In recent seasons under both of their two preceding mangers, one constant for the Red Sox has been very poor starts to a new season. The last three Aprils have started with 4-10 ( 2012), 5-11( 2011), and 6-10( 2010) beginnings. This year's edition for many, many reasons need to reverse this mini-curse. The reasons include the avoidance of dropping off the pace in a very balanced AL East, the need to erase some of the sting of 2012's worst Sox record in about 45 years, and from the ownership 's view the need to put fannies in the seats at Fenway.
Here are some of the reasons the Red Sox are likely to get out of the gate with a winning April:
1. The schedule. Now this is always a slippery slope to analyze, but there are at least two reasons the April schedule could very well help. The Sox begin this week with a 6 game trip to New York and Toronto. All winter long this trip had been considered a reason why the Red Sox may get off to a bad start again. However, with a spring full of major injuries to the Yankee star players, there will be no better time to take on the New Yorkers ( just take a look at their Opening Day lineup). And Toronto, while the hot pick to win the AL East, may well need time to have all their new players adjust to one another. As a matter of fact, the Sox will have all ready 2 of their 3 trips to Toronto for the entire season before May 3rd!
Also in April, the Red Sox have a higher concentration of home games than any other month, 17 out of 27 April games are at Fenway. This includes a stretch of 17 of 20 at home after the six game opening road trip ( the last road game for April is back in Toronto on April 30). The Sox have a 7 game home stand with the O's and Rays, then go on the road for three in Cleveland. Then come right back to Fenway for a ten game stand with 3 each hosting KC and the A's, followed by 4 with Houston.
2. Starting Pitching- I know spring training records mean nothing, but spring training performance can, and all five of the starters had good to excellent springs. In addition, the entire rotation is set, there is no guessing or hoping about who will fill the back of the rotation. And yet, each of the five has something to prove ( Lester and Buchholz to rebound from poor 21012, Dempster to pitch well in AL. Lackey recovering from TJ surgery, and Doubront to build on rookie year). All five should pitch with the proverbial chip on their shoulders.
3. Jackie Bradley, Jr. Effect- OK, this may be a stretch and I am not here to nominate JBJr for Cooperstown, but if he can bring even 75% of the spring training performance ( and his 2012 minor league performance) north, this can give a needed jolt of youthful energy to this team. Will Middlebrooks also can provide this boost.
Now a few reasons that we could be in for the same ol' April:
1. The absence of David Ortiz. Let's face it without Big Papi in the cleanup spot this offense shrinks. It leaves the afore mentioned Middlebrooks along with Mike Napoli to anchor the heart of the order. Despite his age, Ortiz was among the top five in all of MLB in OPS when he was injured last year. The 2012 Red Sox actually had a WINNING record with Papi in the lineup. They will likely need him back as soon as possible to hope to contend in 2013.
2. Assimilating the newcomers. Above I chalked up the Toronto early season to possibly needing an adjustment time for all the new Jays. Realistically, you have to have the same concern in Boston. Although, just this weekend, John Farrell in an interview said he felt this had been accomplished in Florida. Hey, after 2012 the good news is the Red Sox have new players.
3. April weather. This is the flip side of the coin to having many April home games. Now as anyone living in New England knows, April weather is a complete crapshoot. But about half of these April home games are at night ( as are all three in Cleveland). The Red Sox have four games at the stadium formerly known as Sky Dome, and then ALL of the other April games are played in either Boston, New York, or Cleveland. In addition, one advantage to April schedule is the Sox have only three off days. Often a team has trouble getting into their every day routine because April has lots of time off. Any bad weather could add to the three April off days and cause this disruption of routine.
So this new season is upon us. The answer to question posed in the title of this piece will be answered in about 4 to 6 weeks. I for one feel this year's Red Sox team will have a winning record by the time they finish the second trip to Toronto on May 2nd.