As much as it pains me to write this I am a man of my word.
The 2008 Sox are a good mix of young talent and savvy veterans. This year team cornerstones such as Varitek, Beckett and Ortiz had off years and Manny left town. Despite all this the Sox are in the ALCS fighting the Rays for the AL Penant. So how can this be? Theo, Luccini and the rest of the Sox brass should be commended for their drafting prowess, excellent trading and shrewd free agent signings. The breakout star for this team and a nominee in the AL MVP race is Dustin Pedroia who along with rock solid defense at 2b also finished the year with a 326 BA (2nd in the AL), 213 hits (Tie 1st AL), 118 runs (1st AL) and a 376 OBP. Yes he may look like an elf or a jockey and his nose seems like it was punched in and remains hooked upwards but he has been the team's MVP this year. Another reason for the Sox success this year is 1b Kevin Youkilis. As much as he is hated by some for his ridiculous looking beard and tendency to be a cry baby he did lead the Sox in RBI at 115 (5th AL) and HR with 29 in addition to posting a 312 BA. Jacoby Ellsbury while not hitting as good as was expected of him did top the AL in stolen bases with 50 steals and did his Native American heritage proud much the way that JOBA Chamberlain has for the New York Yankees. Dice K as much as he represents the Sox becoming the evil empire when they shelled out $51.3M just to keep the Yanks from being able to even look at him led the Sox in wins with 18 (Tie 4th AL) in going 18-3 with a 2.90 ERA (3rd AL) with the only concern being that his walk rate went up this year and it always seemed he was battling out of jams he created by issuing to many free passes. Lester who I have nothing bad to say about as he has proven his toughness both on and off the field really paced the Sox rotation and has stepped in as their de facto ace in the post season going 16-6 with a 3.21 ERA (4th AL). This was crucial as off years from Beckett (12-10 4.03 ERA) and Wakefield (10-11 4.13) and the disappearance of Schilling (but not his mouth) left a huge hole in the Sox rotation and Lester more than stepped up to the plate (or mound) and delievered. You also cannot discredit the workof Papelbon who despite being an arrogant river dancing jerk did post a 2.34 ERA while notching saves in 41 (3rd AL) of the Sox 95 wins this year. KRod may get the title of best closer this year based on his 60+ saves but rest assured that Papelbon as well as Mariano Rivera and Joe Nathan had better years than K Rod. Manny finally made good on his threat to leave town but before bailing on his loyal Sox fans (F%^* You Scott Boras!) he did bat 299 with 20 HR, 68 RBI with a 398 OBP in the 100 games he played. Jason Bay while no Manny did play well for the Sox in his absence batting 293 with a 370 OBP and playing a stellar LF defense Sox fans haven't seen in a long time (at least not on a consistent day to day basis). Manny's former partner in crime David Big Papi Ortiz did not have a good year but he has been hampered by injuries much the way Derek Jeter was bothered by a hand injury all year. The common thread among them being they were too proud to use it as an excuse and played through most of the year with it. Admirable. Ortiz hit 264 and bashed 23 HR and drove in 89 RBI but be certain he will be back next year and no one should discount his ability. The Sox have been successful because a number of players sport a high OBP which I think is crucial to winning because it is a lot easier to score runs when men are on base. JD Drew as much as I hate the injury prone **** led the Sox with a 408 OBP, Pedroia 376, Youk 390, Manny in his 2/3 of a season 398, Bay in the other 1/3 370 and Big Papi despite being hurt still struck fear in the hearts of AL pitchers and got on to the tune of 369 . The stumper is that the Sox did not fare well in their division going only 38-34 against the AL East. They went 12-6 against the Orioles but went 9-9 against both the Yankees and Blue Jays but lost the season series 8-10 against the upstart Rays. And even in interleague play the Sox only went 8-7 against the NL. The Sox did go 49-31 against the rest of the AL so that is the main reason they made the playoffs this year. The Sox do have a good young core to work with and have developed some very good young pitching with Lester, Masterson, DelCarmen but they need to hope that this was just a fluke off year from Beckett and that Wakefield isn't finally done. They also need Drew, Papi and Lowell to get healthy and give them years statwise more in line with 2007 and not 2008. The Sox really do not need much from the free agent market as this team is built to win as evidenced by the young stars carrying things while the veterans were either injured or having off years. Still the Sox need to be ready for a newly stocked Yankees team in 2009 and the now legitimate Rays in the AL East.