Will the Red Sox suffer from a sophomore slump in 2019?
2018 was a fairytale year for the Boston Red Sox. Setting a new franchise record for wins and hoisting the World Series trophy all in Alex Cora’s first season as manager. But will 2019 prove to be more difficult and lead the team to have a sophomore slump?
We often hear about the “sophomore slump” when it comes to sports. A rookie comes out in their first season and sets the world on fire just to crumble in year two. Alex Cora did just that in his first season as Red Sox manager. The team made a historic run to the World Series and won their fourth title in 15 years. How can they follow that kind of performance?
This is a big worry for me as a member of the Fenway Faithful. This team was nothing short of magical during the 2018 season. Of course, the year had its downs as well as the many ups, but it felt different than seasons past. After the hot start in Spring Training, through the All-Star break and into October. It never felt like we weren’t in the driver’s seat. But that could all change when the calendar flips to 2019.
The real spirit of the 2018 season all began when President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski signed former Red Sox World Champion Alex Cora to fill our empty manager slot. Being a former player with the organization and having the success he has had, he instantly gave a breath of hope to the fandom. The next step was signing slugger J.D. Martinez.
Martinez was supposed to be the star of the future for the Astros, but things didn’t work out and he was sent to Detroit. His time with the Tigers proved more fruitful and he posted some of the best hitting numbers in the AL. He would soon find himself in Arizona when the Tigers entered a rebuilding phase. When his time with Arizona ended, Dombrowski made a move signing the hitter to a 5-year $110-million deal.
Now we had our manager and a big bat to fill the void left by David Ortiz‘s retirement and the disappointment of Hanley Ramirez. The main core of the squad was coming back and the additions of Cora and Martinez only built upon that existing chemistry. Fast-forward to October 28th and the Red Sox were once again World Champions. Wow, what a season and a hell of a ride. But what happens next?
Can Cora and the Red Sox follow up their historic 2018?
Back to the premise of this whole things. Can the Red Sox follow up that wild 2018 with the strong showing in 2019? We’re weeks into the free agency period and so far all things are silent on the Red Sox front. To be fair, the market has been quiet for almost every team. So far the Sox have signed World Series MVP Steve Pearce to a one-year deal.
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Granted we didn’t sign Martinez until February of 2018, we did make the big splash of Cora right in October. So having set such a precedent for offseason dealings, this year feels lackluster to start. Instantly my lifelong fandom of this teams comes back to haunt me. We’re weeks removed from winning the World Series and I’m already getting that voice in my head of “maybe next year.”
Now I know that seems ridiculous as we’ve won more titles than anyone this century. But I also went 16 years without seeing a Red Sox championship while seeing multiple disappointments. Not to mention the generations that have gone decades before that magical night in 2004, this is a feeling that’s built into the DNA.
We’ll be bringing back a majority of the World Series squad back in 2019 with some question marks surrounding free agents Nathan Eovaldi, Joe Kelly, and Craig Kimbrel. We also have Ian Kinsler and Brandon Phillips on the free agent market but they never were long-term solutions to our second base woes.
So with several balls in play and no action yet, I can admit I’m a tad anxious. But after what we did in 2018, I have faith in Dombrowski. Now, the other issue is what everyone else will be doing. The Red Sox will have a major target on their backs and every other squad will look to improve.
The Yankees no doubt hated having to use the Wild Card to get into the playoffs and then getting smacked around by their biggest rival. They above everyone else will want to exact revenge in 2019 on the Sox. There’s also Houston, the favorite to repeat as World Champions only to run into the buzz saw that was the 2018 Red Sox. They’ll also look to improve on their 103 win campaign in 2018 to get back to the playoffs.
I’m realistic though in my outlook on the Red Sox in the coming season and know we most likely won’t see the exact same heights as we did in 2018. Do I think we can make a deep postseason run again? Absolutely, but we’ll need to re-sign some of the guys that helped get us there first. I can see the Yankees putting up a tougher fight next season as well, possibly with the Sox having to take the Wild Card route this time.
I do feel there will be a bit of a drop off from 2018, there has to be. The 2018 season was something for the record books and was like catching lightning in a bottle. The Red Sox won’t drop off as we’ve seen in the sophomore years of many other talents, but I can see maybe a slow start or slump mid-season. With all that said, I see the Red Sox at least returning to the ALCS, if not the World Series next season.