Tom Verducci

SI's Tom Verducci on MFB: Red Sox 'the best team in a very weak division'

April 06, 2015 - 9:07 am
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Sports Illustrated's Tom Verducci checked in with Middays with MFB on Monday to talk about the Red Sox and other news from around the majors. To hear the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page. Verducci is predicting the Red Sox to win the American League East, but he didn't voice very much confidence in them. "I do think the Red Sox are the best team in a very weak division," he said. "It could be 90 wins or maybe even less to win this division. You could make a case for any team to finish first -- and maybe even last. ... But to me the Red Sox are a team that has the best offense in all of Major League Baseball. And I think their pitching is just good enough to be the best in a weak division." There's been speculation that the Red Sox will go after a premier pitcher sooner rather than later, but Verducci said that might not be as crucial as some people think. "I'm not a real big believer in that," he said. "I know a lot has been focused on the fact that the Red Sox don't have an ace. The team that won the division last year with 94 wins didn't have an ace -- the Baltimore Orioles. I just think the way the game is played now is entirely different than what it was 10 or 20 years ago. "Listen, in a perfect world I'd rather have the Nationals rotation than anybody else in baseball -- I'd want five aces. There's just not enough of those pitchers to go around. But with a dynamic offense, I think they have a premier defense, I think their defense could be one of the top three in the American League. "To me, actually, the key is going to be the bullpen. Whether they have the right pieces now, whether they make changes during the course of the season. I think you can win with basically average starting pitching as long as you have a great offense, really good defense -- which they have -- and a really good bullpen. And I think the key is actually figuring out how they use their bullpen and what the construct is of that bullpen." Following are more highlights from the interview. For more Red Sox news, visit the team page at weei.com/redsox. On Alex Rodriguez and the Yankees: "They honestly don't know what to expect from him. But they were pleasantly surprised from what they saw in spring training. Now listen, you guys know spring training is a controlled environment. You basically control when a guy plays, you can build in days off, you get a lot of your plate appearances against guys who are not going to be pitching in the major leagues once the games count for real. And for an older player, especially, you manage the playing time and the at-bats. "The grind of the season to me is the true test. So I'm not really taking anything away from spring training other than the fact that he didn't fall apart and he didn't look horrible. He's obviously able to contribute something. But to me, since he's Alex Rodriguez we've spent way too much time talking about a guy who hit .267 in spring training and is a part-time DH. He is not the reason why the Yankees will rise or fall. I actually think they're in a little bit of trouble because it is an older team, susceptible to injuries, and I think they're a bad offensive team with some pretty good pitching, especially in their bullpen." On Josh Hamilton and the Angels' reaction to him not receiving discipline from MLB for his relapse: "They clearly are bothered by Josh Hamilton's conduct. And it's unusual when you hear a club really take on one of its own. And listen, they're not getting out from under the contract. I don't think that was their motivation. I just think they're ticked that there's this guy, he had a relapse, he did come clean, so to speak, and admit it prior to the test being administered. But that really caught my attention. I don't know if the relationship between the player and the club is broken, but I think it has been harmed. It's going to be interesting to see if they let bygones be bygones when he gets back to the lineup." On Jon Lester and his Opening Day loss for the Cubs: "He got exposed last year in that wild card game [for the Athletics] with the Kansas City Royals turning it into a track meet. It's tough to survive in the National League when the other team knows you will not throw to bases. You saw what the Cardinals were able to do to him. Basically you can go first move every time. He's not even making courtesy throws to the bases. I think it's a real problem. ... I think in the National League you can get exposed a little bit more. Stuff-wise I thought he was OK. I thought he was overhyped for the game. You saw David Ross go out there a couple of times and try to reel him back in in terms of not letting his competitiveness get the best of him."