Yup, it was way back in 2005 when he wore that Marlins uniform. As much as people have been talking about Matsuzaka's US debut and the effects of Papelbon's move back into the pen, I think the key to this pitching staff may be Beckett. On a staff with an aging Schilling, a rookie Matsuzaka, a knuckleballer Wakefield, and a converted reliever Tavarez, I think Beckett needs to go out and give the Sox 20-25 quality starts and a sub-4.50 ERA this year to anchor the rotation.
Will he bounce back from a 2006 ERA north of 5? Is he a casualty of moving from the NL East to the AL East? Did he choke in the Boston sports pressure cooker? His strikeouts were down, his walks were up, and he gave up a ton of homers (he gave up 36 bombs last year, second only in baseball to Carlos Silva's 38--I think it's safe to say the Sox thought they were getting a pitcher slightly better than Carlos Silva from the Marlins). Someone probably knows what was wrong with Beckett, but I don't. Even though I live in Boston, I've kept my head in the sand when it comes to Red Sox coverage.
The bullpen looks a little suspect leading up to Papelbon, and as much as it sounds weird to say, I think the lineup will really benefit from having J.D. Drew in there (not a good deal for the money, maybe, but a good move in terms of offensive production on a fairly weak lineup outside Manny and Papi). I could write more about Manny's and Papi's man-love, the error-prone middle infield, and the wildcards that are Mike Lowell and Coco Crisp, but screw it. Like I said, I think Beckett is the key to this team. He pitches like he's capable of, then the Sox take the division; he sputters, you could see another third place finish.
Besides, this baseball preview thing is limping to a close, and really I'm just excited to watch baseball rather than write about it right now. It's time for the Cardinals to embark on another 83 win World Championship--sit back, relax, and strap it down. Short and sweet ChiSox preview tomorrow, folks.