The skepticism only grows when you look at Boston's retooled outfield and, in particular, its new center fielder.
Mike Cameron is 37 years old and prone to striking out. The tendency has worsened in recent years, to the screechy tune of one whiff every 3.4 at-bats since 2007. Not to pick on Cameron, whose career will put him on Hall of Fame ballots, but you wonder how many Ks he'll amass now that he's in the Big Boy League's best division -- the American League East -- after playing the last six years in the Little Boys League.
The good news for the Sox is that Cameron remains one of baseball's remarkable athletes.
"We tested all of our players," says Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein. "He finished a tick behind [left fielder] Jacoby Ellsbury -- second out of everyone in camp -- in all of the quickness and agility testing. He was second in the vertical [jump-. He was second in quickness -- the 10-yard dash, 30-yard dash, all that stuff.
"On strength testing, he was right up there with everybody."
It's not the first time that Cameron wowed a new club shortly after arriving. Four years ago when the Padres tested for hand strength, Cameron was one of only three players to "pin" the needle and the only one to do it with each hand.
The Sox weren't surprised that Cameron still has his fast-twitchiness, but the test results were reassuring. A big part of why Boston signed Cameron to a two-year, $15-million contract was to run down balls in center field.
"He's a very good defender," Epstein says.
Being able to run fast, though, will not help him reduce his strikeouts.
While Joe DiMaggio's ghost might wince if Cameron strikes out, say, once every 3.2 at-bats, the Red Sox will not moan. At least not publicly.
"Punchouts don't bother us as long as they come with some power and some walks and defense," Epstein says. "A lot of the best hitters in baseball punch out a lot."
The Sox are Cameron's seventh franchise. One of the common threads to the job-hopping was team success. Cameron, who started out with the White Sox, went to the playoffs with three franchises -- the Mariners, Padres and Brewers. Also, he was part of a Reds team that won 96 games. He couldn't save the Mets, but what mortal could?
All things considered, his employers received good returns. Or better.
"He could be one of the more underrated players of our generation because he's probably never gotten quite enough credit for his defense," Epstein says. "Because of his batting average and strikeouts, people overlooked his power and his ability to get on base. And, then, he's played his entire career basically in extreme pitcher's parks."
Same as with third baseman Adrian Beltre, who signed with Boston this past offseason, Cameron chose the Red Sox largely because he figured they represented his best chance to win a first World Series ring. And with Cameron and Beltre aboard, the Sox like their overall defense a whole lot more than they did last October.
"We just need to go out and do it," Epstein says.
The newcomers bring some personality to the Sox, too. Cameron is one of the game's effervescent players, a chatty, upbeat man who has made dozens of friends among teammates and coaches over the years.
He especially enjoys playing defense and smiles broadly after hitters complain about the hits that he steals from them.
Many of his Red Sox teammates have a similar passion for the leather. When Red Sox infielders practiced two hours before a recent game at City of Palms Park, the thwack of ball hitting leather was accompanied by a stream of player commentary and laughter. The ball got away only three times in the 30 minutes. Putting pizzazz into it were Beltre, second baseman Dustin Pedroia and first baseman Kevin Youkilis, who snapped up groundballs with extra flair.
"You have to have fun," Beltre says. "This game can be stressful sometimes. If you don't enjoy it, it's going to be like another job. I think many people want to be in our shoes -- which is, your job is what you love. When you have fun, your mind can become a little free and you get your job done better.
"I admire especially Pedroia, playing against him. I played against [shortstop Marco] Scutaro a lot of years, and he's a solid defensive guy. Youkilis, he won a Gold Glove a couple of years ago.
"We look solid defensively."