Cheer up, Red Sox Nation! It’s a new season with renewed hope. However, we’re already starting with the pessimism and negativity surrounding your Boston Red Sox. After finishing in last place in the American League East the past two seasons, the Red Sox made some big moves in the offseason that put them in a position to contend. The Sox made a bold move late last season by bringing in Dave Dombrowski. Dombrowski and the Red Sox made some major changes this offseason by bringing in David Price and Craig Kimbrel. It was clear that finishing last place was not acceptable and the team was looking to regain its championship form.
Heading into Spring Training, there was a lot of optimism around the Red Sox. There was talk of being the favorites to win the AL East. They had their front line starter and elite closer. All was good. As we sit here today, the opposite is now true in Red Sox Nation. The negativity has set in and the expectations have been tempered. There’s now talk of another last place finish. It’s amazing what a difference a few weeks can make!
So, why is there a sudden change? It all starts with injuries. Eduardo Rodriguez, Carson Smith, and Christian Vazquez are all expected to be key contributors on the team and they’ll all start the year on the DL. The good news is that none of the injuries appear to be long-term and all three players should get an opportunity to contribute this year. Losing Rodriguez is viewed as a big deal especially considering the way Rick Porcello has pitched this spring. Rodriguez was viewed as a potential #2 starter for this team. The reality is he still can be. He may only miss a few starts. Smith is a slightly different story. It’s unknown when he’ll begin a throwing program. The injury doesn’t appear to be serious, but who knows? We’re certainly not going to get the full details of the plan from the Red Sox management. Vazquez is simply not ready after missing all of last season. There doesn’t appear to be any type of setback. He just needs more time and the Red Sox have the luxury of giving it to him with Blake Swihart leading the way as the starting catcher.
Another reason for the recent pessimism is the changes in the starting lineup. It appears that Rusney Castillo is no longer going to be the starting left fielder. Brock Holt looks like he’ll be the guy. Holt is a great utility player. He’s not a starting left fielder. He’s not the type of player that can give the Red Sox the production they need from a corner outfield spot. His career high in home runs is four. Having him as the Red Sox every day left fielder also limits the Sox from a utility standpoint. Having Holt there to play any position was an advantage that the Red Sox had over other teams. In addition, it appears that Travis Shaw will be in the mix as the starting third baseman. Pablo Sandoval looks to be on the outside looking in and the trade rumors have heated up. Between Sandoval, Allen Craig, and Rusney Castillo that’s a lot of money to spend on non-contributing players.
The main stories have mostly been negative. Injuries, underperforming players, and players playing out of position have been at the forefront. However, there hasn’t been much focus on the positives. How about the fact that the Red Sox have two 23-year-old budding stars in Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts? Betts is being discussed nationally as an MVP candidate. Bogaerts is the best all around shortstop in the AL. There hasn’t been much talk about that in Boston. How about the progression of Jackie Bradley, Jr. offensively? A healthy Dustin Pedroia? No. We’re not hearing any of this. In fact, we’re even hearing some talk about David Price not being able to live up to his pervious performance in Boston. We’re even hearing negativity from fans about the David Ortiz farewell tour. Does he not deserve it after being main the biggest piece to three World Series Championships?
It’s really amazing how there continues to be so much negativity surrounding the Red Sox. Perhaps, they deserve a lot of it given their performance the last two years. However, this is a different team than last year’s team. It’s a team with better players and budding superstars. Injuries are going to happen. As long as they aren’t long-term, they aren’t going to cripple a team’s season. There are certainly a lot of question marks in the rotation. The difference is that they have the ace that they truly need to contend. If one pitcher steps up as the #2, the Red Sox will be in good shape.
The reality is the Red Sox probably aren’t as good as the expectations that were set early this spring. They’re also not as bad as the recent expectations. The Red Sox should be in contention for a playoff spot through the end of the season. There’s too much talent there not to contend. For many fans, that isn’t enough, but consider this. We haven’t had a baseball season in Boston in August and September in three of the past four years. Isn’t getting that back a positive? Rather than focusing on Patriots preseason games, we’ll likely have a pennant race to follow. A full season of following baseball sounds refreshing.
In Boston, we measure teams by championships. While they’ve had a lot of ups and downs, let’s remember that this team has won three titles in twelve years under this ownership group. They have made mistakes in the past, but they have done a lot to make changes and compete this year. If everything falls into place, we could be in for a repeat of 2013.
Don’t miss the ride!