Instead of being the typical sports talk show caller in my hometown of Boston, who, at this point literally has to dig for issues to whine about concerning the Red Sox, I think it would be wise to just enjoy this unbelievable run they are on and look at any negatives in full context - the fact that most of the struggling players, however few of them there are right now, are new to Boston, for instance. But focusing on the sub-par play of a few players (Coco Crisp, J.D. Drew) takes away from the fact that the Red Sox have an 11½ game lead over their arch rival, the Yankees. No other first place team has such a big lead over their division opponents. And they are in the top 3 or 5 in many hitting and pitching categories in the American League.
To get this big lead, the Sox have many players playing at or well above expectations. Perhaps none more than Hideki Okajima, on the pitching side. With his ERA still around 1.00 this far into the season, he may just be the most dominant setup man you (and closer Jonathan Papelbon) could ask for.
As for the hitters, the only rookie among the starting nine has exceeded all expectations, and done so rather quickly, considering his slow start. Of course, I'm talking about second baseman Dustin Pedroia.
Remember when the Sox had little talent in their farm system? I sure do. How fast times change. Just in the last two years or so, we have seen the emergence of Jonathan Papelbon, Kevin Youkilis, Jon Lester — the southpaw who got off to an impressive start before coming down with Lymphoma last year and is now cured and almost ready to make his much anticipated comeback to the Sox rotation — and now Pedroia.
Sure, Pedroia got off to a slow start, which made some impatient fans cry for Alex Cora to play more, but that wasn't unexpected. In fact, I didn't know what to expect from him other than good, solid defense. To this point, he's only made two errors on the year. By contrast, his predecessor Mark Loretta made only four last year, but he was a veteran and a solid one at that.
Though he got some at bats late in 2006, Pedroia is still a rookie, and a confident one at that. And why not? Looking at his college and short minor league career, I would be too if I was named Defensive Player of the year in 2003 at Arizona State, co-player of that same year in the PAC-10, and had a whopping .466 OBP in three years at ASU!