Red Sox legend David Ortiz calls Yankees the team to beat in AL East

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 25: David Ortiz of Fox Sports smiles after game two of the 2017 World Series at Dodger Stadium on October 25, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 25: David Ortiz of Fox Sports smiles after game two of the 2017 World Series at Dodger Stadium on October 25, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

Retired Boston Red Sox slugger David Ortiz raised some eyebrows when he stated that the Yankees stacked lineup makes them the team to beat in the AL East.

Many expect there to be a dogfight in the battle for the AL East division this season. According to David Ortiz, the Boston Red Sox are the underdog in this race.

The retired franchise icon told’s Nicole Yang that he believes the New York Yankees are the team to beat in the division this year.

"“They pretty much stacked the lineup with more power,” said Ortiz. “I don’t think anyone else in the division can compete with that.”"

The Bronx Bombers rocked the baseball landscape when they traded for Giancarlo Stanton, adding the reigning NL MVP to a lineup that already includes Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez. That trio combined for 144 home runs last year! The Yankees are poised to score a ton of runs with that group anchoring the lineup.

A revamped offense is the primary reason why the Yankees have been hyped as a favorite entering the season. It’s understandable why this would lead some analysts to pick them but for Ortiz to be among them is a bit surprising.

Big Papi never backed down from the challenge posed by the Yankees during his career. Now that retirement has relegated him to being a fan he’s conceding that New York has surpassed Boston?

Ortiz was at the forefront of eviscerating the narrative of the Red Sox being the pesky little brother of the Yankees when they completed an epic comeback in the 2004 ALCS and went on to win the franchise’s first World Series in 86 years. He kept Boston among baseball’s elite by leading them to two more titles after that.

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Can dodging the label of being the favorite be a blessing in disguise? It can, according to Ortiz. This narrative gives them an opportunity to exceed expectations and shift the pressure to their rivals. This will be a team that “gives a hard time to anyone that comes to town.”

A Red Sox team that has won consecutive division titles and signed the highest profile free agent bat on the market this winter has been relegated to being the scrappy underdog.

Ortiz may not be optimistic about the Red Sox repeating as division champs but he is encouraged by the addition of J.D. Martinez. Big Papi was vocal in the wake of his retirement that Boston needed to replace him with a power threat to anchor the lineup. He campaigned for the team to sign Edwin Encarnacion when they had the chance. The Red Sox didn’t listen and the result was fielding a lineup that finished dead last in the AL in home runs.

If Ortiz was disappointed that his voice wasn’t heard before, he’s at least pleased by how the Red Sox have rectified that mistake.

"“The Red Sox always need that one guy in the middle of the lineup who creates a balance by taking a lot of pressure off the top and bottom of the lineup,” Ortiz said. “And J.D. is that one guy.”"

The addition of Martinez alone isn’t enough to allow the Red Sox to outscore the Yankees. However, combine what he brings to the table with the growing production of their emerging young players and the gap may be shrinking.

The Red Sox also have the superior pitching staff, at least on paper when everyone is healthy. Chris Sale leads the way as one of the top pitchers in baseball. If David Price returns to his pre-Boston form then he’ll give this rotation arguably the best 1-2 punch in baseball.

Next: 10 reasons to be excited about the 2018 Red Sox

If Boston is an underdog it’s by a fairly slim margin. The Yankees have improved but the Red Sox have also made some upgrades to a roster that won 93 games last year. Sure, a case can be made that New York has an edge entering the season but it’s premature to hand them the division crown before Opening Day.