Yes, it's time for the annual "Red Sox Season Preview" edition of the blog. This season is particularly exciting because it features the Sox's second attempt at defending at World Series title in the last few years. The previous attempt (2005)...well, let's just say it was a bit problematic.
Let's have a quick rundown of the lineup, beginning with the pitching staff:
Josh Beckett -- The unquestionable ace of the staff. The only 20 game winner in the majors last year. The reason I knew Boston wouldn't lose Game 5 vs. Cleveland in the ALCS. Currently on the DL for a bad back, but will likely pitch in early April.
Daisuke Matsuzaka -- After a largely mediocre first year, will he settle in this year? Has difficulty at times throwing pitches for strikes, especially the changeup. Also prone to "one bad inning" disease. Boston will need him to be on.
John Lester -- Beat cancer, won the deciding game in the World Series. Good: somehow always seems to pitch his way out of trouble. Bad: somehow always seems to pitch his way into trouble. Has trouble going deep into games. Reportedly in best shape of career.
Tim Wakefield -- The only starting knuckleballer in the majors. Typically has a fantastic first 2/3 of season and craps out late. Pitches especially well in domes. Enjoys archery.
Clay Buchholz -- Pitched a no-hitter in his second major league start last year. Nuff said.
Hideki Okajima -- Little-acclaimed lefty reliever who absolutely befuddled hitters last year. Has added a two-seamer which, from all reports, is filthy.
Jonathan Papelbon -- Just got a new contract. So intense on the mound that he got a few migraines last year. The best closer in the game. Enjoys dancing in spandex.
Now, the position players:
Dustin Pedroia -- AL Rookie of the Year last year. Solid leadoff man despite unimpressive speed. Spectacular playoffs last year.
Kevin Youkilis -- My favorite beard. Gold Glove winner at 1st base last year -- made no errors all season. Favorite target of Joba Chamberlain, who will pay for his sins this year.
David Ortiz -- Big Papi. Last season, his homers were down, but virtually every other category was up. He finally had knee surgery and is now healthier than he has been in years. Look for another big year.
Manny Ramirez -- This is a contract year for Manny, and he knows it. Last year wasn't his best, but he'll redeem himself this time around. Reportedly in fantastic shape. Once tried to sell his barbecue grill on eBay.
Mike Lowell -- The MVP of last year's squad. An absolute stud at the plate and in the field. Has one testicle due to cancer. Most "experts" predict he can't match last year's numbers, but we'll see.
J.D. Drew -- Until his grand slam against the Indians in the ALCS, would have been my bet for "Player Most Likely to Be Killed by Crazed Fan." His even demeanor at the plate, especially after strikeouts in key moments, infuriates fans. Last year's numbers may have been down in part due to his son's health issues. Has strong throwing arm in right field.
Jason Varitek -- The captain. Notorious for strikeouts, yet still capable of the "Holy Crap?!!" home run in clutch moments. Has not looked good in first two games this season. My favorite Red Sox.
Jacoby Ellsbury -- Scored from 2nd on passed ball last year. Blazing speed. Questionable power. Likely to be the starter in center this year -- will have to learn quirks of Fenway. Picks up girls at will all over New England.
Julio Lugo -- Let's not talk about him.
That's all I've got for now. The Sox have a very tough schedule at the beginning of the season. I'm predicting another 95-win season and a good playoff run, but I can't complain if it doesn't happen. World Series victory count, this millennium: Boston - 2, Yankees - 0.