McAdam: Sox season begins under much uncertainty

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McAdam: Sox season begins under much uncertainty

DETROIT -- They spent the winter digging out from the worst finish to a season since 1978, a public relations nightmare that resulted in an off-the-field house-cleaning.

They hired a new general manager and a new manager, trying to rinse the organization of the mess that had been made.

For the most part, the roster underwent only minor revisions. Uncharacteristically, they seemed to spend much of the winter waiting for prices to drop, a far cry from just 12 months earlier when they handed out 142 million to Carl Crawford, traded for Adrian Gonzalez and, for what it was worth, "won the off-season."

They found themselves serving as punch lines for their clubhouse misdeeds. You couldn't think or say the words "fried chicken" or "beer" without first thinking of the Red Sox.

The cloud over them never seemed to lift. In January, Carl Crawford required wrist surgery, delaying his season and slowing his chances to make up for a terribly disappointing first season in Boston.

Spring training brought them a chance to turn the page, which, with an exception or two, they seemed to manage. Bobby Valentine, the new manager, displayed boundless energy and offered the promise of a re-boot.

All of which leads them here, to the 2012 season and the hope that accompanies Opening Day.

And never have the Red Sox needed a fresh start.

For the past 10 years, really, since the arrival of the team's ownership, the start of the season has meant great expectations. From 2003 through last fall, the Red Sox won two World Series, went to the seventh game of the American League Championship Series twice and qualified for the playoffs six times while missing out on a seventh trip in the final out of the final game.

Each Opening Day, the expectation was that the Sox would play deep into October, that another World Series title, or, at the very least, an American League pennant, would be within reach.

This year, for the first time in a long time, it's difficult to find that same optimism.

The Red Sox enter the year with two unproven starters, without their starting left fielder, and with questions about their shortstop.

Worst of all, they open the season without a proven closer. Andrew Bailey was supposed to fill that role, but a thumb injury late in March required thumb surgery Wednesday, sidelining him until past mid-season at minimum.

Every team is supposed to start the season 0-0, but it's hard not to think that the Red Sox aren't starting out with a deficit.

The early-season schedule does them no favors, with 15 games, right out of the chute, against contenders: Detroit, Toronto, Tampa Bay, Texas and New York.

Try as they might, they won't be able to ease into the season. The schedule is unforgiving. For a team which stumbled badly in the early going of the last two seasons, a challenge awaits them again.

All is not lost, of course. The offense is mighty and should produce more runs than most. The front end of the rotation, should it remain healthy, is formidable, with something to prove.

And their is the collective will of the team in general to distance itself from last September's disaster. Even for modern athletes with guaranteed contracts, pride can serve as a huge motivational tool.

Certainly, things could be worse. This is not Kansas City or Baltimore or Pittsburgh, where winning seasons are distant memories and not even the arrival of Opening Day supplies the necessary amount of optimism.

But for a team which hasn't made the playoffs in either of the previous two seasons, there is the nagging thought that the decade of excellence the Red Sox have enjoyed may have come to a close and hard times are ahead.

In that sense, as first pitches are thrown and anthem sung and the season begins, the 2012 Red Sox find themselves not only trying to run away from last fall, but also, rediscover what made them so successful in the not-too-distant past.

Pedroia (knee) out of lineup again after leaving game early Thursday

Pedroia (knee) out of lineup again after leaving game early Thursday

Dustin Pedroia is out of the lineup again tonight after leaving the Red Sox game Thursday night with knee pain in the fifth inning.

Josh Rutledge will start at second base as the Sox open a three-game series with the Seattle Mariners at Fenway Park.  

The weather and sloppy field conditions were a factor in John Farrell deciding to get Pedroia out of the game Thursday and conditions haven’t improved significantly Friday. 

Pedroia (.288, two homers, 21 RBI) had surgery on that knee in October. It's the same leg that was hurt when Manny Machado slid into Pedroia at second base in April, the slide that sparked the plunking war between the Orioles and Red Sox.

