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World Series Favorites: 5 Primary Contenders with the Cliff Lee Dust Settled

With Cliff Lee signed and delivered to Philadelphia, it seems appropriate to take a very early look at who has the best chance to be fitted for rings come next winter.

Will the star-studded rotations and lineups of the Phillies and Red Sox prevail? What about last year’s champs, the San Francisco Giants? What about the Yankees, who seem to make October reservations every season? Or could a surprise team step into the mix and shock us all?

Only time will tell, but this is a ranking of the five teams who could win the the World Series today.

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Carl Crawford Signs With the Boston Red Sox: Another Evil Empire?

Just moments ago it was announced Theo Epstein pulled another fast one on Red Sox Nation by signing Carl Crawford to a seven year, $142 million deal.  The deal comes as a relative surprise since, even though the Red Sox loved what Crawford brings to the table, they already acquired the big time left handed bat (Adrian Gonzalez) and historically do not go on these Yankee-like spending sprees.  Regardless the Red Sox front office has responded to last seasons disappointing third place finish, much like the New York Yankees prior to the 2009 season, by making some franchise altering moves.

Prior to last weekend many in Red Sox fans were sensing doom and gloom, especially when it became known the Yankees could be going after Cliff Lee AND Carl Crawford.  However, after the trade for Adrian Gonzalez the fans’ appetite for off season drama was filled, at least for a day.  It seemed like mere minutes after Gonzalez press conference that everyone wanted to know what Theo Epstein had planned next.  Many were looking at the bullpen (including myself), a cheaper right handed leftfielder, such as Magglio Ordonez or Josh Willingham, but no one really expected this.  Carl Crawford signing was merely an awesome idea to many Red Sox fans, considering what his price would be after Jayson Werth literally was signed for twice his worth, but never the less, Theo Epstein delivered.  

Some may say this deal is not smart for a player whose game is predicated  on speed but the front office has proven it is willing to spend on a marquee free agent (John Lackey does not count) and stay competitive in an ever improving division.  Regardless of how Crawford and Gonzalez perform this season no one can say the Red Sox did not try to become a World Series contender for years to come.

However, let’s just assume Crawford and Gonzalez perform as they are expected to and imagine a lineup like this:

1. Ellsbury

2. Pedroia


4. Youkilis

5. Crawford

6. Ortiz

7. Scutaro/Lowrie 

8. Saltalamacchia

9. Drew


That is a lineup with 105 wins written on it.  Obviously the pitching will have a lot to say about that any wins, but the point is it is an extremely potent lineup.  

Some may wonder as to why Crawford, known for his speed, is in a power slot like the fifth spot, but it seems fitting since he does not want to lead off, Pedroia is the number two hitter, period, and Gonzalez and Youkilis have more power.  Plus with Drew batting ninth, the Red Sox could have three lead off type hitters (Drew is considered a lead off hitter because of his on-base percentage abilities) in each third of the lineup.  

Does Carl Crawford signing instantly mean this team should be pre-ordering rings?  Absolutely not.  I still maintain the biggest key to this team’s success is the bullpen, specifically Jonathan Papelbon having a bounce back year, and if Josh Beckett and John Lackey gain regain at least a shadow of themselves.  Either way Theo Epstein and the Red Sox brass have provided the most anticipation for Opening Day since 2004. 

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Road to Glory: The Players Who Could Spell Championship for the Boston Red Sox

With the winter meetings under way and the dust settled on the first blockbuster deal of the offseason, it is time to look at who are going to be the keys for the Red Sox to be the last team sipping champagne.

Some say another bat, such as a superstar like Carl Crawford or a role player like Josh Willingham, is necessary to be the World Series favorites (assuming the Yankees sign Cliff Lee).

Some say go after Cliff Lee because of his postseason resume and the fact he would look HORRIBLE in pinstripes.

Others (a very smart group of others) think the bullpen is the biggest issue.

Regardless of what you think the following players are who will determine how realistic Boston’s post-season dreams really are in 2011.

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Flip, Flop, Flip: Adrian Gonzalez Acquired By Boston Red Sox…Again

The past 24 hours have been quite a roller coaster for Red Sox nation.  First they received news that one of the games premier sluggers, the coveted Adrian Gonzalez, was going to be the team’s new first basemen.  

Then it was reported that the front office could not agree with the slugger on an extension and the trade was now dead, along with hope of a World Series contender next season.  Now, according to a report, Gonzalez has been acquired, again.

Assuming this deal does not fall through, as it did several hours ago, and Theo Epstein can manage to get Gonzalez’s contract extended (the inability to do so twice should make many question management’s ability to get things done) this deal is too good to be true.  

Gonzalez, currently 28 years old, is a “lineup pillar,” meaning you can build a lineup around him.  Which means with hitters like Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis, David Ortiz and Jacoby Ellsbury, this team has a world championship caliber top and middle of the order.  

One of Gonzalez’s teammates was reported as saying the slugger would add about 10 home runs to his average total (about 35 per year the past four years) hitting in a park and lineup like the Red Sox have.  

Also, this finally makes up for the organization’s inability to acquire Mark Teixeira before the 2009 season.  

Finally, Gonzalez is no slouch with the leather, having earned two Gold Gloves already in his career.  The Red Sox seemingly have never had a big time power hitter with Gold Glove caliber defense, at least recently.  

The magnitude of this trade cannot be understated.  Before the trade through many members of the Boston media were praising the move, discussing how much of a steal and how brilliant it was.  After it fell through it was almost a guarantee the front office would face vicious backlash from media and fans for being too inept to sign an MVP caliber player again.  

Fortunately, the Red Sox brass appears to have seen a flaw in their execution and will acquire Gonzalez for at least a season, with serious intentions on signing the extension (some numbers floating are seven years, $153 million).

I said earlier in the off-season I believed Carl Crawford was a necessity, however, that was because it seemed Gonzalez was not available, at least not for this few prospects. Now Theo Epstein has filled a hole in the lineup and at third base (Gonzalez moves Youkilis across the diamond) it is time to fix the bullpen and make this previously flawed team a legitimate favorite for the title.

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