Following a 69-win season and having not made the playoffs for a third straight year, many expectations of the Red Sox have changed. No longer is the team expected to be a World Series contender; now they are just looking to have a winning record. To some, the thought of this team making the playoffs isn’t even a consideration. But really, why not? With the talent on the roster and a new perspective, making the playoffs is certainly not out of the question.
Although the team went 69-93 in 2012 there is no question that talented players were on the roster. Dustin Pedroia is arguably one of the best second basemen in the game, and a player who brings everything he has onto the field every single night. Jacoby Ellsbury, when healthy, can take over a game in the lead-off spot. In 2011, he hit .321 with 32 home runs and 105 RBIs, MVP-like numbers.
Despite their struggles last year, the team still has dominant pitchers in Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz. Prior to 2012, Lester won 15 or more games in each of his previous four seasons, while not having an ERA higher than 3.47. Buchholz, 28, has only pitched two full seasons in the big leagues – 2010 and 2012. He showed what he is capable of in 2010 when he went 17-7 with an outstanding 2.33 ERA.
After posting their worst season in more than 45 years, obviously there were changes made and new faces added. Though no blockbuster signings were made, the team did add some quality players. Starting pitcher Ryan Dempster was signed, as well as relievers Joel Hanrahan (closer) and Koji Uehara to help bolster the pitching staff. Veteran outfielders Shane Victorino and Jonny Gomes, first baseman Mike Napoli and catcher David Ross were all signed as well. Going along with the nucleus of returning players, these newcomers all have the ability to step in, contribute right away and help contend for a playoff spot.
Going along with the added players is a new perspective and new attitude. There is a new but familiar manager in John Farrell, who was the team’s pitching coach from 2007 to 2010, and he seems to have the team's full attention.
Also, the team is now without three of the biggest names from last year's Opening Day roster.
Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez were all shipped to the West Coast. These players also reportedly had attitude issues, which factored into the trade, thus turning the page to a newly constructed Red Sox roster.
What the newly acquired players and new manager all have in common is they are all “clubhouse guys," easygoing and not difficult to get along with. In building their roster for this season, it is clear that besides adding talent, adding “clubhouse guys" was also a top priority in an effort to commit to a new team identity.
With the core players returning, quality free agents and a new attitude within the organization, why shouldn’t making the playoffs be a realistic expectation for this club?
The majority of players have playoff experience and know what it takes to get there, which should transfer to the younger players on the roster. Add in the fact that the AL East has never been more up for grabs, and you have a Red Sox squad that could be playing meaningful games in September.
Let’s not write off the season before it begins. This is not another sub-.500 team, this is a playoff-contending team that will compete to get back to the postseason for the first time since 2009. All the pieces are in place for it to happen.
Follow Metro Boston Red Sox beat writer Ryan Hannable on Twitter @hannable84