By Cullen McIntyre, Sports Editor
With the snow finally clearing, and spring on its way, Major League Baseball is finally back. For the city of Boston and all of New England, it means that the Boston Red Sox have a chance to do something no baseball team has done since 1999/2000, win the World Series back-to-back seasons.
The last team to do this of course was the New York Yankees, who won three in a row from 1998-2000, and almost made it four in a row in 2001 but the Arizona Diamondbacks would beat them 4-3 that year.
The Red Sox are coming off a franchise-best 106-win season, and a very similar roster. The team had a quiet offseason, with the biggest news coming right after their World Series victory. First baseman Steve Pearce, as well as right-handed pitcher Nathan Eovaldi both resigned from the team.
The only big name missing from the team this year is closer Craig Kimbrel, best known for his stance when he pitches. The closer is currently still a free agent, as no team in the MLB is looking to pay a 30-year-old the amount of money he is asking for, especially after his inconsistency from last season.
But with star left-handed pitcher Chris Sale recently signing a five-year extension, as well as the 2018 American League MVP Mookie Betts and Silver Slugger J.D. Martinez still in the team, there is plenty of talent still on the field. The Red Sox arguably have the best outfield in the league, known as the “Killer B’s” with Andrew Benintendi in left field, Jackie Bradley Jr. in center, and Betts in right. There isn’t an inch of grass in the outfield they can’t cover.
But can they attain the feat that no team has accomplished this decade (the Yankees won in the 1900s, with only one of their World Series coming in 2000)? They certainly have a great chance at doing so. The Red Sox have had an outstanding offseason, even if it may not seem like they did. But a quiet offseason for the Red Sox was perfect, keeping the core group of guys together kept some of the most talented players in baseball in Boston.
The biggest question will be the closer position. The bullpen was the large part of the Red Sox”s struggles last year. After losing right-handed reliever Joe Kelly, who played an integral role in the team’s postseason last year, to the Los Angeles Dodgers, there is a large gap in the bullpen. Names such as right-handed reliever Matt Barnes and right-handed reliever Ryan Braiser have circled around as the team’s current options, as manager Alex Cora won’t name a closer, stating “Tomorrow, people will see what we’re going to do. I feel fine. I’m OK with it.”
The Red Sox have a great chance at repeating if they can start of this season in the same fashion they did last year, going 17-3 in their first 20 games of the season. But with the Red Sox currently on their 11-game road trip to start off the season, it is definitely not the way any team wants to start off their season. The team doesn’t return home until April 9, when they host a four game series against the Toronto Blue Jays.
With the talent on the Boston roster, there is no doubt that the team will make the playoffs, but it will be a battle for the American League (AL) East as the rival Yankees will want revenge. The Red Sox not only toppled their AL East rivals in the playoffs, but took the AL East from the 100-win Yankees.
Once they get to the playoffs, then the challenges will really come. With the American League full of talented teams such as the Houston Astros, also looking for revenge against the Red Sox, the Oakland Athletics and the Cleveland Indians, the Red Sox will not have an easy path to the World Series. But if Alex Cora uses the strategy of pitching starters in relief positions again, the second year manager could find himself in his second World Series in two years.
The National League is also full of talent, with a reigning National League MVP Christian Yelich lead Milwaukee Brewers, the Los Angeles Dodgers, a Bryce Harper lead Philadelphia Phillies and more, the Red Sox will have to battle through a tough team should they make it to the World Series.
But don’t let it deter you from the fact that this team wants it more than any other. Every guy on the Red Sox roster is hungry for another World Series, and they have the talent to do so. I’m ready for my 2019 World Series Champions Red Sox parade next fall, are you?