Are we underestimating the Boston Red Sox chances in 2013?

Boston Red Sox manager John Farrell.
Boston’s new manager, John Farrell, should help steady the ship in 2013. (Greg Derr/Patriot Ledger)

There is no doubt the last two years have been brutal for the Boston Red Sox and their fans. A horrible collapse in 2011 followed by a terrible managerial choice in Bobby Valentine has led to total chaos.

They finally made a good decision this offseason by bringing in a manager, John Farrell who has the character needed to run a ball club with such high expectations, and one who has dealt with players thinking they’ve become bigger than the team.

Instead of spending money on big-time free agents this offseason, they set out to change the entire clubhouse atmosphere by bringing in guys like Shane Victorino, Ryan Dempster and David Ross.

The core of this team is still there in Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz and Jon Lester. Jacoby Ellsbury will be looking to rebound from an injury-plagued season in a contract year. I can almost guarantee he won’t be resigned by Boston, but I’m sure they’d love to see him earn big money by performing well this season.

The additions of Mike Napoli and Stephen Drew were small but necessary moves. Both are solid additions who can help a team win, but they aren’t star players that will take you over the top.

After a horrible situation in the bullpen last year with Andrew Bailey getting hurt, Daniel Bard struggling and Mark Melancon being awful, they added Joel Hanrahan as the new closer to help turn the tide.

Lester was awful last year, and you can only expect he’ll bounce back to have a solid season in 2013, or at least it can’t be as bad as it was in 2012. For as bad as Clay Buchholz was in the first half of last season before going down with an injury, he was great in the second half recording an ERA of 3.76 after the All-Star break, including a 3.03 ERA in five September starts.

Dempster was a nice offseason addition. He’ll give a veteran presence to this rotation and will be a serviceable fourth man on this staff. I’m not sure his game translates well to the American League. He had a 5.09 ERA with the Texas Rangers last year, which was his first taste of American League action. I expect he’ll win 11-13 games with an ERA around four.

Felix Doubront should grow in his second year. Once he figures out he doesn’t have to strike out every batter and gets better control of his command, he should become a much better pitcher. At times last year, he looked like he could be a top-of-the-rotation starter, and at other times, it looked like he needed to be sent back to the minor leagues.

The key to the Boston Red Sox rotation, and possibly the key to their success in 2013, could depend on how well John Lackey comes back. And I don’t expect him to come back at an All-Star level, and Boston fans shouldn’t either, but if he can serve as a capable number-three starter behind Lester and Buchholz, then this team will have more than enough pitching to contend in the American League East.

A lot of this also depends on your perception of the AL East. I, for one, think this division is a little overrated. The New York Yankees have clearly taken a few steps back, the Tampa Bay Rays have declined, the Baltimore Orioles were one of the luckiest teams in baseball last year, and I don’t expect that success to repeat, and the Toronto Blue Jays have the potential to be one of the best teams in the league or the 2012 Miami Marlins.

This a good group of baseball teams, but I don’t feel like there is one great team in this division. If a lot of things go right for the Red Sox this year, and I mean a lot of things, there is no reason this team couldn’t win the division or possibly a wild card spot if the Blue Jays do turn out to be great.

There is a good nucleus of talent on this team, they’ve brought in players with good character backgrounds to improve the clubhouse and a manager who won’t let egos and media be a distraction.

It’s not often a big-market team like the Boston Red Sox gets overlooked, but I think a lot of people are counting them out a little too early. It wouldn’t surprise me at all to see them in the playoffs this year.

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