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Playing Pepper: Predicting the 2016 Red Sox Season

It is late February which can only mean one thing, time to play pepper with Daniel Shoptaw of Cardinals Conclave. Every year Daniel asks a handful of bloggers for each MLB team a series of questions about the upcoming season. It is an honor to be part of the Red Sox contingent for the third straight year. Here is a link to see how all of the Red Sox bloggers answered his questions. Below are the questions and how I answered them. Thanks again to Daniel and Cardinals Conclave.
What are your thoughts on the team’s offseason? Did they do what they needed to do?
The Red Sox needed an ace and they went out and got an ace in David Price. This moves does leave a bitter taste in my mouth because I am reminded how bad they messed up the Jon Lester situation. That is water under the bridge though. They have an ace again and that is good. The bullpen also needed reinforcements and they got that and then some with the additions Craig Kimbrel and a very underrated Carson Smith.
I worry about their offense and in a perfect world I would have liked to see the Sox try to move Pablo Sandoval and/or Rusney Castillo, put Hanley Ramirez at third base and pickup either a Chris Davis or Justin Upton. The lineup has too many question marks for me to feel real comfortable. Dombrowski's hands may have been tied a bit here though as it is tough to find suitors for either of these guys and their contracts.
There are a good number of new faces on this squad. Which one are you most excited about?
I have lived in Atlanta Braves country for the past two decades and have seen a ton of Braves baseball. Craig Kimbrel is a lot of fun to watch and better than a lot of people realize. There is this notion that last year with the Padres he regressed. He had a bad outing or two at the beginning of the season and was lights out like he has always been from that point on. The Red Sox are getting the most dominant closer in the game. I am looking forward to the Red Sox "tappin' the Craig" in the 9th inning this year.
Will the David Ortiz farewell tour threaten to overshadow what happens on the field?
As long as he hits it won't. The fear I have is this Red Sox team is built in a way that David Ortiz has to really produce if they are going to win. That scares me and it should scare all Red Sox fans. He is saying all the right things and reports are that he had a great offseason and is coming into camp in great shape. I know how much it means to him to finish his career on a high note. He is 40 years old though. He is retiring for a reason.
If he produces at the level he did last season, the farewell tour will only make things better and I think the Sox as a team will feed off that energy. It could get real interesting if he struggles though and John Farrell has to make some decisions about his playing time.
The worst case scenario is Ortiz struggles like Derek Jeter struggled in his final year. Jeter was one of the worst players in the league that year yet Joe Girardi had him out at shortstop every day and high in the batting order every day. Farrell is managing for his job this year. If Ortiz struggles, I think the Sox struggle and it is going to be long year for everyone involved especially John Farrell who will be out of a job before the season ends.
What player do you expect to make the greatest strides this year?
This is my third time doing this for you Daniel and this is the third time you have had a question like this. In 2014 I boasted how Xander Bogaerts was going to become a superstar. He went on to hit .240 with an OPS of .660 that year. He did have a great season last year though.
Last year, I predicted that Rick Porcello was going to hit his ceiling and become the ace of the staff. Ben Cherington lost his job for thinking like that. Porcello of course went 9-15 last year with an ERA just under 5 runs a game.
It is 2016 and I am deathly afraid to answer this question. I am afraid to jinx someone else. Maybe I can lie and say Pablo Sandova will make great stridesl so that I jinx him so bad that the Sox just eat his contract and bring up Yoan Moncada to dominate all of baseball. However, if I have to be honest I am going to fearfully say Eduardo Rodriguez. He was real good last year even with a tendency to tip pitches. He has apparently fixed this issue. He is also eager to learn from David Price and Price is eager to take him under his wing. The Red Sox could have dual aces in their rotation in 2016.
What’s your projection of the team’s record and where will they finish in the division?
This is a team that could finish with 98 wins or 78 wins. I am surprised how many people feel that the Red Sox are one of the favorites in the AL. I can definitely see a way that they could have a great season but I also see many scenarios where they have a below average to bad season. I am going to split it down the middle and give them 88 wins. That will put them between second and third in the division and battling for a wild card spot late into the season.
Which team in the division do you most enjoy beating and how do you think you’ll fare against them in 2016?
The obvious answer is the Yankees and while the rivalry remains big, it has cooled a bit over the years. It is still great to beat them though. Personally, I have never liked Buck Showalter. He comes off as an arrogant prick who thinks he knows more baseball than anyone in the world. It just rubs me the wrong way.
I met him several years ago in Fenway Park. He was working for ESPN and was with Peter Gammons. Gammons shook my hand, briefly chatted with me, and seemed genuinely appreciative after I told him how much I admired his work. Showalter just stood there awkwardly looking down at me like I was scum. I never forgot that and probably shaped my opinion of him more than it should.
While the Sox have a winning record over his teams, his teams seem to beat the Red Sox when it hurts the most. He also seems to enjoy beating the Red Sox a little too much for my taste. He cemented all of my bad feelings towards him in a game against the Sox in 2011. I go into detail about my hate for Showalter and that game in particular in this blog post.


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