The 2013 Red Sox have the look of a last-place team.
I hate to pile on, and I can get behind a lot of the moves the Sox have made in this offseason . . .
But who are the Sox going to vault in the American League East?
Seriously. For all their moves, it’s hard to imagine the 2013 Red Sox finishing ahead of the Yankees, Blue Jays, Rays, or Orioles. And that means last place for a second straight season.
It would be quite a feat, something not even Daddy Butch Hobson or Pinky Higgins accomplished. The Red Sox have not finished last in back-to-back seasons since the Great Depression. The last time the Sox were in last place two years in a row was in 1929 and 1930. The 1930 team went 52-102, finishing 50 games out of first place. That was 83 years ago.
Since the Red Sox are all about marketing, I have figured out some ways they can capitalize on their last-place status.
■ They could reopen the old Filene’s Basements and run a cross-promotion campaign. Can’t you just hear those NESN drop-ins or Joe Castiglione wrapping up another heartbreaker with, “Tonight’s loss keeps the Red Sox in last place and is brought to you by the folks in Filene’s Basement. It’s where the Red Sox and the bargains live!’’
■ Sell “We’re No. 5!’’ foam fingers.
■ Appeal to the blog boys: Something like, “Tired of posting anonymous hate speech from your mom’s basement? Come to Fenway to see a team that knows all about cellar-dwelling.’’
■ Promote Fenway’s daily scorecard as “Notes From Underground.’’
■ Play Bob Dylan and the Band’s “The Basement Tapes” during batting practice.
The Sox Tuesday introduced Japanese reliever Koji Uehara (one year, $4.2 million). He was assigned Josh Beckett’s No. 19, which gives him a lot to live down to. Uehara joins other offseason acquisitions Stephen Drew (one year, $9.5 million), Mike Napoli (three years, $39 million), David Ross (two years, $6.2 million), Jonny Gomes (two years, $10 million), Shane Victorino (three years, $39 million), and Ryan Dempster (two years, $26.5 million). That’s seven new players who will make $61 million this year. Never has so much money been showered on so much mediocrity. But I understand what the Sox are doing. They are providing you with a daily lineup of actual major league players. They know they fielded a Triple A team throughout September, a team that went into games with virtually no chance to win. The 2013 Sox will have a much better chance to win games.
But how do they climb out of the cellar?
Overcoming the Orioles would seem to be Boston’s best bet. The 2012 O’s were something of a mirage. They went from 69 to 93 wins by winning just about every one-run game (29-9) and every extra-inning game (16-2). It is highly unlikely that closer Jim Johnson (51 saves) can duplicate his career year of 2012. Baltimore has done very little in the winter marketplace.
Beating the Tampa Rays is always a possibility, especially since Tampa lost B.J. Upton in free agency and traded James Shields. The Rays will never score runs the way the Red Sox score runs. Unfortunately for Sox fans, Tampa has a ton of starting pitching and Joe Maddon always seems to be able to figure out his bullpen. The Rays are also hoping prospect Wil Myers blooms into Fred Lynn, circa 1975.
We like to have fun with the Yankees’ woes and it’s amusing to see them spending $40 million on the third base position ($12 million to Kevin Youkilis and $28 million to the man with the hip surgery, Alex Rodriguez). The Yankees have been very quiet this winter and we keep hearing GM Brian Cashman is working with a budget. The Yanks are old and they are breaking down. But they also have a deep starting rotation and a veteran, core lineup that scored a raft of runs before running into the Tigers in October.
The Blue Jays will be the flavor-of-the-month in March. It’s easy to get behind a franchise that acquired R.A. Dickey, Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, Jose Reyes and Melky Cabrera. John Farrell’s got to be asking himself, “where was all this activity when I was managing the team?’’
The Sox have a strategy and it’s risky. They don’t want to invest a lot of money in one player for a long-term deal. Call it the Crawford Syndrome. Instead, the Sox are investing their Dodger deal savings ($161 million came off the future payroll) in an attempt to be respectable while they rebuild through scouting and player development.
Though they seem irrationally obsessed with the luxury tax, we can not accuse the Red Sox of being cheap and pocketing the savings from the Dodger deal. They have committed $134 million to the seven new players.
The 2013 Sox look neither cheap nor smart. But they still look like the worst team in the American League East.
Time to get going on the slogans.
How about, “We can’t win, but we can still spin?’’
I’m told good seats are still available.