Back in February, we speculated on the type of team we'd get in the 2007 Boston Red Sox—and our consensus was that "they could just as easily run away with the AL East as finish (again) behind the Blue Jays."
How prescient we were! Unfortunately, the way the first half finished up, we are again left in that "never-never" land between optimism and fatalism. Which team will we see after the break? The juggernaut that forged a 14-game edge over the Empire with solid starting pitching, a varied offense and a stellar bullpen? Or the rag-tag bunch that limped out of Mo-Town with no clutch hitting, spotty pitching and no sense of urgency? Your guess is as good as ours.
The pleasant surprises in the first half have been many: Pedroia showing he belongs, Youk on an offensive tear, Okajima the dominant set-up guy, Varitek steady and injury-free, Lowell on a mini-MVP run. Having said that, there have been an almost equal number of disappointments: Manny's and Papi's lagging offensive numbers, Lugo sinking into an Offensive Black Hole, Coco the Inconsistent, Schill's up and down year (and injury), Drew's guaranteed ground ball cup-cakes to second base, Wily Mo's sad decline. Obviously, being 10 games in front is better than the alternative—but honestly, do you feel comfortable? Keep in mind that the Carmine Hose have occupied first place at the All-Star break for three years in a row. How did that work out for us in '05 and '06?
Our sense is that Theo needs to make a few fairly substantial moves to right the 2007 ship. Here are our suggestions:
1.) Move Tavarez to the bullpen. This gives us a steady right- and left-handed option in front of Papelbon;
2.) Bring up Lester now to fill the #5 spot in the rotation. How much more fine-tuning does he need?;
3.) Trade for a reliable back-up RH outfielder and cut our losses with Wily Mo.
If we can make these tweaks and give up minimal prospects, we should be celebrating our first (outright) Division flag since 1995. If not, we could just as easily be focused exclusively on Foxboro in October.