Likes, dislikes: Red Sox have a better tone, but lots of questions
The Red Sox have improved some things after their disastrous 2012 season, but there's still quite a bit not to like about a team that finished in last place last year.
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- What I like, and don't like, about the Red Sox:
Things I like
-- It doesn't take long to see and feel that the tone in the Red Sox clubhouse has changed. Jon Lester says he was embarrassed and humbled by the way he pitched in 2012, and it seems that's true of the team as a whole. How that translates to wins and losses, we'll see.
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• The bullpen looks deep and strong. The Red Sox added closer Joel Hanrahan and middle reliever Koji Uehara. They saw Daniel Bard return to the bullpen, which seems to be where he belonged all along. They've watched the development of Junichi Tazawa. There should be enough good arms to hold leads, if the Red Sox can get leads.
• It's understandable that we focus on all that went wrong, but the Red Sox still have Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz and Jacoby Ellsbury, all proven championship-level players. Is this really last-place talent?
• The offseason additions may not have been exciting, but the Red Sox did fill multiple needs. And even they say they were searching for talent and not just character, they did add a lot of players who come to them from winning environments (Shane Victorino from the Phillies, David Ross from the Braves, Jonny Gomes from the A's, etc.).
Things I don't like
• Can we just assume that the rotation that has been lousy for more than a year will suddenly return to being championship-level? Can we assume that John Lackey will make a strong return from Tommy John surgery, no matter how good he has looked early this spring?
• The Red Sox saw John Farrell as the perfect fit as their manager, but some of the things that happened to Farrell's teams in Toronto have to be seen as cause for some concern. The Blue Jays failed last season in large part because of pitching injuries, but there were clubhouse issues, too. And Farrell's Jays got such a reputation for bad base-running that when the Jays had their first screwup on the bases this spring, one Toronto writer described it as "Farrell-esque."
• Winning isn't all about having star players, but it sure does strike you that the Red Sox came to camp this year with fewer true stars than they had a year ago. The big trade with the Dodgers was celebrated because the Sox got out from under some really bad contracts, but it's not like the Red Sox went out and spent that money on acquiring proven stars to replaced the failed ones they traded away.
• Bringing Ryan Dempster to the American League never seemed like a good idea when the Rangers did it last July. Sure enough, Dempster had mixed (often bad) results. So then the Red Sox doubled down and brought Dempster to the American League East.
• The Red Sox love to talk about how many great prospects they have, and they do have quite a bit of young talent. But winning with kids is never going to be easy, and winning with kids in Boston is even tougher. And waiting for the kids to come is toughest of all.