If next season's team collapses like the 2011 and 2012 teams, the Sox risk toppling the first domino that could lead to others falling: Fans will lose the rabid interest in the team that they once had, which topples any remaining facade of a sell out streak. NESN ratings will dip, as well, so the team won't rake in the revenues from the gates and TV like they used to. The revenue domino stands precariously close to the domino denominating "Big Market Team" status. If that falls, then the Red Sox will have to compete against teams whose revenues are increasing to sign players.
Biggest question is whether the Red Sox can compete in 2013. I don't want to be too pessimistic before being realistic, so let's start with the positives:
- Ellsbury enters a special contract year: He's playing for a multi-year, $160-200 million deal. If he stays healthy, hits .300+ with 25-30 homeruns and swipes 50-60 bases, then he'll make himself a very rich man.
- Will Middlebrooks should 30 homerun potential, and he will look nice hitting behind David Ortiz.
- Felix Doubront gets another year to mature and progress towards being a good #2 or 3 starter.
- With Junichi Tazawa, it looks like the sky's the limit. Will he be the next closer? Should he be converted to a starting pitcher? For 2013, he has to be your 8th inning setup pitcher and backup closer.
The Red Sox biggest detriment, though, is the starting rotation. Lester, Lackey and Buchholz -- we're stuck with'em starting 80-90 out of 162 games. The Sox could have an offense of Babe Ruths with Rickey Henderson leading off, but if those three starters continue getting creamed yet stay in the rotation, then they will have no chance of competing in 2013.
There's not much the Red Sox can do about the rotation. Before discussing their pitching options, my next few posts will go over how the Sox can place a playoff-caliber offense on the field. This should be easy, since the offense before Ben's deal with LA was scoring plenty of runs in 2012.