The 2013 Red Sox are probably my 3rd favorite champion of the 21st century era of dominance in Boston sports. Out of the 9 championships in Boston since 2001 I'd say them and the 2001 Patriots are the only one where nobody ever expected it. They were a gift, we all know the narrative after the bombing and what they did for not just Boston but all of New England after tragedy. Not gonna really dive into that here but we all know they were an unexpected champion. (Do expect a blog on them at some point)
Since then the Sox have following up the magical ride that was 2013, with a two train-wrecks of a seasons in 2014, and 2015. Both teams were basically out of it come summer time. That's the absolute worst, when you go to a game in July and it doesn't even matter. I used to remember every game vividly when I'd go to Fenway, but now it's basically just a place I spend 200 bucks to get shitfaced. Don't get me wrong that can be fun too but I mean I'd at least like something to cheer for.
USA Today predicts the Sox to win the AL East with 88 wins. That right there is a fucking joke, 88 wins is not going to cut it to win the AL East, last time a team won the division with under 90 wins was the 2000 Yankees with 87, and the last time before that excluding the '95 Sox in a shortened season was the 1990 Red Sox. So I don't think 88 wins is gonna get anybody, let alone the Sox a division title.
Now I usually tend to lend pessimistic with expectations, ever since 18-1 I realized going into it expecting to lose makes heartbreak a million times easier to take. I know its kinda of a shitty way to go into it but I was 16 when 18-1 happened and it legit ruined an entire year for me.
However this year I actually do think the Sox can make some serious noise and I don't just mean the sound Pablo Sandoval dropping dead on the ground from a heart attack. I think the addition of David Price makes this team automatically a serious contender in the American League. With Price, Sox aren't going to have these crazy long losing streaks anymore, he is a stopper, a stud, an ace. (Something the Sox have not had since they traded away Lester which I still think is one the worst moves in team history.) David Price, I believe will make the other pitchers better just by being around. David Price wants to win, I know so do most athletes but he is one of the more vocal guys in all of sports, he knows his playoff stats are awful, but he's a grinder and is going to do what it takes and I believe will have playoff success in Boston. I think he is going to help E-Rod get to the next level.
Now even with Price this Sox team has a lot of question-marks. Can Hanley play a serviceable first base? Will Pablo Sandoval go an entire season without cardiac arrest? How much can we realistically expect Xander and Mookie to improve? Will this be the year Papi finally drops out significantly in production? What can we expect from the rest of the pitching staff? Is John Farrell a good manager? (I'll answer that one, no he is a bum who was lucky enough to get cared to a world championship) This team has a lot of question marks and not too much certainty.
There are a few things I believe you can count on:
1. David Price will be a stud
2. The bullpen will be good (as long as Tazawa doesn't pitch against the Blue Jays)
3. David Ortiz will hit 25+ home runs
4. If healthy Pedroia will be fine, hit above .285 and play a gold glove level 2B
After that who really knows? I believe, Price, E-rod, Papi, Kimbrel, Peddy, Mookie, X, and Koji will all be good to great but you need a lot more than that to contend for a postseason spot. For me these are the most important things for the Red Sox success if the things I just listed come to life.
1. This team has to get off to a good start. One thing I cannot stand is when people say games in April do not matter. Whenever somebody says that to me I totally disregard anything else they have to say about baseball. A win counts as much in April as it does in September. In 2011 we all know about the collapse, but people forget that that team also started off like 0-6, if you're even 2-4 there they still make the playoffs. We all know that a division isn't won in April and May but it sure as hell can be lost then. If the Sox are 6 games under .500 any point after week 2 I think Farrell needs to go. Cancer sucks and nobody wishes that upon anybody but I 100% believe if he doesn't get sick last year he is not managing this team in 2016. So start well, in 2013 the Sox were 18-8 in April. Obviously teams can bounce back from slow starts but for the 2016 Red Sox to be successful all year I believe they need to get out of the gates hot.
2. The production of Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez. We have all seen the picture of Pablo's gut hanging out of his shirt at spring training. Now personally, I am a fat guy and am currently trying to lose weight, so I get it, it fucking sucks, not being able to eat and drink whatever you want sucks. But guess what I'm a 24 year old loser and I'm working my ass off to do it because I don't want to die. Pablo couldn't care less. The Red Sox were idiots and gave him 95 million dollars because of 2 good postseasons. I hate when people say 3 because in 2010 he was essentially benched for ineffectiveness. To a degree I think this could all be an overreaction, I mean if Pablo can play a decent 3rd, hit somewhere around .275 with over 75 RBI's you can live with the fatness and contract. But for someone who was as awful as he was last year you'd think there would be a little bit of motivation, but since he has his rings and money he doesn't give a fuck, its obvious. I think he is the biggest obstacle for success on this team.
