Red Sox Take First Place Going Into May

“The Red Sox take first place.” That’s a headline Red Sox fans haven’t consistently seen since 2013. The Boston Red Sox took command of first place Sunday night in a win over the New York Yankees, sweeping their long time rivals in a three game series to edge out the Orioles in the American League East. It remains to be seen how long they can stay Red Sox take first placethere, but one thing is for sure: the Red Sox are a completely new and reinvigorated team.

The season started out with its fair share of problems. Pablo Sandoval’s weight made many question how much he’d be able to contribute to the team. Clay Buchholz fumbled out of the gate in April. And, like many times before, the team blew leads in late innings. But since traveling to Atlanta to take on the Braves in late April, the Red Sox have suddenly come alive. Dustin Pedrioa had a multiple home run game, including a grand slam off Pesky’s Pole. Jackie Bradley Jr. hit two triples against the Yankees. Rick Porcello is now 5-0 for the season. If the Red Sox continue with this streak, ticket demands and crowds at and around Fenway will swell, filling in the voids that I saw earlier in April.

Much of the reason as to why the Red Sox are suddenly on fire is likely because Pablo Sandoval hasn’t been around. It’s no secret that he’s been a drag for the team in more ways than one. After all, his bad juju had a bad affect on the team. While I’m also still not 100% sold on whether Farrell should stay or go, he’ll have much less to worry about if the Sox continue their tear, especially against the Chicago White Sox this week, who are holding onto a first place lead of their own in the American League Central.

Fans are filling their hearts with hope again as the Red Sox take first place. If we dare, we’ll keep that faith and hope to see them in the post-season.

Red Sox Playing Strongly After Rough April

For the first few weeks in April, fans in the Red Sox Nation feared that 2016 was shaping up to be a repeat of the last two seasons. Price gave up 8 runs to Tampa Bay, Clay Buchholz continued to struggle (and still does), strong leads were being blown in later innings, and Farrell’s job seemed on the line (probably still is). In the last week, though, fans are now seeing the Red Sox playing strongly, much like the team they were in 2013.

The Red Sox won four straight in the last week of April, highlighted by a multiple home runRed Sox playing strongly game for Dustin Pedrioa that included a grand slam off Pesky’s Pole. Only 1 game behind the Baltimore Orioles, the Red Sox find themselves within striking distance of taking first place in the American League East. While Thursday night’s loss to the Atlanta Braves was a small setback, the Red Sox should have no problem sweeping the New York Yankees, who are currently in last place, as the Red Sox go into May.

While it has lost much of its steam in recent years, the rivalry between the Red Sox and Yankees is still strong. The rivalry started in 1912 when the Red Sox beat New York, who back then were named the Highlanders, 7-6 in 11 innings when Fenway Park first opened. After Babe Ruth was sold to the Yankees in 1920, the Red Sox went without a World Series title for 86 years, which many attributed to the Ruth’s departure. Since then, the Yankees have broken the hearts of the Red Sox Nation multiple times, whether it was stealing a pennant in 1949, or Bucky Dent’s home run in the 1978 ALCS at Fenway. Since winning the World Series in 2004, the conflict between the two teams has died down somewhat, now that Yankee fans can’t hold The Curse of the Bambino above Sox fans’ heads anymore. Nevertheless, it’s always a thrill to be in the stands when the Yankees come to town because there’s almost as much drama in the seats as there is on the field.

While the Red Sox winning streak was snapped by Atlanta Thursday night, they’re still in second place. If we continue to see the Red Sox playing strongly going into May, then the team should snatch first place by the end of the first week of the month.

UPDATE: As of May 1st at 11:27pm, the Boston Red Sox have swept the New York Yankees and are now in first place in the American League East!

Red Sox Leadership Up For Grabs

Ever since David Ortiz announced his intention to retire at the end of the 2016 season many have wondered who will bear the Red Sox leadership torch. After all, Ortiz’s shoes will be hard to fill. Not only is Oritz a member of the 500 Home Run Club and a 9 time All-Star, but he’s the last remaining Red Sox player on the current roster who was on the 2004 World Series team— the team that broke the curse and won a title for Boston for the Ortiz Red Sox Leadershipfirst time in eighty-six years. Whoever takes the baton from Ortiz as the next leader for the Red Sox will have the weight of the team on his shoulders.

Many are looking at Xander Bogaerts as the one who will take the torch from Ortiz after this season. Boegarts moved to no. 3 in the lineup last season ahead of Ortiz, a sign of the faith manager John Farrell has in him. After winning the Silver Slugger Award for hitting .320 last season, Bogaerts stands out as one of the more dependable hitters in the lineup. After I personally saw Bogaerts hit his first career grand slam against the Tampa Bay Rays last September, I became convinced right then and there that he could be the next Red Sox leader, especially since both he and Ortiz can hit in clutch situations.

Who Else Could Play A Red Sox Leadership Role?

Mookie Betts is another name that’s starting to emerge in connection to Red Sox leadership as he continues to improve his hitting and fielding. While Betts hit a respectable .281 with 18 home runs last season, it was his fielding that made Red Sox fans and foes’  jaws drop as they jumped out of their seats. Last September in a game against the Orioles, Betts robbed Chris Davis of a home run in the top of the 9th when he leaped against the Red Sox bullpen wall to catch the ball. Red Sox players and fans erupted in cheers as Betts came back to earth with the ball firmly in his glove. Betts is also a danger on the base paths after stealing 21 bases last season. Being at least a three-tool player for the Sox would make him a strong model and inspiration for the rest of the team.

Finally, I think another strong contender is Brock Holt. Yes, he’s not quite the power hitter we’d like him to be, as he only hit 2 home runs last season and has a career total of 6, but his solid batting average and all-star appearance last season makes him a dependable player who has what it takes to rally the team when they need it most.

Red Sox leadership isn’t anything to be taken lightly. Whoever takes over Ortiz’s spot will have a lot to live up to. But if any of these three players listed above continue to play as well as they do, it’ll only be a matter of time before one of them emerges as a natural leader. Before you know it, he’ll be leading the Red Sox to another World Series.