To try and help ease the pain of the Cubs series, I have a special treat for you. I sat down with Derek Stykalo from BoSox Injection on Thursday, to talk Brewers/Red Sox. This could be a World Series Preview (it could happen), so I wanted to dig deep and find out what makes the Red Sox tick. How could I learn the secrets of all their Red Sox power? Is it witchcraft, or some sort of time machine perhaps? Be that as it may, we must do battle with them. So it best we study them.
Derek was kind enough to answer a few questions about our weekend foes:
6 Pack of Questions: RtB @ BoSox …Injection
RtB: Nom-ah. There, I got it out of my system. Derek, what sets the 2011 Red Sox apart from the 2004 and 2007 World Series Champs?
BoSox: This season is a season that started with high expectations and nothing short of a World Series Title will do. In 2004 it was a similar feel with the signing of Curt Schilling, but this year with the additions of Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez there is even more expectation to win. As of late, the ball club is doing incredible things, both offensively and on the mound. The hitting alone is different than those two years as the Sox boast a dangerous and threatening lineup 1 trough 9, when either Jason Varitek or Jared Saltalamacchia are hitting (which has been more lately than early on). The other big difference is in the pitching. Jon Lester and Josh Beckett have been quite dominant this year, with Beckett having the better numbers despite a lack of offense that gave him six no decisions already this year. Those championship years the pitching was good, but when Lester, Beckett and Clay Buchholz are all firing like they can, I like our chances in a best of five and even a best of seven series. The bullpen has been a little shaky this year, with Daniel Bard and Bobby Jenks both dealing with control problems. Those two championship seasons saw two great and reliable bullpens, something that the Red Sox will have to improve if they want to add another championship banner to the wall.
RtB: After missing almost all of last season, Jacoby Ellsbury has been stellar this season. Are you surprised by his amazing start? Also, do you think he will be overlooked for the All-Star Game?
BoSox: It’s not surprising that Ellsbury is playing well, but playing this well does come as a bit of a surprise. Nobody other than Ellsbury himself expected these kinds of numbers from him at this point of the season. After suffering cracked ribs that kept him to only a handful of games, he’s come back in a huge way. The Red Sox are a different team with him batting leadoff. He leads the league in stolen bases and because of that threat, the Red Sox are a better team. It took a few games to find his way back to the leadoff spot in the lineup, but it’s safe to say he isn’t’ moving again this year. The interesting situation is whether or not the Red Sox can resign him after the year. He’s having a career year and go figure, it’s in a contract year. They’d be foolish to let him walk. Carl Crawford is not comfortable at leadoff and he hasn’t produced like Ellsbury has this year.
As far as the All-Star game, he’s closing in on Josh Hamilton for the last outfield starting spot and earlier today he only trailed by 300,000 votes. It might sound like a lot, but I like his chances of catching and surpassing Hamilton. Should that not happen, it’s safe to say he’ll be there as a reserve. He’s a lot of fun to watch both in the field and on the base paths. His speed is electric and it can and has changed the course of many games in the Red Sox favor.
RtB: John Lackey has been less than impressive so far this season (4-5, 7.41 ERA), what do Red Sox fans think about his signing after a year and some change? Good decision or bad?
BoSox: Lackey showed signs of brilliance last year and even in a couple games early this year. The problem with Big John is when he’s bad, he’s down right dreadful. No command, no velocity and no heartbeat it seems at times. I am being to hard on him, as it has been known he does have some family issues going on at home which is clearly a distraction for him. His latest stint on the DL appears to have righted the ship, so Red Sox nation can hope. His two starts since his return have been good, but not great. He still gave up 4 or 5 runs and thanks to an explosive offense those nights he’s managed to get the wins. Fans are holding their breath with Lackey every time he takes the mound, just because no one knows which Lackey will show up. As far as the contract, at this point there aren’t many Red Sox fans who would say the big contract was a good decision. He just hasn’t lived up to the hype and only a few games has he shown that dominating stuff that Red Sox fans witnessed in 2009 when Lackey almost single handedly beat the Red Sox in the ALCS. There has been a lot of speculation about whether or not he should go to the bullpen when he was struggling, trade him, outright release him or designate him for assignment. With the way both Tim Wakefield and Alfredo Aceves stepped in and delivered in Lackey’s absence, it’s fair to say that Lackey has a short leash with Red Sox fans for the remainder of his contract.
