This is part of an occasional series comprising MLB season previews.
The Boston Red Sox have been incapable of threading two successful seasons together for a while. Their last two consecutive winning seasons were 2010 and 2011—the latter being the year Boston was set to go to the postseason until the club turned in a 7-20 record in September, endured a pants-shitting to remember in Game 162 against the Orioles, and fired manager Terry Francona.
The ups and downs since then haven’t been all bad. The ups included a World Series title in 2013; the downs included Bobby Valentine and three last-place finishes in the AL East. Last year, however, was the first full season for new president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski, and he made moves which allowed the Red Sox to win their division—and get worked over in the ALDS by Francona’s Cleveland Indians. That’s a step in the right direction.
Let’s start with the guys who left. David Ortiz retired, and Clay Buchholz was traded to Philadelphia for second base prospect Josh Tobias. Dombrowski did a stellar job to get the Phillies to sweeten their initial offer of a week-old bag of lunch meat. Third baseman Travis Shaw is also gone; the team sold high and shipped him, along with a couple of prospects, to the Brewers for reliever Tyler Thornburg.
The old heads on the team are Dustin Pedroia, Hanley Ramirez, and outfielder Chris Young, all 33. Ramirez is slated to be the new DH; new face Mitch Moreland will fill in at first. Oh, and Pablo Sandoval’s back and healthy. Here’s a photo of him from a Feb. 28 spring training game:
In March of 2016:
The outfield should be an absolute blast. Mookie Betts finished second in AL MVP voting last year, and hopes to exceed that excellence this season. He hit 31 home runs and stole 26 bases, the only player to go 30-20 in 2016. Betts had a line of .318/.363./534, and he should continue his all-around outstanding play this year.
Other fun guys will be playing alongside Betts. Andrew Benintendi, a 22-year-old many regard as the best prospect in baseball, who hit .295/.359/.476 in 34 games last season, and who made this catch, will be in left. Jackie Bradley Jr. will patrol center and make cool plays. Then all three of them will pose for a fake photo session after the team wins.
Brock Holt will fit in here somewhere. You’ll stop paying attention for two minutes during a game and catch up to find out that he played shortstop, moved to catcher, and compiled an inning of relief.
All of this is just foreplay, however. The guy you really should know is right here:
Oh yeah. That’s the good shit.
This offseason, the Red Sox traded for lefty workhorse Chris Sale. (Terms for Drake LaRoche were not negotiated.) How he’ll perform with better run support is infinitely more interesting to me than anything done by Cy Young winner Rick Porcello. Apologies to Porcello, but that was Justin Verlander’s award to win and everyone knows it.
Sale, who has taken scissors to jerseys he didn’t like and publicly complained when the White Sox revoked locker-room access for his teammate’s kid, could provide a significant boost to the team’s stubborn dickhead quotient, something that has recently declined. Here’s how he handled his own errors in an exhibition game:
Maybe Sale’s personality can liven up the rivalry with New York. Remember when Red Sox-Yankees games were four hours of players talking shit or actually shoving each other? Now they’re just four hours of pitchers glaring at hitters slightly harder than usual. The last two interesting episodes of the teams’ animosity were Michael Pineda being obvious with his pine tar usage in 2014, and Ryan Dempster struggling to plunk Alex Rodriguez before later surrendering a meatball to him in a 2013 game.
More hostility! Distract everyone from the fact that games are unbearably long and no one wants to actually fix them in any meaningful way.
One last unimportant note: Lefty pitcher Henry Owens will begin the season in the minors, but he’s a guy to know only because he resembled Tim Lincecum in an anime last year.
There’s Dustin. His shit looks like shredded phyllo dough. Now I want kanafeh.
FanGraphs projects that they’ll win the division with a 92-70 record, but hell if I know, so I’ll pull a reverse Price Is Right and say they’ll finish with 91.
You won’t root for the team, for a series of justifiable reasons, although a few of the players are legitimately entertaining. Every Sale start will be worth watching; Porcello’s follow-up season could be cool; and JBJ, Betts, and Benintendi will bounce off the wall for highlights. You’re going to say “No,” anyway, aren’t you?