Happy New Year, loyal readers of Extra Bases. Here is wishing you health, happiness, and a baseball team that is at least tolerable to watch.
To that end, here are some fearless (and probably stupid) predictions for 2013:
• The Sox won’t make the playoffs; there’s too much ground to make up and the rotation remains suspect. But they will have a winning record and be in contention for a playoff berth in September.
• The sellout streak will end April 10 against the Orioles, the second home game of the season. Outside of 4 Yawkey Way, nobody will be all that upset about it.
• Will Middlebrooks will hit 25 home runs, drive in 90 runs, and strike out 125 times, entertaining everybody along the way. He’s on the verge of big things in Boston.
• David Ortiz will start slow then come on, getting to 25 homers before the season is over with an OPS of .850 or so.
• The easy prediction is that Jacoby Ellsbury will have a big year and depart as a free agent. But here’s a guess that he just has a so-so year and ends up staying in Boston when the other options aren’t as glittery as he hoped. The outlier for Ellsbury was 2011. You can’t expect that again.
• John Farrell will make an example of somebody in spring training by releasing them or demoting them. The Red Sox have to stop coddling players who haven’t won a playoff game since 2008 and Farrell has the gravitas to do that.
• Rubby De La Rosa makes 20 starts in the majors and wins 12 games.
• Felix Doubront will not make 20 starts or win 12 games.
• Fans will come to like John Lackey. Shane Victorino and Jonny Gomes, too. Lackey may not always say the right thing, but he goes about his business professionally and competes when he’s on the mound.
• Bobby Valentine will tell a New York-based reporter something about a Red Sox player that he doesn’t think is too controversial but ends up making big headlines. Dustin Pedroia, unfettered, will fire back. Yes, that is the easiest prediction ever.
• Another former manager, Terry Francona, will make a few comments in his upcoming book that cause a minor ruckus. That is the second-easiest prediction ever.
“Francona, The Red Sox Years” comes out Jan. 22 by the way.
• Speaking of Pedroia, this is a huge year for him. Is he still a perennial All-Star or a guy who beat up his body too much by playing with reckless abandon? He has had a lot of physical issues the last two seasons. The guess here is that he returns to form.
• Andrew Bailey (if he is still around) will end up with more saves than Joel Hanrahan. Closers are impossible to predict, especially ones who change leagues and are on the verge of free agency.
• Stephen Drew will play 145 games and do just fine, bitterly disappointing all the numbskulls who compared him to J.D. Until he broke his ankle, Stephen Drew went on the DL twice in his career. He’s not his brother.
• Assuming he ends up signing, Mike Napoli will be just pretty decent. Now that he doesn’t have the Red Sox pitching staff to smack around, his numbers will reflect it.
• Clay Buchholz makes the All-Star team. He has the best pure stuff on the staff, it’s just a matter of when he pulls it all together.
• Many, many words will be written in spring training about all the catchers on the roster. Then once the season starts it proves not to be a big deal. Ryan Lavarnway is 25. He’ll survive if he has to spent a little more time in Triple A.
• Jason Varitek, Tim Wakefield, and eventually Pedro Martinez will start to wield some influence within the organization, especially Varitek.
• Finally, skeptical Red Sox fans will start to come back into the fold after enduring the big mess that started at the end of the 2011 season. The team will be easier to root for, the players more likable, and the expectations lowered enough to be reasonable for a change.
An enjoyable baseball season shouldn’t be too much to ask for.