Last year the Boston Red Sox finished third in the AL East and failed to make the playoffs for the first time since 2006 and just the second time in the last eight years. In an attempt to make sure that does not happen this year, Theo Epstein re-tooled their lineup and acquired Adrian Gonzalez from the Padres and lured left fielder Carl Crawford away from the Tampa Bay Rays. Despite the influx of talent and the overall talent of this year’s team, there are plenty of question marks in the form of Josh Beckett, John Lackey, Jonathan Papelbon, and Jacoby Ellsbury. One must also wonder how the newly acquired Crawford and Gonzalez will not only handle the pressure of playing in Boston, but also the talented left-handed starters in the AL East. The Yankees lineup remains loaded, and although Tampa Bay lost a lot of talent this offseason, Boston still has a lot to prove in beating Tampa consistently, something they haven’t been able to do over the last three years. Anyone dreaming of a 100-win season should lower those expectations.
Theo Epstein joined 98.5 the Sports Hub in Boston to talk about if the fans have gotten a little ahead of themselves on the high expectations this season, whether the team should be confident and expect 100 wins, and if there is an area of concern with this year’s team.
If the fans have gotten a little ahead of themselves on the high expectations this season:
“Yeah a little bit but coming from our players I think it is coming from a good place to a certain extent to where they are showing up with optimism, feeling good about themselves and feeling good about their teammates. I would rather have it that way than the other way around, but the reality is we have to stop and recognize that we were a third-place club last year. We haven’t accomplished anything yet. We are the toughest division in baseball. As I said today, we have a lot to prove. We have to prove that we can stay healthy. We have to prove that performance from individuals in the past can be replicated and in some cases it needs to be improved upon. We have to come together as a club and we have to take the talent that is here and translate that into hard work and win with this talent…”
Whether the team should be confident and expect 100 wins:
“That is a great expectation, yeah. I think there is responsibility to everybody. I think this year it is different. I think the standards we hold for ourselves every year is to be among the best teams in baseball, if not the very best, and yet to win a championship and it starts by winning your division, it starts by winning 95 games. You can’t just look too far ahead in baseball. There is so much work to do. This game involves a lot of karma. If you start looking ahead at how many wins you have the other year and get ahead of yourself, you don’t play very well, you don’t stay healthy. Let’s start by playing healthy and move to playing well and see where we are at the end of the year.”
If there is an area of concern with this year’s team:
“Yeah we have some areas where we are a bit more vulnerable than others. Catching depth, especially the first half of the season where if we were to suffer an injury to Salty or Jason we would not necessarily have someone ready to step right up. We have some young guys we believe in, prospects that we are going to be playing in AAA but they have to prove in this camp and the first half of the season that they are ready to step in. We might be vulnerable there and that is something that we might need to address depending on health. Starting pitching depth, after our five guys we have Wakefield, Doubront, we have Aceves but we don’t have a lot of young starters in the upper-level knocking down the door ready to step in during the course of the season, so the typical team uses about 10 starting pitchers during the course of the year and that is an area where we might be a little bit vulnerable and then I think we have some questions that we need to answer against left-handed pitching. We are a little bit left-handed than we normally are. I don’t think it is a huge problem. I think the talent of the left-handed hitters is more important and the fact that they are left-handed and have a bench that actually all four of the guys on the bench are going to hit left-handed pitching pretty well but against the better left-handed pitchers in baseball I think we have to prove that we can go out and beat those guys.”