One man's opinion(s) after two weeks of watching the Sox

One man's opinion(s) after two weeks of watching the Sox
February 22, 2013, 2:15 pm
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FORT MYERS, Fla. -- It's been two weeks since I've arrived in Fort Myers. Now that the endless PFP and batting practice is winding down and Grapefruit League play is about to begin Saturday, it  seems like a good time to empty the notebook of observations and opinions:

  • Newcomer Mike Napoli is regarded as perhaps the strongest right-handed hitter on the team, but some of the BP sessions from Will Middlebrooks this spring have been spectacular. Fans are often shocked when they see how big Middlebrooks is.
  • I asked Pedro Martinez which Red Sox pitcher had surprised him the most. He quickly offered up lefty Drake Britton. Maybe Pedro sees something we don't -- Britton is 11-30 with a 4.68 ERA in five minor-league seasons.
  • You hear a lot of speculation this spring about the impact of in-season PED testing this season. Some believe some big names will test positive and others think there will be some slow starts from players.
  • You might say third-base coach Brian Butterfield is a bit of a hard worker. Butterfield routinely reports to the ballpark at 3:30 a.m. His energy level is ridiculous.
  • Andrew Miller looks like he's auditioning to become a member of The Black Crowes instead of the Red Sox bullpen.
  • Ryan Dempster, who loves to do impressions and has an understated sense of humor, once performed a stand-up set at an Open Mic night in a Boston comedy club when he was in town for an interleague series with the Florida Marlins.
  • Red Sox officials can't stop remarking about how well Andrew Bailey is handling the arrival of Joel Hanrahan and Hanrahan's assumption of the closer's role, which Bailey owned last season. Bailey has said -- and done -- all the right things. "His makeup,'' said one Sox executive, "is off the charts.''
  • It's stunning to see how few people attended workouts at Fenway South this year. It wasn't too long ago that crowds were 10 deep around every practice field, with shuttle buses taking people from overflowing parking lots to the complex.
  • This year, there were days when there were only a few hundred people in attendance. That's what happens when you miss the postseason three years in a row and field teams with unlikable players. More evidence of the team's declining popularity? The college doubleheader, once a separate-admission affair, this season offered the two games for the price of one -- and JetBlue Park was about 70 percent capacity. I'm guessing fans arriving before dawn to buy standing-room tickets for exhibition games is a thing of the past, too.
  • If John Lackey has lost "only'' 17 pounds -- as John Farrell claims -- then the pitcher needs to invest in a new scale. I'd say Lackey has dropped twice that amount. Easily.
  • Sure, the pitching has to be better. But another area where the Red Sox need big improvement is their on-base ability. Last year's .315 OBP, their lowest as a team in a decade, isn't going to cut it.
  • It's smart for the Red Sox to integrate some of their former stars into the family, serving as instructors. The Yankees have done this for years with Reggie Jackson, Ron Guidry and others. Now, the Sox have Martinez, Jason Varitek and Tim Wakefield in the fold. The days of the franchise being estranged from former stars are over.
  • Interesting contrast: The Yankees have begun some contract extension talks with free-agent-to-be Robinson Cano, a Scott Boras client. But no such talks have been held between the agent and the Red Sox about Jacoby Ellsbury, another Boras client entering his walk year. Part of the problem is determining Ellsbury's real market value. Is he the MVP candidate of 2011? Or the guy who couldn't stay on the field the season before and season after?