Make us your home page

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

  1. Rays journal: Kevin Kiermaier returns, Mallex Smith sent to Triple A

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Four batters into his return from a lengthy stay on the disabled list CF Kevin Kiermaier found himself embroiled in a "did he" or "didn't he" debate Friday.

    Tampa Bay Rays center fielder Kevin Kiermaier (39) flies out in the first inning of the game between the Seattle Mariners and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Friday, August 18, 2017.
  2. Rays vs. Mariners, 6:10 p.m. Saturday, Tropicana Field

    The Heater

    Tonight: vs. Mariners

    6:10, Tropicana Field

    TV/radio: Fox Sports Sun; 620-AM, 680-AM (Spanish)

    This is a 2017 photo of Jake Odorizzi of the Tampa Bay Rays baseball team. This image reflects the 2017 active roster as of Saturday, Feb. 18, 2017 when this image was taken. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
  3. Bucs journal: Starting defense disappointed holding Jags to 1 rushing yard


    JACKSONVILLE — The Bucs' starting defense held the Jaguars to a total of 1 rushing yard on seven carries in the first half of Thursday's 12-8 preseason win.

    And its members were disappointed.

    Jacksonville Jaguars running back T.J. Yeldon (24) is thrown for a 1-yard loss as he is stopped by Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Lavonte David (54) and defensive end Robert Ayers (91) during the first half of an NFL preseason football game, Thursday, Aug. 17, 2017, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux) JVS102
  4. Jameis Winston's hardest lesson: He can't always save the day


    TAMPA — Ever wonder what in the world goes through Jameis Winston's mind when he tries to fit the ball in a keyhole as he is being dragged to the turf like he was during Thursday night's 12-8 preseason win over the Jaguars?

    Jameis Winston, left, tries to hang on to the ball as Jaguars defensive end Dante Fowler tries to strip it from him.
  5. Florida starter under center still under wraps


    GAINESVILLE — With two weeks before Florida opens its season against Michigan, the Gators' three-way quarterback battle remains wide open.

    Luke Del Rio, right, is in the mix to start against Michigan in the season opener … as is Malik Zaire and Feleipe Franks.