Hello everyone, and welcome to the Time Out for Sports Talk blog!  My name is Todd, I produce and co-host the cable-access program in the Boston area bearing this name  that discusses the local pro sports scene.  Mike was a former co-host on the show until life and the great state of Maine called him away from the Hub. 

But thanks to this website we can reunite in the blogosphere, tossing out our sports opinions and occasional obscure pop culture references.  Think of us as Wayne’s World-meets-Bill Simmons, minus the notoriety. 

This week’s topic is the Boston Red Sox.  Can this year’s team remove the stench of 2012?

Todd: I hope the hiring of John Farrell has a parallel to what took place with Patriot head coaches Parcells, Carroll and Belichick.  In that case you had two winning and well-respected leaders sandwiched around a guy who was mainly a 'pumped-and-jacked' punchline during his time in Foxboro.  Anyone see a potentially similar line of succession with Francona, Valentine and Farrell?  Only time will tell if Boston’s latest managerial hire reaches those Belichickian kind of heights, but at least Farrell has brought a calming and professional presence back to the Sox clubhouse after all the chaos that ensued last season.

As for the team on the field, the pitching staff looks solid with Lester and Buchholz at the top of the rotation and a rejuvenated John Lackey (still amazed I’m typing those words) as the fifth starter.  The lineup is a work in progress, especially if Big Papi begins the season on the disabled list.  Pedroia/Napoli/Middlebrooks might be a decent heart of the order, but there looks to be little depth around them.  Then there’s the quandary of what to do with Jackie Bradley Jr.

My prediction for the 2013 Red Sox is 85 wins and third place in a very competitive American League East division in which I think all five teams could win between 80 and 90 games.  While I think the Sox can compete for one of the two wild card spots, they will ultimately come up short of reaching the postseason, but at least they’ll be moving in the right direction.  Don’t forget that Bill Belichick was only 5-11 in his first season coaching the Patriots.

What do you think, Mike?

Mike: Well Todd, I think you could be close there with 85 wins, which would be a HUGE jump from last season. I’m not 100% sold on Farrell, but I’m willing to take a wait and see approach with him, after all, anything has to be better than Bobby “I invented the wrap sandwich” Valentine, right?

Looking at the team itself, it’s clear that the brass went for character guys over taking risks for talent (i.e. Josh Hamilton). I think this is actually a pretty solid approach, especially since most of these guys are signed for short-term contracts, which will clear the way for some up-and-coming prospects in the near future. But, I also think the future is now for some guys, especially the aforementioned Jackie Bradley Jr. I don’t think the question is “what to do with him” anymore, it’s becoming clear that he is going to start the season in Boston in left field, something that I think is a good thing. He’s earned the shot this spring, and the team will be better served seeing what he can do at the highest level, especially since it’s likely that Jacoby Ellsbury is going to test the free agency market after this season.

As for win totals, I’ll say 88 games, and they will be in the playoff hunt right to the end of the season, making the summer exciting around here, before they drop out and finish in third, but ahead of the free falling Yankees. And in a season when the playoffs are a distant dream, finishing ahead of the Yankees is something, isn’t it?

Check out more Time Out For Sports Talk on Facebook and Twitter. You can watch the TOST show here.