Now that brings me to Hanley Ramirez. I can't lie, I was excited when he was signed, I liked Hanley in April when he was raking, I liked Hanley when he was in our minor league system a decade ago and he was a stud with the Marlins. I can even remember people questioning his trade despite it pretty much being responsible for the 2007 World Series Championship because without Beckett and Mike Lowell that doesn't happen. With Hanley I believe this is all about effort. I believe if he wants to he could be a decent to even good defensive first basemen. Now whether on not he puts in the effort will remain to be seen. If Hanley can be a good offensive part of this team I think a lot can be forgiven. If he could somehow drive in over 90 runs I think this team will be very good. I am going to put faith in Hanley, I will probably regret this in a few months but for now I think he can bounce back.
3. Who after Price is going to step up in the rotation? After the front office blew up the 2013 Sox in 2014, the Sox didn't really have an identity in terms of starting rotation. So for 2015 they trotted out a bunch of number 4 starters and claimed they had 5 aces. We all know how horribly that worked. Now with David Price the Red Sox have an ace again, but even if David Price goes 21-6 with a sub 3 ERA the Sox are going to need another 70ish wins to contend for a postseason spot. As of now the rest of the rotation is Clay Buccholz, Eddie Rodriguez, Rick Porcello, and Joe Kelly. Clay Buccholz will get hurt at some point, you can put that in stone, he just cannot stay healthy for 30 starts over the course of a season. He might give you anywhere from 8-20 decent starts but you cannot count on that country bumpkin when you need him. I do however believe in the other 3 starters, I think E-Rod will really benefit from having Price, a well established left-handed pitcher to learn from. Tbh I'm not really worried about E-rod at all as long as he isn't tipping pitches, I think he is going to be a big part of this teams (potential) success. That leaves us with Porcello and Kelly. Rick Porcello was fucking awful last year, if you bet against the Sox when he pitched you could retire to a private island. I do think however he was pitching hurt for most of the time he was on the mound, when in Detroit he had some decent stats and seasons. He was on very good Tiger teams however and when the playoffs came around he wasn't really a piece of any of their postseason "success", he did however give up the walk-off single to Salty in game 2 of the 2013 ALCS so I'll always be grateful for that. If he can just eat innings and have an ERA under like 4.25 I'll be ok with Rick on the Sox. That leaves us finally with the self-proclaimed Cy Young winner of 2015, Joe Kelly. I actually was excited when the Sox got him and Allen Craig from the Cardinals in 2014, they were two of the few members of that team who did anything against the Sox in the World Series. Idk if they were still holding a grudge or something but they did not perform for the Sox. Allen Craig got to spend a lot of time in Pawtucket and Joe Kelly would strike out 8 guys but also give up 6 runs. Kelly did have a nice stretch to end the season when he stopped relying on his fastball so much and began to mix up his stuff. The big argument around New England sports talk has been whether on not that is something we can look forward to in 2016 of if simply he was performing well in essentially a stress-free environment. I hope its the former, but if he can give us something in between the two I am excited to see what Joe Kelly can do for the Sox in 2016.
Quick honorable mention: Rusney Castillo, hated the signing when it happened, I feel like the Sox were trying to strike Cuban-gold like the Dodgers or White Sox did, although Puig has become kind of a mess. Way too much money to a guy who was out of the game for like 2 years and is probably older than they think he is. Castillo needs to figure it out and start earning his money for the sox to be successful this year. Sidenote...fix your ears bro with all that cash you have now.
So despite all of that I am still cautiously optimistic about this team. Not to over simplify things but I really do think it all comes down to Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval carrying their weight and actually contributing to this team.
If they both are productive/both suck and get replaced: 93 wins
If one is good and one is not: 85 wins
If they both suck and don't get benched: 77 wins
I just hope I can go to a game in August and it still matters for the pennant race.
P.S. still salty the sox got rid of Don Orsillo, him and Jerry are the voices of my youth and he simply did not need to get fired, with all the problems this organization has/has had he was the least of their worries.
With all that being said LET'S GO RED SOX!!!