RtB: Will Jonathan Papelbon be the closer in Boston next year, or has the organization had enough of his shenanigan’s?
BoSox: Short answer, no. I struggle with this one as he appears to have refound his ability to shut the door despite making innings way to more interesting than they need to be. He recently became the fastest closer to 200 career saves and all signs point to Papelbon being the Papelbon of old, like the one in 2007 that was simply lights out. I’ve talked with a couple of Red Sox reporters and the general consensus with all the media is that Papelbon will test the free agency market this fall. Aside from his shenanigan’s, his cost appears to be too high for what Red Sox management feel he’s worth. I’m hoping that Papelbon continues to be lights out and close out big games for the remainder of the year and hopefully the post season. Then management may be crazy to let him walk. Daniel Bard, the reliever that’s been tagged as the closer of the future for Boston hasn’t shown he’s got that mentality to shut down big innings when the team needs it most. He’s been uncharacteristically inconsistent, albeit, most of his struggles came when the entire team was struggling. Bobby Jenks was brought to Boston in the event Papelbon leaves and Bard falters then Jenks is there to be the closer. There isn’t enough room to get into Jenks and how lousy he’s been. Another stint on the DL for him and should he come back to the ‘pen and continue to stink, he might find himself on the first duck boat out of Boston.
RtB: If you could pinpoint one thing that the Red Sox are missing in order to win another ring, what would that thing be?
BoSox: For the first two and a half months, it’s been a solid, reliable middle relief guy. Injuries to Rich Hill and Matt Albers have them out of action despite having a crack at becoming that guy; but the door still remains open. As mentioned, Jenks is awful and Bard is the set up guy. Alfredo Aceves is the most consistent thing that the Red Sox have had so far in that position, but one injury to Lackey or another starter and he’ll get more spot starts than bullpen action. The infield for the Red Sox is set, with Jed Lowrie and Marco Scutaro manning shortstop. The outfield is pretty much set as well, although J.D. Drew has been Drew like which is inconsistent. Not to worry in right field however as there is plenty of depth in AAA for the outfield. Should things remain constant then the bullpen could use that guy who works every second night for 1, 2 maybe 3 innings when needed. Another lefty in the pen couldn’t hurt either as Hideki Okajima wants out of Boston and Rich Hill is hurt as I mentioned.
RtB: The Sox have dominated the Yankees so far this year, is that because the Sox are far superior, or do you think that the Yankees are on the decline?
BoSox: I think it’s a bit of both. The Red Sox are definitely in the Yankees head now following back to back series sweeps in the Bronx. While the Red Sox appear to have a superior club, never count out those damn Yankees. I personally think they are on the decline as they have a lot of guys who are showing their age, all in the same season. Jeter can’t hit anything other than singles, A-Rod is typical A-Rod; he’ll hit some home runs then strikeout swinging to end the game. Even the all might Mariano Rivera has blown a few saves early this year and hasn’t appeared to be the old Rivera. The one uneasy fact that remains for Red Sox fans is two years ago, the Red Sox took the first 9 games from the Yankees in the regular season, only to lost the next 10 and the season series. So no lead over the Yankees is safe until it’s October. None the less, it’s been fun to watch the Red Sox dominate the Yanks so far and it’s funny how quiet all the Yankee fans have been since the Sox started to roll.
Please, do yourself a favor and go over to BoSox Injection and check out my answers to his questions. Another special thank you to Derek Stykalo for showing me Boston hospitality. Who says chivalry is dead? I had a great time. Enjoy the series, your weekend, and anything else you care to enjoy. Go Brewers!!