2018 Red Sox: Best and Worst Case Scenarios

Opening Day has finally come, so it’s time to stop speculating on what may or may not happen in the 2018 MLB season. Before we do so however, I wanted to touch on what a best case or worst case scenario looks like for the 2018 Boston Red Sox. There is definitely a wide range of outcomes with this club. While I think they’ll be on the higher end of them, you never know. Let’s take a look at how things would play out perfectly, or disastrously.

The Best Case Scenario for the 2018 Red Sox

All of the success and good vibes from spring training carry over into April and the teamRed Sox 2018 Best and Worst keeps riding that wave. Chris Sale, David Price and Rick Porcello form a three-head monster at the top of the rotation and the only problem is that they’ll probably all split votes in the Cy Young Award race. Drew Pomeranz and Eduardo Rodriguez come back from the DL and remain healthy while finally realizing their immense potentials and solidifying the back of the pitching staff. The team releases Steven Wright.

Craig Kimbrel pitches like he did in 2017 while Tyler Thornburg and Carson Smith are healthy, super setup men. The rest of the bullpen falls in line and with all of the rest they get due to great performances by the starters, they excel.

JD Martinez provides the power the Sox have been missing. Mookie Betts gets back to an MVP-caliber player. Andrew Benintendi and Rafael Devers continue to thrive despite their inexperience. Dustin Pedroia turns back the clock to when he was actually good. JBJ and Christian Vazquez make strides at the plate to compliment their defense and Xander Bogaerts bounces back to re-join the “best shortstop in the league” conversation. The TB12 Method works wonders for Hanley Ramirez as he has his best season in Boston.

The bench guys play like starters and form one of the best units in the league to give the Sox amazing depth. Mitch Moreland and Eduardo Nunez get back to how they were when they were healthy for Boston in 2017. Blake Swihart’s wild journey ends well as he becomes a valuable utility player and Brock Holt gets back to being an “All Star”. Alex Cora wins manager of the year after he changes the culture in the Sox clubhouse and on the field. The Sox run away with the AL East over the Yankees. They then get through Houston and New York before facing Washington in the World Series. Devers comes up with big blasts to win World Series MVP as Boston takes home the title in 6 games.

Worst Case Scenario

The Sox groove from spring training is cut off and they start the season slow. Chris Sale and David Price either get hurt or stink. The fans start to lose it. Porcello continues to serve up long balls while Pomeranz and Rodriguez can’t stay healthy. The rotation ends up looking like a Triple A squad. The bullpen implodes every time they actually get a lead.

Pressure mounts as the leadership and clubhouse issues persist. Dustin Pedroia still feuds with the media and refuses to do anything but ground out to second base. Xander Bogaerts can’t seem to find his swing and is dangled in trade talks. Benintendi and Devers growing pains become real issues and we wonder whether they will actually pan out like we’d hoped. JBJ can’t hit a breaking pitch and Christian Vazquez becomes an automatic out. Mookie Betts cracks under the pressure of being a leader and an All Star while a divide forms between him and the front office. JD Martinez turns into David Price 2.0 in that he just can’t hack it in Boston and starts lashing out. Hanley Ramirez goes fully in the tank and his attitude gets him shipped out of town for pennies on the dollar.

The bench becomes a total hole as Blake Swihart’s value dips and we figure out that Brock Holt has overstayed his welcome. Nunez does not stay healthy and soon the team is made up of minor leaguers trying to fill in the gaps.

As the summer goes on, we find out that Cora wasn’t ready to be a manager at all. He gets into bad habits and stays stubborn about them with anyone who questions him. The team misses the postseason despite all the talent and the big payroll. The looming offseason is full of uncertainty.

Back to Reality

In truth, it’s not likely either of these things happen. The Sox won’t be perfect all year on their way to a championship. They won’t totally go down the tubes either. Well, at least I hope not. They’ll likely be an improved club that wins ballgames but still has some glaring issues. I like them to ultimately be the last squad standing, but it won’t be without some hiccups along the way. Manage your expectations, Sox fans and enjoy the season. We’re finally ready for the real thing!

 

Stephen Wright Gets A Suspension, But Was It Enough?

Steven Wright will serve a suspension to start the 2018 season. The MLB commissioner’s office decided that Wright deserved a 15-game penalty for violating the league’s domestic violence policy. In my estimation, this is not enough.

