Why the Red Sox will come back to earth in 2014
Oct 30, 2013; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia stands next to the World Series championship trophy after game six of the MLB baseball World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals at Fenway Park. The Red Sox won 6-1 to win the series four games to two. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports
BSI’s John Fahrer and I have been sharing our views on the 2014 season in an email exchange. We have decided to share our perspective. I will start off with the realistic position.
Well, John, I have five reasons why the Red Sox will not return to the World Series in 2014 or capture the AL East: The Tampa Bay Rays, New York Yankees, Baltimore Orioles and Toronto Blue Jays. Appears the opposition has shored up and loaded up – especially New York. Oh, did I forget reason number five? The repeat issue. Last team to go back to back was the Yankees. Is this the Curse of The Jeter?
Now to any observer the Red Sox ran up the offensive numbers – first in OBP (.349), runs (853), XBH (570) and SLG (.446). Red Sox also managed a second place finish in average (.277), walks (581) and pitches taken (6382). Can’t deny those numbers but will it be matched? I think not. The opposition will be in overdrive to diminish that offense and Boston does have some offensive question marks that could depreciate those quite formidable 2013 numbers. More on that in a bit.
For Boston the core is returning and that should result in their being favorites – at least for poaching another division title. This is a solid team with a nice blend of experience and questionable youth. The offense, as mentioned, is elite and the pitching appears reasonably functional. Boston, however, is not without question marks, nor have they been insulated from players departing. That said, I picture them playoff bound as a Wild Card. No AL East title in my cloudy crystal ball. Most likely a one and done scenario for the playoffs. I do not propose any crash and burn as witnessed in 2012.
Teams have question marks but when you are the reigning defending champion, they become far more pronounced. First off is the subtraction of Jacoby Ellsbury. Ellsbury’s unique skill set is subtracted from Boston and added to that of New York. Ouch! The void at lead-off has already started the buzz of potential candidates to replace Ellsbury at the top of the order. That debate may go on all season. Trust me on this – Daniel Nava is not Ellsbury. And I didn’t even get to the departure (for now) of the latest member of the Drew family.
Having three question marks in the line-up means a trifecta of success will have to be hit. Will Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley and Will Middlebrooks all come through? That would be expecting good fortune to once again shine the spotlight on Boston. Bradley was shaky enough and Middlebrooks ended up in Pawtucket. Let’s hope X-Man really shines – they may need him. That ties right into those astronomical offensive numbers.
In 2013 everything that went wrong ultimately resulted in everything going right to the extreme. Lose a few closers and up steps Koji Uehara with an incredible half season and playoff performance. Players that were acquired performed, for the most part, up to expectations or exceeded them. Normalcy returned to the clubhouse and John Farrell admirably filled the leadership void at the helm.
Examining the possible 2014 team, the strength in my opinion, is the bullpen. Management made no big splash in the usual free agent swindle but managed to be selective and add some solid performers to the mix. This is an excellent bullpen.
The surprise of 2013 for me was the starting pitching. Sixth in ERA (3.79), fifth in BAA (.248), second in QS (95) and sixth in WHIP (1.30). I am a firm believer in the old adage that you win with pitching. The Red Sox have good pitching that can migrate, at times, into very good pitching, but where is the Ace? I see five competent starters and that is that. Clay Buchholz should be “The Man” but he is a Faberge Egg. Jon Lester no longer comes in as one of the favorites for the Cy Young Award. Too bad a l999 Pedro Martinez was not available. That would get the boats penciled in for late October.
The big issue in New York is age – yet in a key position Boston has two thirty-seven year olds plugged in as their catching tandem. At least Ryan Lavarnway isn’t in the mix – yet. And, of course, just how long will David Ortiz manage to ring up numbers? Toss in the death wish defense of Shane Victorino and Dustin Pedroia and the DL seems a given. The productive 2013 bench may be called on for a repeat performance.
Boston has an excellent team. I really believe 90+ wins is a sure thing. I’m also going with a playoff position, but playoffs does not mean World Series Championship. As I previously stated this team will not capture the division. Elimination in a one game set. No Ace and no title.
My negativity towards repeat is locked into a foundation of where other teams in the East will improve at Boston’s expense and the possibility Boston will see slippage as the team is in a transition stage with Xander, JBJ and WMB. I also believe the AL East has fully returned to Beast status. There is a wanted poster in every club house in the AL East and that poster has a picture of a Red Sox logo. And if the Red Sox move on, the gauntlet is in place. I doubt Miguel Cabrera will be hobbling around in the playoffs.
It is nice to be king, but the tenure can be shaky. Simply put, the obstacle course will prohibit a repeat.