So I guess baseball started yesterday

VIDEO: Pedro Martinez throws out the first pitch at Fenway last night

And so the Red Sox beat the Yankees last night. How odd that after an offseason that prompted debates among some fans over whether or not the Red Sox would have enough offense they score nine runs, and after all of the excitement over the run-preventing prowess of new acquisitions Mike Cameron, Adrian Beltre, and Marco Scutaro they allow seven runs. But, of course, it's one game out of 162; no reason to read anything at all into it.

I'm not going to say a great deal about the now-underway season. Anything I have to add at this point would be redundant. The Sox are so well-covered by a number of smart, talented people, including but not limited to Gordon Edes, Rob Bradford, Alex Speier, Peter Abraham, Amalie Benjamin, Brian MacPherson . . . you get the idea. And that's not even counting the many baseball blogs peddling statistically-informed analysis like Fangraphs, Rob Neyer, Baseball Think Factory, NBC's Hardball Talk . . . again, you get the idea. Even the most popular sportswriter in America is on board with the advanced stats. Basically, for fans of smart baseball commentary, the internet provides an embarrassment of riches. Poke around on those sites for a while and you'll see that they've already debunked the myth that the team isn't going to hit enough and illustrated the value of defense. Most projection systems and experts have the Red Sox in that 95-win range, which is usually good enough for them to make the playoffs either as the AL East winner or the Wild Card, but those same systems also tell us we're going to see a tight race between them, the Yankees, and the Rays. So it won't be easy.

All that said, though, 'm pretty excited for the start of this new season, and not just because I'm intrigued by the Red Sox' run prevention this year. Here's what I think is truly genius about this Sox team's roster construction: flexibility. As in financial flexibility. The Sox have a high payroll for 2010, yes, but there are exactly three everyday position players of significance who are under team control in 2012: Pedroia, Ellsbury, and Youkilis. This could mean, therefore, that if anyone underperforms or gets hurt, the management group will not hesitate to replace him for a long stretch of time by benching him, or trading for someone else (keep in mind also that Josh Reddick, Ryan Kalish, Casey Kelly and possibly even Jose Iglesias could make cameo appearances in Fenway at some point). The big financial obligations on this team are for the pitching staff - Josh Beckett and John Lackey are now the team's highest-paid players. That's risky, but, again, this front office has proven they understand the concept of "sunk costs." And hey, if we don't like this group of guys, the team is going to see about $40 million come off the books next season (depending on David Ortiz's option). And they still have the pieces to trade for someone like Prince Fielder (I imagine every time the sizable vegan's name is mentioned in connection with Boston, the proprietors of Grasshopper's get a little excited) or Adrian Gonzalez. So they're set up well for both now and the future.

But still, I'm pretty sure the Yankees are just going to win the World Series again anyway. I guess you never know, though; these guys can't stay this good forever. Can they?

My predictions are usually horribly wrong, but here goes anyway:
AL Playoffs: NY, Boston, Minnesota, Seattle*
NL Playoffs: Atlanta, Philadelphia, St. Louis, Colorado
ALCS: NY over Boston
NLCS: Atlanta over Colorado
World Series: NY over Atlanta.
MVPs: Mark Teixeira, Albert Pujols (oooh, going out on a limb!)
CYs: Felix Hernandez, Roy Halladay
RoYs: Neftali Feliz, Jason Heyward

* - It's been fun to watch the baseball bloggers' reaction to the Mariners - it was like the trajectory of music bloggers' reaction Vampire Weekend or something: breathless hype followed by a kneejerk backlash. 

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