Well we've got 27 days left until Opening Day, which means it's season preview time. We'll be running it down team by team, with an added new wrinkle this time around: the beer of choice for fans of the team to enjoy whilst watching their team take the field! Nothing like that to help get you through a baseball season, especially if you're from Pittsburgh. Up first: the Boston Red Sox.
Lineup: The success of this lineup, to us, hinges on David Ortiz. And since we keep saying that he's done as a good ballplayer, we are sort of obligated to say that we think they're going to disappoint. There's some really good talent and depth here, on the corners and up the middle, but aside from Kevin Youkilis and Victor Martinez, the team is lacking any star-level bats. They're solid through and through, though, as there's not really a weak spot anywhere. Ellsbury, Cameron, Drew, Hermida, Pedroia, Beltre...fine players, all of them, and good enough for the team to be in serious contention. We just don't expect them to win too many games with their bats. Which is fine, because...
Rotation: The rotation is seriously good and boasts plenty of depth as well. Jon Lester and John Lackey are a fantastic 1-2, Josh Beckett is well-suited to a #3 spot, and Clay Buchholz looks more than ready to dominate on a regular basis. So when he's your number four guy, and your biggest problem entering the season is having to get innings for Daisuke Matsuzaka, Tim Wakefield, Junichi Tazawa and maybe Michael Bowden...you're pretty well set. Combine that with the defensive upgrade realized by bringing in Beltre and Cameron, as well as shifting Ellsbury to left, and you're looking at one of the best run prevention teams going.
Bullpen: Jonathan Papelbon looked to be on the decline last season, relying too much on his fastball (see e.g. the ALDS when he throw 17 straight) and simultaneously struggling with his command. But even if he continues to regress, there's plenty more power arms in the cabinet, particularly Daniel Bard and Manny Delcarmen. Hideki Okajima has been an effective lefty for several years now, and they've got plenty other prospective guys to pick from to fill out the remaining innings. We don't know that you can call this area a real strength, as the control of the group as a whole is less than stellar, but they shouldn't be an Indians-level disaster.
Overall: The Red Sox look well poised to compete again in the tough AL East. We don't want to say the division could be just as easily belong to the Yankees as well as the Sox or Rays, but it's awfully close to that kind of distribution of talent. If Ortiz rebounds - but he won't! - and the bullpen holds, expect the Sox to be playing into October.
Predicted Record: 92-70, 3rd place
Beer: Sam Adams Boston Lager. Whatever. Drink it up, and try not to choke when you're singing Sweet Caroline for the 5 millionth time (once for each dollar that Jason Varitek will earn this year to hit about as well as a Girl Scout). Or go ahead and choke. Either way.