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Napoli, others offer Red Sox hope for 2013

Posted by Obnoxious Boston Fan  December 4, 2012 12:42 PM

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The Red Sox have plenty of seats available for the 2013 season. Tickets aren't going so fast. (OBF Photos)

We've gone from Carl Crawford to Mike Napoli in two short years.

They're making progress on Yawkey Way.

Small Ball Red Sox style.

The Red Sox landed their most-coveted free-agent prize of the offseason by signing Napoli, the former Texas catcher/first baseman who did nothing but torment them at Fenway Park.

Our Father's Red Sox are back with a vengeance. Gone are the expectations of the "Greatest Team of All Time" and the foolishness of acquisitions like John Lackey, Dice-K, Crawford and any other unworthy big-money name that would feed the Monster.

1946.jpgThere's a new reality on Yawkey Way as the Red Sox look to extend their fictional sell-out streak. The primacy the Red Sox occupied in the offseason in these parts has been obliterated by their Stalingrad-esque demise since Sept. 1, 2011. Last offseason, the Hot Stove burned with the ferocity of Krypton on its final day. Bobby Valentine was brought in to save the franchise from itself. Even as Jonathan Papelbon Riverdanced off to Philadelphia, the Red Sox were all the rage, in every sense of the word. The Red Sox put select tickets on sale Saturday and hosted their annual Christmas at Fenway event. Missed it myself by a week or so - you can enjoy the photos of my recent visit to Fenway sprinkled throughout this post - but apparently I wasn't alone. Word has it that this didn't go as well as hoped. By the way, the Fenway Park Tour ($11) is a must for any Red Sox fan, not just the Pink Hatted types. It was an interesting experience to tour the place while it was nearly empty. It somehow appears to shrink in the cold weather like so many other things.

Jacoby.jpgThe Red Sox' sellout streak is suspect, to put it in diplomatic terms. Sunday, a day after some 2013 tickets went on sale, I got an e-mail telling me that "select September games" were available. Meanwhile, Opening Day has always been a packed affair. As of Tuesday morning, you could still get two pretty decent seats - Grandstand Section 31 (left field), Row 17 Seats 13 and 14 - in the Opening Day Sox Pax, which also includes tickets for the May 9 game against the Twins, the May 23 game against Terry Francona and his Indians and the Sept. 3 game against the American League champion Tigers. Total cost - $208 plus fees per ticket. That's just $52 a game (thank you Arlington Public School system). Not a bad deal, especially considering Opening Day is in the mix and you're not sitting in the Dunkin' Dugout in Copley Square.

That's all the evidence you need to know that Red Sox tickets aren't exactly the hot item on everyone's Christmas list. Fans are burnt out on the Red Sox after expending everyone conceivable emotion but happiness in 2012. It seems we all need a break from the Sox and everything to do with them - at least until Truck Day or until they manage to get some pitching.

Jonny Gomes, 32, is being brought in to play right field and hopefully help fix what ails the clubhouse. Again, he's a right-handed hitter. Didn't know they still made those these days. He can hit with power, works the count and knows both the Red Sox and most of the A.L. East. Here's another attitude you can't help but love. Gomes considers Boston “the Mecca of baseball" and will come not come to town with the Crawford "Deer In the Headlights Look" or the "It's God's Will" apathy of Adrian "Fan Cave" Gonzalez.

20121120_110301.jpgWhen it comes to the Red Sox, Gomes is like the rest of us and sees nowhere to go but up, telling the Globe: "I know the core guys of the Red Sox ... The Red Sox are going to play with the biggest chip on their shoulder. I would be honored and love to bring back the fire to the Nation. Me being a historian of the game and a fan of the game, it was a pretty easy decision to call Fenway home ... I always say I represent the grease that runs the machine, not the machine. I represent the foundation, not the star at the top.”

Where has this guy been all our lives - or at least since 2007?

The hits kept on coming Tuesday with the signing of Shane Victorino - another 3-year, $37.5 million special at the Winter Meetings. The switch-hitting outfielder hit .255 with 11 homers and 55 RBIs for the Phillies and Dodgers last season and could be the 5th No. 5 hitter in the Red Sox lineup. His most important role will be as safety value for Jacoby Ellsbury if/when the center fielder gets hurt and/or traded. The Red Sox payroll sits at about $120 million right now with this deal, and there's a bit more room to go. Last year's payroll averaged about $180 million - depending on whether or not Josh Beckett was being thrown out from right field in Los Angeles.

