You know the game by now, I sent some questions off to Ben Buchanan from Over the Monster, SB Nation's terrific Boston Red Sox site. He was willing to step off his stool, take his head out of the noose, and answer them for me. No, kidding of course. Ben seems to be taking the slow start in stride. It isn't an easy thing to do. Us bloggers, maybe even more then the average fan, tend to live and die with our team. I guess that the memory of winning a couple of World Series in the last few years eases the pain.
How is Red Sox Nation dealing with the slow start? Is there still some optimism?
Let's put it this way: Today's rain out elicited cheers. While there's still plenty of ways to convince ourselves that the season is far from over--the Red Sox have overcome much larger deficits than five games, and with teams built worse than this one--I wouldn't say there's much in the way of optimism. The fact is, there are fewer and fewer people expecting to win any given game, regardless of the pitching matchup.
We're not dead yet, but it's not likely we're going to be too happy about things for around a month. And looking ahead at a month of desperation isn't particularly encouraging.
Who have the bright lights of the slow start been? Anyone been a positive surprise?
The biggest surprise is that neither David Ortiz nor Jon Lester seem to be getting hit too hard by their usual troubles in April. Josh Beckett's start against the Yankees was an incredible pick-me-up, too, but until he repeats it, it's just an isolated start--not surprising by itself. The same can be said with Jonathan Papelbon and some of the other bullpen arms like Matt Albers and Bobby Jenks.
One guy who we'd all like to see as a "bright light" is Jed Lowrie, who has been just as good as he was in 2010 in the few plate appearances he's been given. It would be quite the boost for the Sox if they could stop their revolving door at shortstop even without Jose Iglesias.
Dice-K is off to a terrible start to the year. Is it possible he'll be removed from the rotation? Could he be traded or released?
I'll never say it's impossible, but we're in the fifth year of this whole Daisuke thing, and I'm a bit skeptical that this is what would push the front office over the edge. He will never live up to the expectations set to him, but at the same time, he's been a decent fifth starter for most of his career, and there is the vague idea that he's great for business thanks to his popularity in Japan. Terry Francona has already given his support to Daisuke, and unless he's a complete disaster for the rest of this year, expect him to be doing his usual, frustrating thing at the end of the rotation for the rest of the year.
You have one of my favorite former Jays in Marco Scutaro, has has he fit in there? How long till Jose Iglesias takes his job?
Marco Scutaro is quite the polarizing player in Boston. For many, his first season was a supreme disappointment--just another in a long line of high-paid, failed shortstops. For others, myself included, Scutaro did a solid job at a position where we've long been desperate for "solid", all the while playing through injury at a relatively cheap price.
The problem now is that, not only is he struggling to start the season (likely due largely in part to a .185 BABIP), but he's doing so while taking plate appearances from Jed Lowrie, who I mentioned earlier. Even at his 2009 Blue Jays best, Scutaro can't really match the player that Lowrie looked like (.287/.381/.526) while taking over for him at short last year when Scutaro's arm injury forced him to second.
As for Iglesias, he's still not as ready as many in the media seem to believe, but suffice it to say that between him and Lowrie, it's hard to imagine that Scutaro will be starting for the Red Sox in 2012 if he chooses to stick around.
Saltalamacchia is another having a slow start, is it possible that Jason Varitek will get more playing time? Could he take over the starting job?
The team has said that Jarrod Saltalamacchia has until June to prove himself, but it's hard to imagine the team sees Jason Varitek as the answer. Not only is he too old to realistically hold down the starting job, but he's not really likely to hit any better. He does call a mean game, and he's better defensively (excepting throwing runners out, which neither of them can do), but he's just not the answer. If the Sox decide that Jarrod Saltalamacchia isn't cutting it, and they're back in the race by the trade deadline, they might well go all-out to find someone who can actually hold down the position.
I've been really curious about Kevin Youkilis move to third. How does he look out there defensively?
It's a mixed bag, really. He's certainly not shown any exceptional range, particularly to his right, but after a bit of an adjustment period at the very least his throws are looking a lot better. It's hard to imagine the Red Sox expect him to man the hot corner for many years, though.
What do you think, can they overcome this poor start and get into the race? Is Francona's or Theo Epstein's job on the line if they don't start playing better ball?
Yes they can, and no, they aren't. As terrible as 2-9 looks, it's still just five games back. Last year, on May 7, the Red Sox were 7.5 back (of the Blue Jays, for that matter) in the AL East. On June 21, they had made that deficit just .5 games. Of course, they didn't make it to the playoffs that year, but they also lost Dustin Pedroia, Victor Martinez, and Clay Buchholz to injury over the next week, so there were some mitigating circumstances.
This team is built better than that team, there's no reason they can't get back in it. But even if they don't, I can't imagine the two men credited for bringing the Sox two World Series wins in four years will take the hit. It's going to take more than a couple crazy years out of the playoffs to use up that good will.