Wright was arrested on December 8th after an altercation with his wife. We don’t know allWright of the details but the situation escalated to the point that his wife felt threatened and that’s obviously enough for me to say that this was extremely out of bounds. Police took the pitcher into custody at the couples’ Tennessee home. The charges were misdemeanor domestic assault and preventing a 911 call. He was released from jail the following day on $2,500 bond and the Williamson County Court retired his case. The court will drop the case if he does not commit additional offenses within the next year.

Sure, Wright cooperated with the league office as they investigated the situation. He’s showing remorse and apparently is going through counseling with his wife. He continues to maintain that he did not make any physical contact with his wife, and he’s taking full responsibility for what transpired. This still should not be okay.

Domestic violence is a problem far too often in our world and in sports, it seems to get a pass. When an athlete makes a mistake, too many people back them. The MLB and the Red Sox have stated their disappointment in Wright, but who cares? Fifteen games without pay is a slap on the wrist for something of this magnitude. Aroldis Chapman received a 30-game ban, which is still way too light.

I’m a big believer in second chances and I know people make mistakes, but I think Wright should have to deal with a team releasing him over this. He should have to sit for a while and focus on the important things before getting back to baseball. At the very least he should get a more hefty punishment than this. It’s extremely disappointing and frankly, I don’t want to have to root for the guy all summer long. Let’s just hope he makes the right changes and moves on to be a better person.

Where Did it All Go Wrong for the Red Sox?

The irony was painful. After a summer of blowout wins and offensive fireworks, the Red Sox succumbed weakly in the fall, unable to locate the big hit when it mattered most. A vaunted lineup, unrivaled in the Majors this season, was stifled by a resilient Cleveland Indians team, as old friend Terry Francona masterminded a Division Series sweep of Boston.

Red Sox

Before the series, few people took the Indians seriously. Three of their best players – Michael Brantley, Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar – were missing due to injury. Another star, Corey Kluber, saw his start pushed back due to another ailment. By most measures, the Red Sox were far superior. Most fans predicted a swift sweep. That’s exactly what they got, but of an entirely different flavor.

A Shock for Red Sox Nation

The way it happened was stunning. Boston didn’t play great to close the regular season, but a refreshed approach was expected once the playoffs began. Instead, Red Sox Nation was left waiting, and waiting, and waiting some more, for a team that never showed up. Almost from the first pitch in Cleveland, there was a sense of brewing melodrama. There was a sense that this team had run its course, quite incredibly. The Indians finished the job with shocking rapidity.

Perhaps plain old complacency is to blame. Did the Red Sox simply believe their own hype? That’s difficult to confirm, but it would at least explain the way Boston was caught like a deer in the headlights. When the games really mattered, when the wheat was separated from the chaff, this team wasn’t good enough. It just never got going. And now we’re left to contemplate through the bitter months ahead.

As people digest this loss around the hot stoves of New England, one topic will inspire more debate that any other: the choking offense. So powerful during the regular season, the Red Sox lineup froze on the biggest stage of all.

How Did the Red Sox Get Swept?

While it’s unfair to pinpoint any one guy for criticism, it is worth noting the performance of these praised hitters to paint a collective picture. Dustin Pedroia managed two hits in twelve ALDS at-bats. Mookie Betts, by all consensus an MVP candidate, collected just two in ten. That was better than Jackie Bradley, who produced just one hit, while Xander Bogaerts and Hanley Ramirez combined to go 6-for-24. It just wasn’t good enough.

Even David Ortiz, the master of October baseball, found little magic left in his wand. Papi added just one more hit to his postseason ledger before riding off into the cold night. For once, he couldn’t muster the big blow, and neither could his teammates. The Red Sox left 41 runners on base during this three-game series. They scored just seven runs. In the end, after all the worrying, that ridiculed rotation kept Boston in these games for the most part. The offense just couldn’t deliver.

And so, what now? The Red Sox will seek a replacement for Ortiz, as weird as that sounds. Perhaps John Farrell will see his position as manager reviewed. Maybe Dave Dombrowski will try to address some weaknesses throughout the offseason.

This young core will return to the postseason on plenty of occasions moving forward. But, right now, this was just a step too far for Mookie, Xander, Jackie and the rest. They should learn from the experience, and come back stronger for it. That may not help Red Sox fans deal with the present shock, but it should assist these players in preparing for future assaults on a World Series championship.

