Early October, 2004. The Red Sox have not won a World Series since 1918 and the Curse of the Bambino could not be more evident. After a promising regular season, the Sox found themselves down 3-0 in the ALCS to their arch rival, the New York Yankees. At the time, no team in major league history had come back from a 3-0 deficit and the thought of a team ever doing so, seemed impossible. But instead of history repeating itself like it so often does, history was this time made. The Red Sox came back to win 8 straight games to not only defeat the Yankees in the ALCS, but sweep the Cardinals in the World Series. Fast forward three years to 2007, and the Red Sox found themselves back on top, this time, sweeping the Colorado Rockies. For a team that had not won a World Series since 1918, they had somehow found themselves on a 8 game, World Series winning streak and had taken home two titles in just four years. After a few up and down seasons, the Red Sox made an appearance back in the World Series in 2013. The Sox went on to win their 3rd world championship in a decade defeating the St. Louis Cardinals in 6 games. Fast forward to present day and the Red Sox are back on top ONCE AGAIN as they defeated the LA Dodgers in 5 games, during the 2018 World Series. So what is the point of me sharing all of this? I simply want to show, that the culture within Red Sox Nation, has drastically changed over the last few decades. For so long, Red Sox fans came to Fenway year in and year out thinking “Could this finally be our year.” The thought now is “This is going to be our year.” The new expectation in Boston is to win championships and anything less is not acceptable. These expectations are in no way easy for the players to obtain, but there are certainly worse problems in the world to have.
The 2018 season for the Boston Red Sox can only be described as perfect. They led the majors in regular season wins with 108, had the MVP of the league on their team, and became world champs when all was said and done. The question that now looms over the city of Boston is “Can this team repeat?” The simple answer to that is sure. They have the talent, they have the arms and there is no logical reason why they wouldn’t. But let’s be realistic, winning back to back World Series titles is one of the hardest tasks in all of sports. The last team to repeat as World Series champions, came in the likes of the New York Yankees, who won three in a row between 1998-2000. This team was considered to be one of the most dominant teams of all time and although the Red Sox are incredibly talented, I am not ready to put them on that level just yet. With that being said, there are a plethora of steps that can be taken that would set the Red Sox up for immortality.
If the Red Sox want to repeat as World Series Champions in 2019, they are going to need massive production from the reigning MVP, Mookie Betts. I sometimes look back at Mookie’s stats in 2018, and almost giggle over just how ridiculously good of a season he had. When the 2018 regular season came to a close, Betts had accumulated some jaw dropping numbers, batting for a league best .346 average, leading the league with 129 runs scored, leading the league in slugging at .640, having a OBP of .438, good enough for second in the majors, having a OPS of 1.078, also good enough for second in the majors, hitting for 47 doubles, 32 home runs, 30 stolen bases and 80 runs batted in. Betts was also selected to his 3rd all-star game in July, earned his second silver slugger award, won his third straight gold glove and took home the honor of being the American League’s MVP. These numbers seem almost impossible to duplicate, but if anyone can do it, it’s the young 26-year-old from Nashville. In my opinion, Betts is not only the best right fielder in the game, but is the second best player in all of baseball. There are not too many players in the history of baseball that are made like Betts, and I can’t wait to see what he does in 2019.
Something that makes the Boston Red Sox so dangerous and so special heading into the 2019 season, is that they have not one, but two top 10 players in the game in their starting lineup. When JD Martinez signed with the Sox during the offseason of 2018, the buzz surrounding the team began to grow. Martinez had been a batter that had already hit 40 home runs in a season before, grew up a Red Sox fan, and has a slugging percentage over the last three years that is almost unfathomable. The signing seemed like the perfect fit for both sides, and it absolutely was. Martinez DOMINATED Fenway Park in 2018, making it his murderer’s row for the summer. By year’s end, Martinez had finished the season with a league’s best 130 runs batted in, was second in the majors in home runs with 43, was second in the majors with a .330 BA, scored 111 runs, was second in the majors with a .629 slugging percentage, had a .402 OBP, a 1.031 OPS, and collected 188 total hits. Martinez was also selected to his 2nd all-star game, won the sliver slugger award at two different positions and finished fourth in MVP voting. I expect Martinez to put up almost identical numbers in 2019 and think he will be an MVP finalist come year’s end. This dual threat season between Martinez and Betts, was one of the best in major league history and they have without a doubt, solidified themselves as the best duo in the game.
