The seasons are finally beginning to change, and daylight saving time is upon us. Who's feeling groggy? Don't all answer at once -- wake up! When the clocks spring forward, the turnstiles at minor and major league ballparks all across the country do as well.
Baseball is almost back, folks. It is hard to believe after Mother Nature walloped the county with up to 2 feet of snow in some spots. The good news is that it is beginning to melt, and very soon we will be enjoying a Fenway frank, or Italian sausage with peppers and onions (man, am I hungry) on Yawkey Way. Speaking of baseball, how about those Red Sox?
Who's excited? (Crickets.) A lot of sports radio talent is already summing up the Red Sox baseball season as a complete wash; Vegas has a bet out right now that the Red Sox will not win more than 80 games.
While betting is not my thing, I just may take them up on this. Boston will not win the American League East -- every reasonable Red Sox fan is aware of that.
My preseason pick to win the division is Baltimore, followed by New York and Tampa Bay. The Red Sox will most likely finish around third or fourth place in the division with around 87 wins. Boston's pitching rotation has a lot of question marks, including will John Lackey show up this season? Clay Buchholz should evolve as the team's number one pitcher, if he can stay healthy.
Buchholz dealt with esophagitis last year and still managed to post some respectable numbers, with a career-high 29 starts with 129 strikeouts and an 11-8 record.
Felix Doubront led the Red Sox in wins, going 15-11, and he fanned a team-high 167 opponents.
The rotation in my eyes will be some mixture of Buchholz, Doubront, Lester, Lackey (coming off of arm surgery), and the five-spot still remains open.
Essentially, the Red Sox rotation is jam-packed with middle-of-the-rotation guys, but no clear-cut ace.
Recently acquired Ryan Dempster will most likely be the team's number two or three starter.
Dempster holds a career record of 124-124, spending the majority of his career with the Chicago Cubs. The righty was named to the All-Star team in 2000 and 2008.
In an interesting twist, Dempster's first career win came against the Red Sox in 1999, while a member of the Florida (Miami) Marlins.
Daniel Bard dabbled as a starter last season and failed miserably. Bard belongs in the bullpen as a middle innings reliever and a situational guy. Coming out of the bullpen requires a completely different mindset than that of a starter.
Bard has the ability to light up the radar gun with a fastball ranging 98 to 102 mph, but his secondary pitch arsenal still needs fine-tuning.
While we are still on the topic of pitchers, I would be remiss if I didn't mention the Yankees' stud closer Mariano Rivera retiring following the season.
I think most Red Sox and baseball fans can agree with me that Rivera exudes a great amount of class.
He is aptly nicknamed the "Sandman," for his "put the other team to sleep" mentality in the ninth inning.
Growing up a Red Sox fan, mine was a love-hate relationship for Rivera.
Love his mechanics and all-business approach, hate that he is wearing the Yankees pinstripes.
Rivera is the type of guy you want on your team, but when he's staring you down from 60 feet away, you love to hate him.
Seeing Rivera retire makes this 23-year-old sportswriter feel old, as I have grown accustomed to watching him mow down Red Sox batters and mercifully end their 4.5-hour affairs.
Back to the Red Sox: It will be interesting to see what John Farrell does with the opening-day lineup. Leading off will likely be Jacoby Ellsbury. As has been in the case in years past, the Red Sox situation at shortstop is still up in the air. I was impressed with Pedro Ciriaco late in the season, but he does not provide a whole lot of pop offensively.
Will Middlebrooks had a respectable first year at third base after Kevin Youkilis was traded to Chicago.
In 118 at-bats, the rookie posted a .288 average with 15 homers and 54 RBI. Middlebrooks should have a breakout full season.
Ciriaco is the epitome of a contact hitter.
Farrell announced to the media this week that slugger David Ortiz will be sidelined with soreness in his heels, and is expected to miss opening day. Let's face it Sox fans, Big Papi is getting older, and these small injuries will pop up from time to time.
Dust off that old Red Sox cap, and surf the web for tickets.
It will only be a matter of time before you find $5 bleacher seats available. The real question is, will the Sox front office actually admit that their sellout streak has ended? Don't count on it.
Have a topic you would like to see my take on?
Shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twiter @EdNiser.