Monday, March 26, 2007

2007 Boston Red Sox: preseason thoughts

Before I head to the sunny shores of Gulf Coast Florida for a short vacation, I thought I'd share some thoughts I have on the upcoming season for the Boston Red Sox. I think there's plenty of reason to be excited, but there are always a number of question marks. Without further ado, here you go:


Catcher- There is the mainstay of the franchise at catcher, Jason Varitek. With him you'll know that you'll get some decent offense and the best gamecaller in baseball.

3B & 1B- We know that the corners will provide slightly better than average offense with Mike Lowell and Kevin Youkilis. Lowell is excellent defensively as long as he stays healthy, and Youkilis turned out to be better than anyone thought he would be. I'd still like to have more offense from the first base position, but it's not like he's a lame duck.

2B & SS- As far as the middle infield we've gone from Gonzalez-Loretta to Lugo-Pedroia. That's a serious downgrade defensively (especially losing Gonzalez at shortstop), but an upgrade offensively. I personally think they'll miss Gonzalez more than the management thinks, he is a one-of-a-kind talent at shortstop. The advantage is that Lugo is much better offensively. But I have to wonder if the Sox have strayed from the attitude that helped them win the World Series in 2004 when they traded offense for great defensive players. I guess we'll find out. Pedroia is dreadful offensively, but we can hope that his short time in the big leagues in September (when he basically took a dump at the plate) was an aberration. I have a feeling that he won't be the starting second basemen by the middle of the season, with veteran Alex Cora starting or a trade bringing in another veteran. We'll see.

DH- I guess I'll throw in David Ortiz here, but nothing more needs to be said about him. He's the best clutch hitter in baseball. Of everyone on this team, he's the least of our worries. Expect another MVP caliber season out of him.


Leftfield- Manny Ramirez. Drama. Occasional laziness. Fake injuries. Guaranteed production from one of the best hitters in baseball. I'll take it.

Centerfield- Coco Crisp had a very disappointing first season with the BoSox, largely due to injuries. Many here in Boston were crying for his departure at the season's end, but I think he's worth more time. He's got tons of talent (he's so fast!), and even though he throws like a girl he helps in the field. His offense was down last year, but it's hard to hit when you play with a broken finger. I'm hoping for a healthy and productive season and a trip back up to the top of the order for Coco.

Rightfield- We let Trot Nixon, our beloved rightfielder, go because of his constant injury problems, giving up his $6 million dollar salary. Instead, we picked up JD Drew and his 8 career trips to the disabled list (!) for $14 million. That's $14 million a year for 5 years for a man who has been incredibly average his entire career. He has 8 more trips to the disabled list than trips to the all-star game. And you'll remember that I wrote just 2 sentences ago that he's been on the DL 8 times. I'd rather give the full time position to Wily Mo Pena and his lower salary and see what happens.

Starting Pitching:

It's interesting, folks up here in Boston are raving about the starting pitching. It certainly has the names, here's the rotation as it stands today:

1- Curt Schilling
2- Josh Beckett
3- Daisuke Matsuzaka
4- Tim Wakefield
5- Kyle Snyder/Julian Tavares

That looks good, there's no doubt. But Schilling is only getting older, and despite his own claims of feeling like he'll do great, there's no reason to think that his decline will stop suddenly. That's not to say he'll be awful, but he won't be great. Beckett had a disappointing year last year, but he's young and full of talent. Matsuzaka is a bit of a wild card, he could be incredible, he could be incredibly average. I think he'll do well, 15-17 wins sounds about right, which is great for a #3 starter. All in all, this has the potential to be the best starting rotation in the American League.


With Jonathan Papelbon moving into the closer role the bullpen is blostered enormously. While I think Papelbon is better off being a starter in the long run, for this season the team is helped more by him being a closer. That frees Timlin, Pineiro, Donnelly, and crew to play the set up roles and provide stability. In one day this bullpen went from shakey to very good with Papelbon's move. My guess is that they'll add another arm to the bullpen, either through a trade or with John Lester's return from cancer coming in a couple months (he could end up in the starting rotation, which would mean one of the #5's mentioned above moving into the bullpen).