If you think the Red Sox are going to be a two-dimensional in 2019, you need to get seriously evaluated. The Sox are returning so many dangerous weapons who helped them become the best offense in baseball last season. Some of these names include shortstop, Xander Bogaerts who is coming off of an 100 RBI season, left fielder Andrew Benintendi who hit for a .290 BA last season and scored 103 runs, center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr., who is coming off a postseason for the ages and Brock Holt, who is slowly turning into the most reliable utility guy in the game. The point I am trying to make here is that although Betts and Martinez are both superstars, this lineup can hurt you from top to bottom. They are the best lineup in baseball coming into the 2019 season, and if they can produce like they did last year, they will find themselves in a great place come October.
Now that we have talked about the Red Sox prolific offense, I feel that it is only appropriate that we cover the other end of the spectrum, the starting pitching staff. Boston’s starting staff was solid in 2018, but there was certainly spots that could use improvement. The thing that made the difference for the Sox staff in 2018, was their second half. Their arms became more confident and throughout the late months of the season, they looked absolutely unstoppable. As far as 2019 is concerning, I am going to focus on the two-headed beast that will either help run away with this division, or play catch up with the Yankees come September.
The 2019 Red Sox pitching staff is going to be led by none other than Chris Sale. Sale, a 29-year-old from Lakeland, Florida, is one of the best southpaws the game has ever seen. In his 9 years in the majors, Sale has accumulated a career 2.89 ERA, has racked up over 1700 strike outs and has earned 103 total wins. He has also established himself as one of the most consistent pitchers in baseball, finishing in the top 5 in MVP voting each of the last 6 seasons. With a slider that is as filthy as the day is bright, Sale is as unhittable of a starter as you will find. Sale is looking to build on a successful 2018 season in which he finished the year with a 12-4 record, had a 2.11 ERA and struck out 237 batters. He was also on the mound when the Red Sox clinched the World Series, striking out Manny Machado in filthy fashion. So what can we expect from Sale in 2019. Well, it is almost a given Sale is going to strike out at least 230 as in the last 2 seasons alone he has struck out 545 batters. You can also expect him to finish the year well over .500, have a sub .250 ERA and bold prediction here, you can expect him to win the Cy Young. That’s right, you heard it here first, Chris Sale will be your 2019 A.L. Cy Young.
As sad as it may be, Chris Sale can not pitch every day. It is not physically possible. With that being said, it is essential that the Sox have a reliable two to back up their ace. David Price has filled that role and has filled it with flying colors. I am not going to lie, the first half of 2018, was not the prettiest for David Price. He was coming off a few injuries in 2017 and never truly felt comfortable on the mound. He was giving up a boatload of homers and didn’t seem like his true self. But then, after the all-star break had passed and the second half of the season commenced, something magical happened. Price started to find himself. He started to trust his stuff and trust his slider which he had not been able to do in nearly 2 years. It was the Price so many die-hard baseball fans have come to known over the last few years. He was the Price that won the Cy Young in 2012 and for spurts of the second half of the season, he looked as sharp as he did his entire career. Price finished the second half of the year with a 6-1 record, a 2.25 ERA (his ERA was above 4 in the first half of the season) and had given up just 7 homers, half of what he gave up during the first half of the year. When October rolled around, Price accomplished something he had never done before: have success in the postseason. He had earned his first postseason win, became Mr. Reliable and was a key part in the Red Sox postseason run. This confidence experienced for Price during the last 3-4 months of last season, is going to do WONDERS for him as 2019 gets underway. He finally has that swagger back and I am telling you right now, he is a sleeper for the Cy Young. I expect Price to have a huge season in 2019 and believe Sale and Price will be one of the scariest 1-2 punches to face all summer long,
Now, as far as the bullpen goes for this team, I won’t say too much besides the fact that no Craig Kimbrel could potentially be a huge problem. I want to rather focus my attention to my overall prediction for this team in 2019. I believe this team will finish with a 105-57 record and will win the AL East by 4 games. I just believe they are way too talented to not win 100 games and think they will have the best record in baseball for the second straight year. However, I do not have the Red Sox winning back to back championships. I have the Houston Astros taking out the Sox in 6 games of the ALCS and getting their revenge from last year. Ultimately, this season is going to be a massive season for the Sox, but it is just too hard to win a World Series in back-to-back years. I will be excited to see if my prediction comes into fruition, or if they prove me wrong and repeat as kings of the mighty world.