) His defense remains impregnable.

Overall the Red Sox have compensated for their potential shortcomings in grand fashion. Now that spring training has sprung Red Sox nation may collectively breathe a sigh of relief. While our old friends will be missed, the new faces we have to look forward to should keep things interesting enough. Run prevention will be a strong attribute of this year’s Crimson Hose but there will be adequate doses of slugging and hugging, joking and choking for if we aren’t sprouting new gray hairs, cussing out the television and looking for any number of scapegoats outside of the starting lineup we aren’t Red Sox fans.

A message to Johnny Damon:
Was selling yourself out and abandoning your fans and teammates worth the 12 mil A-hole? Nice haircut, Chachi.
-from a rabid fan

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