So here's my prediction: 99-63, narrowly winning the American League East over the Yankees. And of course I'm predicting they'll win the World Series. This time it doesn't feel like a stretch.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

one last plug

I've done this a few times, but this is the last time, I promise. My good friend, Brian, has made his blogging return. In his first post back he quotes AC/DC. In his second post he tackles the Documentary Hypothesis. That is a sign of a good blogger. I'm glad you're back, B-Funk Marchizzle, I hope you stay. I've added a link to the right.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Notions of New Nomenclature: Saul to Paul

One of the perplexing changes that occur in the Bible is the sudden switch from Saul of Tarsus being known as Paul. From his introduction in Acts 7:58 he was simply known as Saul, the once persecutor turned preacher of Christ. Seemingly out of nowhere in Acts 13:9 we read, "Then Saul, who was also called Paul..." and from then on he is always refered to as Paul. By the time of his earliest letter (which I take to be Galatians) he only refers to himself as Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles.

There have been a number of suggestions for this change. The one that most of us probably heard over the years is that Paul changed his name when he became a Christian, presumably because the association with Saul, the rejected king who disobeyed God and attempted to murder David, was no longer a favorable one (as if it would be any more favorable for a Jewish person). One book even states, "Jesus changes Saul's name to Paul" (137), which is a bewildering statement considering Jesus' role in the name change is never spelled out by any biblical writer (or even suggested).

Perhaps my prefered suggestion is that Paul, being a Roman citizen, actually would have had 3 names including his ethnic name (Saul, his Jewish name) and a more Romanized name, in this case, Paul. You can find this in a couple places, I always recommend Craig Keener's Biblical Background Commentary on the NT for this type of info. This would lend us to think that Paul strategically begins to go by his Roman name as he ministers more and more to Gentiles (and it might not be a coincidence that Sergius Paulus is mentioned in Acts 13 as well, perhaps Paul was hoping to garner some favor). Obviously one could go by two names, Peter is known as Cephas (Aramaic) and Peter (Greek) in the NT (though he is not a Roman citizen, and these are nicknames anyway, remember his name is actually Simon); but it is understandable why Paul made this decision.

But today I ran across an article by one of my former professors, Sean McDonough, in the summer edition of the Journal of Biblical Literature. He makes another suggestion that I find intriguing, though perhaps not convincing. He notes how Paul, as he begins preaching in 13:16, gives a "history of Israel" in sermonic form (not unlike Stephen in Acts 7) and includes a reference to Saul in vv21-22, the only time he is mentioned in the entire NT (I believe). McDonough suggests that this is an odd thing to mention (there are more important characters left out of his sermon), but believes it gives us a clue to why Saul begins to go by "Paul."

King Saul was a man of great physical stature, one who commanded respect merely at the sight of him. But his character did not match his imposing size, making him a goat more than a hero in the biblical story. Saul of Tarsus had a different goal in mind (who wouldn't?), and opted not to be associated with one of great physical presence, so he adopted Paulus as his name. Paulus is a Latin name meaning "small." It was a fairly common name in the ancient world. In switching his name, Paul was declaring that he was not going to be a physically dominating man, but a "small" man (in the eyes of the world). Of course, if 2 Corinthians 10:10 ("in person he is unimpressive") refers to his small stature, he may not have had a choice.

At any rate, I'm not really convinced this is what Paul had in mind, I still think the second option mentioned is preferable. Both the latter 2 are better than the first, which has little biblical evidence to commend it. I guess I lean towards the second simply because the biblical writers, including Paul, don't make a big deal out of the name change, so we probably shouldn't either (unless Luke was being really subtle). Instead, if there is a reasonable suggestion based on solid (historical) evidence that would have made sense to the original readers, that's the one I'll choose. If anyone is still reading this blog, I'd love to hear what you think.