The full lineups: 

MARINERS
Jean Segura SS
Guillermo Heredia CF
Robinson Canó 2B
Nelson Cruz DH
Kyle Seager 3B
Danny Valencia 1B
Taylor Motter LF
Ben Gamel RF
Mike Zunino C

Yovanni Gallardo RHP

RED SOX
Mookie Betts RF
Andrew Benintendi LF
Xander Bogaerts SS
Hanley Ramirez DH
Mitch Moreland 1B
Josh Rutledge 2B
Jackie Bradley Jr CF
Christian Vazquez C
Deven Marrero 3B

Eduardo Rodriguez LHP


 

Source: Celtics offseason focus is an All-Star frontcourt addition

Source: Celtics offseason focus is an All-Star frontcourt addition

WALTHAM, Mass. – No matter how an NBA team’s season ends, change is inevitable.
 
And while there’s no doubt that the Celtics are on the right track in terms of their ascension in the NBA, it's too soon to tell how many players on the Celtics’ 15-man roster that Danny Ainge, the president of basketball operations, will bring back next season.

MORE CELTICS

 
“One thing I do know. He’ll make the best decisions for the team and if players don’t end up being back here, I wish the best for them,” said Avery Bradley.  “Those are my brothers. We all had a special year. I appreciate everything, all the time I had with them. I’d love for all those guys to be back. We’ll see.”
 
And with Boston coming off its first trip to the Eastern Conference finals since 2012, adding just any player won’t cut it.
 
The Celtics’ mindset now isn’t just to improve, but get good enough to where they can better compete with the likes of Cleveland, which just ended the Celtics’ season with a Game 5 thumping.
 
The most significant move made by the Celtics last offseason was the signing of Al Horford to a four-year, $113 million contract.
 
Like most of his Boston teammates this season, Horford is eager to see what changes are in store this summer.
 
“We just have to wait and see,” Horford said. “We had such a good year. A lot of positive things. It’ll be interesting to see what Danny, the organization feels is going to be the next step.”
 
Multiple league sources have told CSNNE.com in recent weeks that the Celtics are focused on landing an All-Star caliber talent in the frontcourt.
 
That makes sense when you consider how guard-dominant the Celtics were this season and how that had a negative impact on the team’s rebounding and, to a lesser degree, their defense as a whole.
 
Gordon Hayward has emerged as a target, but all indications – for now at least – point toward him returning to Utah.
 
The Celtics may pursue Los Angeles Clippers big man Blake Griffin. Although like Hayward, he too is expected to re-sign with his current team for a max contract (for Griffin that would be five years, $175 million).
 
While trades are certainly in the cards for Boston, at this point the Celtics seem more inclined to improve their overall talent base via the draft and free agency.
 
“It’s always a good thing when you have the opportunity to add value to your team and don’t have to change your team too much,” said Celtics’ reserve Gerald Green, who will be a free agent this summer. “I’m going to be very interested to see what they do as far as building a team. We’re in a good place right now as far as being where we want to be organization-wise. I feel like we’re one or two steps away from actually being at the Finals. I think Danny has some things to think about, but I’m sure he’s going to do the job. I’ve seen Danny go to work in these situations. He always makes the team better. I’m pretty sure he’s got something planned that, at the end of the day, is going to make this organization better.”
 
Indeed, the Celtics could very well strengthen their position for next season by simply locking up some of their core players who may hit the free agent market soon.
 
Boston may look to work out an extension with Isaiah Thomas before the start of this season. Because if he hits free agency in the summer of 2018, he will be poised to command a salary that in year one would be worth more than the entire four-year, $27 million deal he signed with Phoenix in 2014.
 
“Boston’s changed my career, changed my life,” Thomas said. “I would love to be here long-term and win championships here. But as you guys know, it’s a business and anything can happen. I know that and understand that. But I would love to be here. This has been everything to me. This city, this organization … it’s been good.”