Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Tom Jones' Two Cents: Boston Red Sox still a threat in AL East

The Boston Red Sox came into town Wednesday two games under .500 and in last place in the American League East. They have been decimated by injuries. Their new manager, Bobby Valentine, is taking a pounding from fans, the media and even some of his players. Ace Josh Beckett has become known more for drinking beer, eating fried chicken and playing golf than pitching. And former Rays star Carl Crawford has become a $142 million bust. You get the feeling this team is one more pothole from blowing out a tire and heading over the cliff. But hold on. This team is still a threat in the East. Here are five reasons not to count out the Red Sox.

They're about to get healthier

The Red Sox are managing to tread water even though they are without several key players, including Carl Crawford, Kevin Youkilis and Jacoby Ellsbury. Crawford might be out a while, but Youkilis (back strain) is close to returning and Ellsbury (shoulder) is on pace to return by mid June. That's adding two MVP-quality players to the lineup.

They're still loaded with stars

Much of the reason to doubt the Red Sox is due to last season's epic collapse in September. But from May through August, Boston looked as good as any team. And it still took that colossal gag job and an unreal chain of events on the last night of the season for the Rays to sneak past the Red Sox into the playoffs. Much of Boston's talent remains. The Sox's No. 2, 3 and 4 hitters in the lineup Wednesday night are as good as any 2-3-4 hitters in baseball with David Ortiz, top right (.353, 8 HR, 27 RBIs), Dustin Pedroia, bottom (.311, 5, 18) and Adrian Gonzalez (.287, 2, 20). When Jacoby Ellsbury and Kevin Youkilis return, the lineup remains deep, scary and certainly good enough to win any division.

Their pitching can be superb

If Josh Beckett, top left, can pitch like he did Tuesday (seven innings, no runs, four hits, nine strikeouts), the top half of the rotation remains solid. For as much flak as Beckett has taken, let's not forget he remains one of baseball's best pitchers when healthy and motivated. Jon Lester, center, who has averaged 16 wins over the past four seasons, is as nasty as any lefty in the majors. Clay Buchholz, who came into Wednesday night's start against the Rays with a 4-1 record, can easily be the 17-game winner he was two seasons ago.

They can play defense

Perhaps the most overlooked aspect of any contender is its ability to catch and throw the ball, and the Red Sox do that as well as anyone. They committed only 15 errors in the first 36 games. (The Rays had 32 in their first 37.) Boston's .989 fielding percentage is tied for the second best in the AL. When CF Jacoby Ellsbury returns, he joins 1B Adrian Gonzalez and 2B Dustin Pedroia as current Gold Glove owners.

They have money

The team you are seeing in this series is not necessarily the team you will see later in the summer. If the Red Sox need to plug a hole, they can trade for one. If they need to replace an injured star, they have the checkbook to get another star. If they need help in the bullpen or the middle of the order or the back end of the rotation, they have the means to do so. In other words, the Red Sox are not going to go down quietly. When the Rays and Red Sox meet six times in late September, don't be surprised if the AL East is on the line.

tom jones' two cents

Tom Jones' Two Cents: Boston Red Sox still a threat in AL East 05/16/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, May 16, 2012 10:03pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Jones: Serena Williams, and all women, deserved better from John McEnroe

    Tennis

    John McEnroe might be the best sports analyst in broadcasting.

    Serena Williams makes a backhand return to her sister Venus during the women's singles final at the Australian Open tennis championships in January in  Melbourne, Australia. [AP photo]
  2. Joe Maddon: What my time in Tampa Bay meant, and still means, to me

    The Heater

    Editor's note: The Rays next week in Chicago will meet up for the first time with former manager Joe Maddon, who is in his third year leading the Cubs after nine with the Rays. In advance of the Tuesday-Wednesday series, we asked Maddon to share his thoughts in a column on what his time in Tampa Bay meant to …

    Joe Maddon waits to greet B.J. Upton after Upton's home run in Game 2 of the ALCS in 2008 at Tropicana Field. [Times files (2008)]
  3. Jameis Winston held his pro day at Florida State's indoor practice facility. His pro team will be getting one soon.
  4. Rays series preview: Who are the Pirates?

    Blogs

    After an off day Monday, the Rays head on the road to PNC Park for a three-game interleague series against the Pirates. Here's the information you need to know about Pittsburgh before the action kicks off.

    Record: 35-41, fourth in NL Central

    Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen, left, has rebounded from a rough start, while fellow outfielder Gregory Polanco, right, has fallen off recently.
  5. Countryside alum A.J. Andrews lands in ESPN's annual body issue (w/video)

    Softballpreps

    A.J. Andrews has taken over the spotlight in softball. Last year, the former Countryside High and LSU standout became the first female to win a Rawlings Gold Glove in the award's 59-year existence.

    Former Countryside and LSU softball standout A.J. Andrews will be among 23 athletes to be featured in ESPN The Magazine's body issue. "I have a really ripped back," Andrews says while laughing in the video. [Photo from video]