Monday, June 4, 2012

Enigmatic Red Sox Still Hard To Figure

Famed Sox Fan Winston C.
Winston Churchill (pictured) famously called Soviet foreign policy, "a puzzle inside a riddle wrapped in an enigma." As we have said before, this is also an apt description of your 2012 Boston Red Sox. After a dismal start to the season, the starting pitching, bullpen and offense seemed to finally coincide for a while and, SHAZAM! they were in the thick of the packed AL East race.

But as good as this run has been (16-7 over their last 23 games), there are still a boatload of questions that need to be answered before they can legitimately contend for a title. They are (in no particular order):

1.) STARTING PITCHING. Is Clay Buchholz's resurgence for real? Can the team rely on him as a solid #3 starter the rest of the way—and will Beckett and Lester finally live up to their 1A and 1B monikers? Does Dice-K's return force Bard back to the bullpen? If so, who (of the suddenly awesome 'pen) gets moved out? Will Felix Doubront wilt over the Summer, or can he maintain his consistency throughout the year as a more than solid #4? Will the Red Sox keep adding starters (as suggested by WEEI's Rob Bradford) at the trade deadline?

2.) OUTFIELD. Will Carl Crawford and Jacoby Ellsbury come back as All-Stars—or will they return as minimal contributors (or be back too late to make a difference)? Also, what will their return mean for the fill-ins who have produced well (principally Nava, but also Podsednik) and those who have not (McDonald)? Doesn't Nava have to stay? If so, is it the end of the road for Darnell, Marlon Byrd and Scotty Pods?

3.) THE GREAT THIRD BASE LOGJAM CONUNDRUM. Whither Youk? Will Boston deal one of the most popular players on the team to give Will Middlebrooks a clear path to stardom at third base? Will Youkilis be packaged with others (Dice-K?) to more radically re-shape the team (ala 2004)? Or will Adrian Gonzalez pull multiple hammies tracking down rolling doubles in the right field corner well into September?

4.) THE PEDROIA FACTOR. Can Dustin Pedroia really defy the odds and be productive with a torn ligament in his thumb? Or will he return too soon (as early as tomorrow), injure himself more seriously, and miss two months or more? Nothing is more important than the answer to this question. No Muddy Chicken. No Ring. Simple.

So, aside from these fundamental questions, things are pretty much normal here in The Nation as we plunge into June.