Tag Archives: 2011 MLB Preview

Red Sox Player Preview: David Ortiz

Lefties, slow starts and birthdays are the greatest challenges facing the Sox slugger

The Boston Red Sox are branded into the identity of the city like no other team and, arguably, no player has meant more to the franchise in the last 10 years than David Ortiz.

Jason Varitek and Tim Wakefield may still be on the team but Ortiz is the only player from that 2004 curse reversing Red Sox team that exemplified “the bunch of idiots”, as Johnny Damon called it.

Affectionately called ‘Big Papi’ by the Fenway faithful, Ortiz has given Sox fans plenty to cheer for in his eight seasons donning a Boston uniform. Whether it’s been his late inning heroics on the field or his charismatic and charitable self off of it, he’s earned the respect and adoration of the city and it’s fans.

However, things haven’t looked so bright for the hero in the past couple of years. Amongst two slow starts as well as steroid accusations in 2009, Papi’s unfortunately lost a bit of that support. Last year, he even heard some boos.

Cities’ relationships with their star athletes tend to end in more tragedies than fairy tales. It’s sad to say but this could very well be the case for Ortiz. 2011 could be Big Papi’s last year with the Red Sox. And he doesn’t plan on retiring.

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BST&N AL East Preview: Tampa Bay Rays

The Rays are missing a lot from last year, yet they'll still have many reasons to celebrate in 2011. (AP Photo)

As much attention and hype the rivalry between the Red Sox and Yankees garners, it hasn’t been the “Evil Empire” that’s given Boston most of its fits in recent years.

Since scrapping the word Devil from their name in 2008, the Tampa Bay Rays have boasted a 30-24 record against the Red Sox –¬†crushing Boston’s dreams of becoming the first major league dynasty since the Yankees back in the ’08 ALCS. In the past three years, the Rays have passed both Boston and New York for the American League East crown twice. The Rays haven’t only been good, they’ve been one of the best teams in baseball. Much to the chagrin of Boston fans.

The bitterness only increased when the Rays signed two former Red Sox heroes back on February 1st. Months after the Sox signed two Rays players, Tampa star Carl Crawford and reliever Dan Wheeler, the Rays announced the signings of both Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon on the same day.

Major Additions: Johnny Damon, Manny Ramirez, Kyle Farnsworth

Though the two players are in the latter stages of their careers and one shouldn’t expect them to deliver the same kind of production as they did in Boston uniforms, their contributions should not be overlooked.¬†Particularly those of Manny Ramirez.

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BST&N AL East Preview: Baltimore Orioles

The next great MLB lefthander - Brian Matusz.

This will mark our first installment of BST&N’s American League East preview. We will start with the much improved Baltimore Orioles. Manager Buck Showalter took over a lousy Baltimore team on August 3rd of last season and led the squad to a 34-23 record to finish out the season – the best mark in the AL East over that stretch.

Buck changed the culture of the clubhouse and the organization instantly and parlayed the success into some interesting off-season moves by the usually scatter-brained Orioles brain trust:

Major Additions: Mark Reynolds, Derek Lee, J.J. Hardy, Vladimir Guerrero, Kevin Gregg, Justin Duchscherer

Major Subtractions: Ty Wigginton, Kevin Millwood

Offense: It’s pretty obvious that the additions the Orioles made far outweigh the losses they incurred. The trades and signings they made instantaneously bolster their line-up. Assuming everyone is healthy (and that’s a big assumption given some of these names), the Orioles could feature a pretty deep order:

Roberts, 2B
Markakis, RF
Lee, 1B
Guerrero, DH
Scott, LF
Reynolds, 3B
Jones, CF
Wieters, C
Hardy, SS

That’s a beefy order 1-9 and not one to be taken lightly. The order features a lot of discipline (Roberts, Lee), pop (Scott, Reynolds), and room for growth (Jones, Wieters). It’s only on paper,¬† but last year’s 27th ranked offense with 613 runs appears to be more daunting for opposing pitching staffs.

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