R.A. Dickey - the 38-year-old Cy Young Award winning knuckleballer - is being shopped around by the Mets and the Red Sox are interested, along with at least seven other teams. More good news on Yawkey Way, especially if the cost is only Jarrod Saltalamacchia or Ryan Lavarnway. The Mets reportedly wanted "top prospects" Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley, Jr. in return, a price too high for Boston. And right-handed pitcher and free-agent Brandon McCarthy, late the A's, is also being pursued by the Red Sox. McCarthy's 2012 season ended after he was hit in the head with a comeback line-drive on Sept. 5 and required brain surgery. He has a 17-15 record and 3.29 ERA with Oakland over the past two seasons. One could argue you might need brain surgery if you were a free-agent pitcher and wanted to sign with the Red Sox considering their dysfunction and performance during the past 15 months. But the Red Sox are in a position to outbid anyone for anyone's services, should they desire.

Here's the next potential No. 2 or 3 starter of the Red Sox on Twitter:

Gotta love this guy already. Check out his Twitter bio: "I pitch baseballs. I love Liverpool and LSU football. Those are different footballs but I'm not explaining the difference. My wife says to say that I'm married." Liverpool. Sounds like the Red Sox may have their man. Wonder what he thinks of Roush-Fenway Racing and LeBron James?

20121120_110432.jpgBen Cherington and John Farrell can only do so much. (That's Yours Truly sitting in the old Bullpen Hat Cart, not Cherington.) The Red Sox would be foolish to blow a majority of $250 million or so saved by the Great Salary Dump/Organ Transplant of 2012 on any free-agent available right now. Their best hope is to build around what's leftover from their last-place finish, with addition of Gomes, Victorino and Napoli and the return of David Oritz, and proceed accordingly.

Right now, the cornerstone of this entire organization - at least in terms of on-field performance - will be - heaven help us - John Lackey. Starting pitching was the problem in 2012 and remains the challenge for 2013.

If Twin Fister can return and provide 200 productive innings, 15 wins and keep his ERA below 5.00, the Red Sox might indeed contend for that elusive second wildcard. Those might seem like crazy or unattainable numbers, but Lackey might surprise, especially if Farrell can somehow motivate him to perform. Perhaps the combination of making his life a living hell here and the lure of returning to the West Coast (where his Newport Beach, Calif., estate is currently for sale for $10 million) might be enough to get him to pitch well enough to increase his trade value. He's certainly exceeded expectations on the downside since his arrival in Boston.

Talk of trading Jon Lester for Royals' phenom Will Myers has excited the Sabremetrics crowd. The Red Sox lost 93 games last season, so no one is immune to consideration. But the need, as always, remains pitching and giving up even Lester demands some plan to pick up at least his starts and innings in return. If Lester can be dealt for Myers and replaced on the back end with someone capable of at least getting through the season with a winning record (see McCarthy above), then a deal like that would make sense for the Red Sox. Getting a lefty in that spot would be an added bonus.

Napoli was the coveted prize and the Red Sox got him, and got him on terms they wanted - namely three years at $39 million. There's a lot to like about Napoli's presence on the Red Sox, namely the fact that he won't be hitting against the Red Sox and he will be batting from the right side of the plate. Since the start of 2011, Napoli has a .379 on-base percentage and .553 slugging percentage and 54 home runs. He was also Lackey's former battery-mate in Anaheim, another important reason why he's such a good fit for the 2013 Red Sox. And at Fenway, he's a regular Jim Rice. In his 73 plate appearances at America's Ballpark, he's hit .306 with a .397 on-base percentage and a .710 slugging percentage — for a 1.107 OPS. That's gotta be better than porn for the likes of Bill James.

Let's see...Valentine is gone, Farrell is here, Ortiz is in the fold, Victorino is ready to step in for Ellsbury, Gomes will straighten out the clubhouse, Napoli is coming to Fenway full-time to crush Yankees pitching, the team is actively pursuing more pitching and there hasn't been any Lackey "beer-in-each-hand-sightings" since August.

Fourth-place is so close you can almost smell it, even if the pitching still stinks.

So far, so good in the offseason for the Red Sox.

In case you didn't notice, you're not alone.

Hey, wonder if that Opening Day Sox Pax is still available?

As always, let us know what you think. Join our in-game Patriots-Texans fan chat on Monday at 8:15 p.m. and look for our weekly NFL Power Rankings on Saturday. Post your thoughts here, on our Obnoxious Boston Fan Facebook page or e-mail me obnoxiousbostonfan@hotmail.com. And don't forget to follow us on Twitter @realOBF.

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Obnoxious Boston Fan offers a fun, unique and biting perspective on the Red Sox, Celtics, Bruins, Patriots and whatever else people are talking about in the world of sports. We More »
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