Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz have carried the Red Sox to the best record in the American League
After last seasons blockbuster deal that sent Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett, and Nick Punto to the Dodgers for two major prospects (Rubby de la Rosa and Allan Webster) and a bunch of throw ins, I envisioned the Sox would be going through a major rebuild. It looked as if they were throwing in the towel for at least the next season or two, and were going to wait until their prospects blossomed and not spend much more money.
During spring training, I thought the Sox would not be awful this year, but I did think they would be middling around .500 all year, and would end up on the outside looking in once the playoffs started. However, here we are less than a year after that stunning deal last August, and the Red Sox are on top of the AL East, and have the best record in the American League.
With the money that Boston saved from the mega deal, they signed a handful of players seemingly past their prime to multi-year deals. Although Shane Victorino has missed some time with injuries, he is one of the best defensive right fielders in the game, and has come up with timely hits in the clutch with his batting average sitting a shade under .300.
Mike Napoli has been an RBI machine all year and regardless of his mountainous strikeout total, he is providing the Sox with the power right-handed bat that they so desperately need. Johnny Gomes' numbers are not overwhelming, but he is a grinder and a high character guy that reminds me of Kevin Millar during the glory days of the Sox.
In my opinion, the quick turnaround of the Red Sox can be put squarely on the shoulders of former pitching coach and current manager John Farrell. When he was the pitching coach in Boston, the starters ERA was continually in the top part of the league. John Lackey's marvelous turnaround from most hated by the fans to Sox ace has been remarkable. Clay Buchholz and Jon Lester's early season dominance was unexpected due to their awful seasons one year ago. Although Buch has been hurt for a few weeks and Lester has struggled recently, Farrell will make the right moves to get them pitching well once again. Lester's last star was encouraging, and his hip injury is considered to be minor.
Farrell's influence on the pitching staff has been well documented, but he should be given credit for his impact on the bats as well. Last year, the clubhouse was described by ESPN's Buster Olney as toxic. Mainly because of the clashes between star players and Bobby V. This year, team chemistry seems to be sky high, and it shows on the field. Dustin Pedroia is just doing what Dustin Pedroia does by hitting over .300 and playing gold glove caliber defense at 2nd base. The ageless wonder that is David Ortiz is continuing to defy the odds by having one of his best statistical seasons since 2007. Considering that he missed the first three weeks of the season and is still among the AL leaders in RBI's and homers is incredible.
Although the AL East is the toughest division in all of baseball, with all teams above .500 except Toronto (1 game under) and all 5 teams separated by 8.5 games with the team Farrell outs on the field every night I don't see why Boston cannot sustain this success in the 2nd half. All the players I mentioned are producing at a high level, and that does not even include Jose Iglesias or Jacoby Ellsbury.
The Red Sox, like all contending teams do have their holes, but if they can stay healthy they should be right in the thick of the playoff race come September. This team finally looks like they enjoy playing together after a difficult 2012 season. The toxic personalities are gone, and John Farrell is putting a contending team night in and night out.