In the This Is My Nightmare series, we'll take a look at what the absolute worst case scenario for each team would be in 2013. Think of it as the negative complement to our You May Say I'm A Dreamer series that we'll be running during our preview series.
If you want to imagine a nightmare for the Boston Red Sox and Red Sox Nation, look no further than the 2012 season. Only the Indians and Twins had a worse record in the American League than Boston's 69-93. It was the first season under .500 for the Red Sox since 1997 (Nomar Garciaparra's rookie season), and their .426 winning percentage was the Red Sox worst since 1965 (a team that featured a 25-year old Carl Yastrzemski). That right there is your nightmare for the Red Sox.
But 2013 is a different year, and expectations are…different around Boston this season. They seem to be a bit tempered after the Red Sox spent their offseason handing out two and three year deals to veteran, middle tier players as opposed to the upper tier guys that Boston has typically targeted in the last decade plus. Shane Victorino, Jonny Gomes, Mike Napoli, and Ryan Dempster highlight the new batch of Boston players this season, and all have potential to disappoint the Red Sox and their fans due to age, declining performance, and in the case of Napoli, a potentially career-ending injury.
I don't think those players struggling would represent a nightmare for the Red Sox, though, None of them are really long-term pieces that are going to be around Boston after 2015. Yeah, wasting money is a big deal, but with the revenue the Red Sox generate every year through Fenway Park, it's not going to cripple the franchise like a bad contract would to a small market club (Pittsburgh, San Diego, and so on). I think a nightmare scenario for the Red Sox rests in their franchise cornerstones.
Jacoby Ellsbury's impending free agency is a potential powder keg for the Red Sox. If Ellsbury has a great year, his price will go up, and he might wait until after the season to test the free agent market. If Ellsbury struggles, the Red Sox will probably not offer him a contract that Ellsbury is interested in, and he'll look to the market to get paid what he's worth. The Red Sox are damned if they do and damned if they don't with him, and getting a deal done before the winter, regardless of his performance, is something that would completely avoid the nightmare scenario of a guy who was a nine win player in 2011 leaving town.
What about Dustin Pedroia, who took a step back in 2012 with the Red Sox? Even on a veteran club, he's a guy that needs to step up and be a leader. Another disappointing year from Pedroia will likely start to earn him the scorn of fans and could lead to him getting run out of town, leaving the Red Sox without one of their key pieces for the future. Finally, there's the starting rotation, where Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz both struggled a year ago, largely due to a shift in luck for both, and a huge drop in strikeout rate for Lester. Can both bounce back this year, or was 2012 a sign of things to come?
It's not a stretch to say that the Red Sox will be better in 2013. In fact, I'm sure everyone is expecting that. But there were a lot of bad vibes in 2012 around this team that could carry over to 2013, even with a whole crop of new players aboard, and turn 2013 into an even bigger nightmare.