Writing a baseball preview on March 7 is admittedly risky. There is still almost a month remaining before the commencement of the season, leaving plenty of time for injuries and other surprises that can affect a team's prognosis.
It is difficult, however, not to begin speculating about the 2001 Major League Baseball season--especially in Boston where an 82-year curse could come to an end with the new millennium. I've lived here all my life, and once baseball season begins, Beantown transforms into Red Sox Nation.
Nomar Garciaparra just appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated, fresh off back-to-back batting titles and an intensive workout regime. Enter Manny Ramirez, perhaps the best slugger in all of baseball. See Carl Everett, who managed to hit 34 homeruns last year for the Sox while simultaneously head-butting umpires and denouncing the existence of dinosaurs.
Show me Hideo Nomo, Frank Castillo, and David Cone, three players who all have past pitching success in the Big Leagues. Say hello to Bret Saberhagen, who may finally be healthy enough to pitch again. Reintroduce me to Derek Lowe, who quietly led the American League in saves last season and earned himself an All-Star bid.
Oh yeah, and tell that Pedro guy he's good too.
How can this team lose? John Valentine's back from a knee injury and hit a homerun in his first game back in spring training. Dante Bichette is in Boston for an entire season. Trot Nixon should benefit from another year of experience--if the club can find a position for him. Troy O'Leary, a solid player in his own right, might be traded because the Sox just have too many outfielders who can play.
In the bullpen, Boston can set up Lowe with Tim Wakefield, Hipolito Pichardo and "El Guapo" Rich Garces, three guys who rose to the occasion last season. Starting pitching and offensive production were the team's two big weaknesses in 2000. Manny and a slew of new pitchers have potentially solved those problems. Watch out for Chris Stynes, too--when this guy is swinging a hot bat, he is one of the most dangerous hitters in the major leagues. Sounds ridiculous, but his hitting streaks are legendary in Cincinnati.
So, is this the year? Is the Curse of the Bambino finally over? Will 1918 become merely a meaningless number from the past? Can the Sox finally emerge from the hated New York Yankees' shadow?
Fear And Losing at FenwayWhy can't you just get it through your head--It's over, it's over now... --Boz Skaggs Look around you. The leaves
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