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Season Opens

This Red Sox season really could go any way. It's fashionable to pick against the Sox this year. But there is still a ton of talent on this team and a chip on their shoulder. That said, I think Bobby V. could backfire and fight fire with gasoline in the inferno that is the Boston baseball universe. Additionally, the Sox need some health and it already feels like we're going the wrong way on that front.

The Sox seem like a forgotten team. They were good last year until injuries spurred an epic late season collapse. This year there is reason to believe that they will be as good or better than they were last year. They should expect solid years yet again from Beckett and Lester. Meanwhile, Buchholz can only do better this year than he did last when he was basically a non-factor. If he gives you anything you're better than you were last year and if he's healthy he's a Cy Young candidate. Meanwhile, Lackey, Wakefield, Andrew Miller and Dice-K are replaced in the back end of the rotation with a potentially-budding Felix Doubront (right) and Daniel Bard. It's at least a wash. Esp. with Aaron Cook in Pawtucket and a healthy Dice-K looking at a second half comeback.

That rotation could be great or it could quickly get soft if one or two of the top guys go down and the back end doesn't live up to their potential - and it's usually a safe bet that at least one of two "potential" guys will be a bust. That said, Bard has the talent to be an ace and Doubront has talent to really succeed. I'm guessing this will be a solid rotation.

In the lineup and on the field, the team looks at least as good as last year. They lost JD Drew and Scutaro. They fill those wholes with Ryan Sweeney/Cody Ross and Mike Aviles. I think you break even there. Meanwhile, if you get decent years from Youk or Crawford, you're better than last year. I expect Ellsbury to come back down a bit but I think Salty will make the all star team.

The real question for this team is of course the bullpen. That question mark doesn't make them stand out in today's major leagues. They lost their closer, Andrew Bailey, for most of the year. But big budget teams like the Sox have the advantage of having folks like Aceves and Mark Malancon ready to step up. They might fail. But if our team were not a big budget team we'd be hoping Franklin Morales finally figures it out and could close games. The Sox have a bunch of decent middle relief types in Michael Bowden, Matt Albers, and Scott Atchison. I have no idea what you'll get from Vicente "Swine Flu" Padilla (right) and Justin Thomas. Padilla could win an MVP or destroy a clubhouse. I think the bullpen will be fine if Aceves or Malancon can seize the closer role and they both have a good shot. I'd prefer Malancon but I can see why Bobby V. gave Aceves the first shot after passing him over for the rotation.

Lastly, there's the new leadership team. Something unnerves me about Bobby V. Good drivers in snowstorms are smart enough to fear the power of the storm and know the limitations of their skills and their car. Likewise, good Boston managers are smart enough to have a healthy fear of the media and the fans and know that rational arguments and supposed "genius" doesn't mean you'll be able to steer clear of distractions and controversies. How will Bobby V. handle it when he's questioned for both using his closer too often and not bringing him in early enough? Does he like New York or hate New York? I just can't tell when he says he hates them but acknowledges that New York City exists...

My prediction: the Sox win 95 games and the... a wildcard spot. If the front three starters are healthy and they have a closer, they'll make a run at the championship. Or, Bobby V. will start Swine Flu at short and bring back Wake to fill the Dave Roberts role. Genius is fickle; hold onto your caps.

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