Red Sox Versus Indians: 2016 ALDS Preview

The Red Sox are about to embark on their first postseason run since 2013. More importantly, it will be just the second time in seven years that October baseball will visit Boston. So, what can fans expect in the American League Division Series, and will the Red Sox advance?

Red Sox

Well, it’s perhaps easier to answer the first question. Boston has a first round matchup with the Cleveland Indians, needing three wins to advance. The first two games will be played at Progressive Field, with the next two at Fenway Park. If a deciding fifth contest is needed, the teams will travel back to Cleveland, which has experienced something of a baseball revival in recent months.

Cleveland Will Test the Red Sox

The Indians have a fascinating history. From the days of Cy Young and Nap Lajoie through to Bob Feller and Larry Doby, and on to Jim Thome and Manny Ramirez, Cleveland has built some very good teams. However, that effort has yielded just two world championships, and none since 1948. Still, the Cavaliers won an NBA title this year, ending Cleveland’s notorious drought, so perhaps there’s a little magic in the air by Lake Erie.

A familiar friend captains the Cleveland ship. Terry Francona, the mastermind of two World Series championships for the Red Sox, has been the Indians’ manager since 2013. The first few years were rough, but a core of young players has since emerged, with shortstop Francisco Lindor and second baseman Jason Kipnis leading Cleveland to its first full postseason series since 2007. Attendance has increased for Indians home games, and this is definitely a team looking to progress swiftly.

The Indians Are Struggling With Injuries

Francona won’t be able to rely much on his vaunted starting rotation in this series, though. The Indians pitched to a 3.86 ERA during the regular season, much better than the Red Sox’ 4.00 mark. However, the Indians have lost Carlos Carrasco to injury. Ace Corey Kluber will return from a scare to pitch in Game 2, but Danny Salazar, the third head of this tremendous trident, has not made the ALDS roster thanks to a strained forearm.

Essentially, the Indians’ biggest strength has been decimated by injuries. Trevor Bauer and his 4.42 career ERA will start Game 1 against the Red Sox, while Josh Tomlin and Mike Clevinger aren’t exactly petrifying. Nevertheless, Boston cannot take anything for granted, especially given the erratic nature of its own pitching staff.

The Red Sox do have a considerable advantage in terms of offense. Boston scored 101 more runs than Cleveland during the regular season, and also had a far superior run differential. Those statistics may not play especially well in a short series, but no team in baseball can fully match the Red Sox with regard to a dynamic lineup that can score in multiple ways. If the bats keep producing at their normal clip, and the pitching holds up, it will be really difficult for the Indians to stick with the Red Sox.

Of course, nothing is ever easy in October. All of these teams emerged from the enormous grind of a season to earn this opportunity. But the Indians seem to be falling apart physically at the worst possible time, affording the Red Sox a brilliant chance of advancing.

So strap yourself in. It’s time to get excited. Let’s see if Big Papi and the Red Sox have one more run in them, when it really matters most.

The Red Sox Are Built for Sustainable Success

The Red Sox are edging closer to their first division title since 2013. At various times in recent memory, that seemed impossible. Too many collapses. Not enough nerve. But as the leaves change color and autumn truncates summer, things are falling into place just nicely this time. The offense is unstoppable, and the pitching has improved. Boston is galloping away with the American League East, and that may be the case for many years to come.

Red Sox

This current success is rooted in fairly recent failure. The Red Sox have made just one postseason appearance since 2009. They’ve finished in last place three times since then, including the past two seasons, while winning eighty games has proved difficult. Managers have changed. Front office members have been fired. New players have arrived on bloated contracts. Yet, through it all, hope still pervaded, for an exciting group of prospects received playing time in which to hone its craft. Now, we’re seeing the fruits of that labor at the Major League level, and it’s pretty magical.

How the Red Sox Built a New Core

In darker days, back when Pablo Sandoval flailed at off-speed junk or Bobby Valentine lost control, we heard so much about the new core developing below. Well, it’s finally here. And it’s finally attuned to big league ball. Mookie Betts has over 200 hits, 30 home runs, 100 RBI and 20 stolen bases. Xander Bogaerts has 20 bombs of his own and he led the league in batting average earlier this season. Jackie Bradley Jr. may finish with 30 homers and 100 RBI with a late surge, complimenting his all-world defense. These players have an average age of just 24. They’re great, and they’re going to be around for a very long time.

