This past week I've been thinking a lot about the start of this season. Up till about ten minutes ago, I have to admit that my thoughts were mostly on the gloomy side, stemming mainly from just a few 'decisions' that have irked the hell out of me (Fields/Crede and the Owens love-fest).
But as of about 1:00 p.m. on Saturday, a wave of anticipation has kind of, sort of hit me. Maybe I'm not a 'true baseball fan' (or whatever you want to call it) for it taking it this long to actually look forward to 2008. Nonetheless, I'm glad that 'giddiness' is back.
I'm excited for several reasons. I'm excited to see Alexei Ramirez play in games that mean something. I know I shouldn't take a whole lot from his numbers down in Arizona, but damn would I be fibbing if I said that his play down there doesn't have me on the 'can't wait to see him live' side. Mind you, I'm not going to let his play cloud my judgment --- I obviously don't expect him to hit .325/.360/.500 for the Sox -- but I have to say that his spring has given me a bit of optimism in hoping that he can become something better than an uber-version of Pablo Ozuna (i.e. good bench player but not someone you want starting for your ballclub). If he's even able to muster something like a .265/.300/.400 line, the Sox will have a helluva lot more flexibility. And if he -- by small chance -- comes close to touching his PECOTA projection (which I completely understand isn't a whole lot more than an educated guess) of .295/.342/.452... damn -- we'd have our SS of the future locked in at an awesome price. Not to mention the other string of effects it would have, such as flexibility in getting two draft picks for The OC as well as giving the Sox flexibility in not having to worry about SS for the next half-decade.
I'm excited about Swisher. How can you not be? Swish isn't a superstar, but he's just about on that edge. My expectations are high -- he's moving to a much better park and he's 27 -- conditions seem perfect for Swisher to move into that 130-140 OPS+ area. He also an 'aesthetically pleasing' ballplayer.
I'm excited about Danks. He's the breakout candidate for many people here and for good reason -- he's got two great mentors immediately above him in Buehrle and Cooper, not to mention his own 'talent'. I don't think it's a stretch at all to say Danks will be in that league-average area (96-102 ERA+) at season's end.
I'm excited about Vazquez and Buehrle. Vazquez is an absolute bundle of joy too watch. To this day I don't like who we had to give up to get him, but identifying Vazquez (and then locking him up to a relatively cheap deal after a merely average season) as a guy to go after was a very intelligent move on our GM's part. Buehrle's always fun to watch -- the pace at which he pitches, his continual quest of beating his PECOTA projection... Plus, I'm kind of like JRE (or at least I think it was JRE who said this) -- there's something extra-special about rooting for guys who the Sox drafted and developed.
I'm excited about Quentin and Anderson. If Anderson can be 'happy' in his role, I think 4th OFer may suit him well -- he's a great defender at all three spots and he's probably around a .700 OPS OFer which is acceptable for a 4th OFer. And when Quentin gets healthy, I'm excited at the thought of seeing what his capabilities may be.
Lastly -- I'm sure there's more but I'll spare you guys, as this post isn't really a whole lot more than the "fanboy" side of me, something you could probably get by just scrolling through other random message boards (not from me, but from other people -- if that makes sense) -- I'm excited about the bullpen. Dotel's got nasty stuff (keep that arm healthy, Herm!); Jenks is becoming more of a pitcher rather than 100 MPH followed by a hook (not that that's not fun to watch, mind you, but I think his new way will prove a bit more effective). I'll also love watching our two situational guys, Logan and (hopefully) Wasserman. There's just something about being able to get out major league hitters throwing from a ridiculous angle that makes me giggle a bit.