I'm finally home for break, and I have to say that the thing I consistently look forward to about getting out of Hartford is renewed access to MLB Network. I've been watching it whenever I can commandeer the remote (pretty easy to do now that my older sister has her own house), and last night on Hot Stove, the analysts were asked to rank their top five teams of 2011, as they were constructed at airtime. That means no assuming the Yankees will flex their financial muscle, and no calculating the Rangers chances if Vlad Guerrero is back - the analysts agreed that both scenarios are all but certain.
However, of the three personalities asked to rank their five, all three had the Red Sox as the best American League team (one ranked the Sox first overall, with the Phillies second, while the other two ranked Philly first and Boston second). It's easy to understand Philadelphia's appeal: they have four legitimate aces in their rotation. Boston, on the other hand, has made a few MAJOR moves to add to an already formidable roster.
However, all three analysts - and the host - agreed that there was one thing that the Red Sox absolutely needed if they wanted to live up to their potential, and that was a rebounding Josh Beckett.
I'll spare you the ugly details, but if you're any kind of red Sox fan, you already know how bad Beckett's 2010 went: when he wasn't on the disabled list, he was floundering horribly. This was even more disappointing than it would normally be, because the fiery Texan had signed a very lucrative extension in the spring, and then immediately went out and sucked all season.
Next year, Bill James expects Beckett to make 26 starts (just five more than last year), with a 10-9 record and a 3.86 ERA. No offense to James or Becks, but we need better than that, and I think we can reasonably expect better. First of all, wins are dependent on the team's offense at least as much as they are dependent on the actual pitching performance, and the 2011 Red Sox should be an offensive force.
Also, Josh Beckett is a very proud man. I'm certain that he's all but ashamed of his fail-tastic performance last year, and he's apt to come out swinging.
If Josh can figure out his life and make this work, 2011 should be one for the ages.