Around that nucleus, there are more layers of young Red Sox talent. Andrew Benintendi is just 21, but his grace, poise and ability belies that fact. Yoan Moncada needs further refinement, but his raw skills saw him promoted to Boston before turning 22. Meanwhile, Eduardo Rodriguez has slowly returned to form, and he may be the Red Sox’ third playoff starter. Then we have Blake Swihart and Christian Vazquez, one of whom will eventually become the starting catcher at Fenway Park.

Few Teams Can Compete With This Talent

Quite simply, no other team in the AL East can match that cadre of young, cost-controlled, Major League-ready talent. Toronto is a strong opponent, but many of their aging stars will soon hit free agency. The Yankees are transitioning to a youth movement, and their farm is loaded. But in developmental terms, New York is probably where Boston was in 2014. Many of those bright young players still have a lot to learn, and that can be a painful process. Meanwhile, Baltimore relies on a veteran core, and Tampa Bay is so far removed from contention as to be almost irrelevant.

The Red Sox will have tremendous flexibility moving forward, as these players should remain in Boston for many years. However, right now, veterans like David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, Rick Porcello and Dustin Pedroia are providing valuable experience and leading the Red Sox back to contention. That blend of youth and know-how is crucial. It may just result in a deep championship run, if the magic dust doesn’t run out.

Whether the Red Sox win it all this year or not, fans can rest assured that other opportunities will arise in future years. At one point, just a few short years ago, that was a distant dream. Yet now, after building through the tough times, sustainable success is once again on tap in Beantown. It should be fun to watch.

Dustin Pedroia Could Win the Batting Title

Dustin Pedroia is still the beating heart of this Red Sox team. Sure, Mookie Betts is now the defining star, and David Ortiz will always be the ultimate hero. But nobody embodies the spirit and fight of Boston baseball quite like the scrappy second baseman. And with just under three weeks remaining, Pedey has a legitimate shot at becoming the American League batting champion, a fitting tribute to his remarkable resurgence.

Dustin Pedroia

Nowadays, batting average is sneered at. Led by statisticians, many people consider it an inferior metric for gauging performance. It’s too one-dimensional, they say. It only takes into account one skill, rather than four or five. In this age of Statcast, where every aspect of baseball is calculated and scrutinized, I understand the concern. Yet batting average remains one of the most instantly recognizable measurements of talent, if not the most accurate.

We’re all supposed to worship at the altar of Wins Above Replacement, but few casual fans even know how it’s calculated. WAR offers no concise moment of greatness, such as when a hitter slugs his 500th career home run or notches his 3,000th hit. So, to me, batting average and other traditional numbers still have a pretty special place in the game, even if their utility has been surpassed by newer, sexier metrics.

The Resurgence of Dustin Pedroia

Therefore, what Dustin Pedroia is doing fascinates me. At 33, the ultimate grinder is having one of his best ever seasons. Pedroia has a .332/.391/.465 slash line with 13 home runs, 34 doubles and 66 RBI. Judging by OPS, a catch-all stat for offensive performance, this is his best campaign since 2011. In terms of WAR, it’s already his best since 2013, with eighteen games remaining. When all is said and done, Dustin Pedroia may not receive MVP consideration, but his importance to the Red Sox cannot be overstated.

Numbers simply don’t do the guy justice. However, one number, that .332 batting average, is particularly intriguing. Right now, only Jose Altuve, the Houston Astros’ hitting machine, has a higher average in the American League. Altuve presently sits at .340, making for a tight race and interesting subplot in the final weeks of an enthralling season.

In Pursuit of History

Bill Mueller was the last Red Sox player to win a batting title. The third baseman did so with a .326 mark in 2003. It may be difficult for Dustin Pedroia to haul back an eight-point disadvantage this late in the season and follow in Mueller’s footsteps, but stranger things have happened. All it takes is for one hot streak to coincide with a rare skid for Altuve, and one of the greatest players in Red Sox history would add another historic achievement to his resume.

While the batting title may have lost some of its prestige, there’s still a certain charm to its history. It’s one of the oldest awards in the game, one that Ty Cobb lusted after so violently in a different age. For that reason, that sense of tradition, we should root for Dustin Pedroia to win the batting crown. I can hardly think of a more deserving recipient.