- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
First, the bad news. Top to bottom, the American League East has never been weaker. It's lugging around half of the eight worst teams in the majors. The flag can be had for 90 wins.
Now, the good news. If you like monstrous home runs, lots of walks and strikeouts, and four-hour, 10-9 slugfests, this division is for you. The AL East spent the winter acquiring big hitters, notably Glenn Davis and Jack Clark, and parting with big pitchers, such as Mike Boddicker, Dave Righetti and Jack Morris. The result could be an unprecedented scoring bonanza.
"It might be a happy season for the fans in the stands," says Detroit pitcher Walt Terrell. "The scoreboards might need some extra light bulbs—especially when I'm pitching."
He's not the only one who will light it up.
1. BOSTON RED SOX
Earlier this spring, Mo Vaughn, Boston's rookie candidate at first base, stepped up for batting practice, and bullpen coach John McLaren yelled, "Hey, Tyson." Vaughn, all 6'1" and 225 pounds of him, quickly launched into his routine, throwing a flurry of rights, pounding his imaginary opponent into the ground. "Wham, whap, whomp," he grunted.
Massive Mo couldn't even crack the Red Sox roster this spring, but get used to the sounds of destruction, because the Boston lineup will be pulverizing pitchers all across America this summer. "They'll get a lot of hits," says Boddicker, now with the Royals. But, he adds, there's a big difference between hits and runs. Last season Boston led the majors in hitting for the fourth straight year—no other team in this century has done it more than twice in a row. Still, the Red Sox finished seventh in the league in runs per game.
This year will be different. "Best lineup I've been on," says third baseman Wade Boggs, who nearly fell out of the lineup when he tumbled out the passenger-side door of a pickup truck this spring. "We've had teams with Tony Armas and Jim Rice that hit lots of homers. But I was the only one who could hit over .300. Now we have two or three other guys who can. This is more of an all-around hitting lineup."
The Sox still don't have anyone who can run, but at least they have added a guy who can walk, as well as whack. Clark, the new DH, who hits the ball as hard and far as anyone living, has walked more times in the last three seasons (349) than Armas did in his 13-year career. And if you don't believe the lineup is deep, consider that rookie shortstop Tim Naehring may get 15 homers out of the number 9 spot.
Not everyone, however, is convinced. "I don't see Boston's pitching," says Oakland pitcher Dave Stewart. Few do. Sure, Roger Clemens has the second-highest career winning percentage in American League history (.695), behind the one and only Spud Chandler (.717). But it's hard to find anyone who believes that lefthander Matt Young, who arrived from Seattle with a 39-65 career record as a starter, can win for Boston. Signing National League ERA champ Danny Darwin will help, but Darwin may have to start as many games this season as he has over the past three years combined (37).