With just about ten days left until Jacoby Ellsbury squares off against Justin Verlander, your 2012 Carmine Hose are anything but a settled team. The question marks everyone pointed to on February 1st will still be there on April 1st. In fact, you could argue that more questions exist toward the end of the Grapefruit campaign than when pitchers and catcher reported. For all the refreshing newness of Camp Bobby and jetBlue Park, this team is an enigma—and it's got nothing to do with beer and chicken.
But, it is Spring, so let's start out with some positives. First and foremost, the Red Sox still have a formidable line-up. Ellsbury, Pedroia, Gonzalez, Ortiz, Youkilis, Ross, Saltalamacchia, Sweeney and Aviles should score a ton of runs (although right field and shortstop still look shaky to us). OK, now the reality check.
The bullpen might be the most frightening aspect of this team—first, the fact that we don't yet know who exactly will be there; and, second, the fact that we're relying on a bunch of unknown quantities (Melancon, Morales, Padilla, Bowden—even Bailey to an extent). Kind of makes you understand why Valentine wants Bard back in the set-up and/or closer role.
The starting rotation is probably solid in the one-two spots—both Lester and Beckett should have big years. Should is the operative word, as injuries to either one would devastate our chances. Buchholz, if his non-treated back ailment doesn't flare again, should also be a key contributor. After that, the deluge! Will it be Doubront and Bard? Dubront and Aceves? Bard and Aceves? Nobody knows with a week and half to Opening Day. Do the Yankees, Rays, Tigers, Angels and Rangers have these problems? No, which is why they are favored to make the post-season and not us.
All in all, any non-Pink Hat assessment of this team has to conclude that the NOG is punting on 2012 in anticipation of spending on a slew of free agents (Cole Hamels?) next year—when their payroll flexibility will be greater. So, go crazy on the Fenway Centennial, folks. It may be all you have to cheer about this year.