By Gerard Lombardo – @redsoxfidelis
Over the last decade, America’s Pastime has been accompanied by the NHL, NBA and NFL in an effort to create more parodical leagues; and for the most part, it’s been effective in the Majors. The NBA has been dominated by the Spurs, Warriors, and Cavs, and of course New England has owned the National Football League for nearly two decades. But baseball has largely benefited from parody as well as in the institution of two wild card spots, which keeps most of the league in the hunt leading up to the illustrious trade deadline. This has ensured that repeat World Series winners are seldom, as we haven’t seen that happen since the Yankees pulled it off in ’99-’00.
But with a mass of hitters and pitchers alike of Boston’s best entering their primes, a few blue chip assets in the farm, plus the combination of a well run front office and new management in place, the Sox now appear to have a four year window to work in.
Although back to back world titles are unlikely, the Red Sox could easily hang a pair of championship banners from the battered brick wall which towers over the outdoor concourse that’ll once again be known as Jersey Street, the renaming courtesy of the inner workings of John Henry. Regarding the roster, the talent is there, it’s just a matter of the entirety of it clicking in concurrent seasons; the club has too many gifted hitters to be held under 900 runs without a hell of a season long effort by the oppositional pitching. Betts, Ramirez, and Martinez all have 30 HR and 40 2B seasons under their belts, and it’s only a matter of time before Devers and Benintendi follow suit. We’ve seen Xander earn a pair of Silver Sluggers, and the 2017 spark plug from San Francisco has returned. Despite the immense talent the lineup has to offer, they were the youngest starting nine the the American League last year outside of the White Sox.
From the mound, the rotation and bullpen are have onslaught of 98-101 MPH arms in Sale, Barnes, Kelly, and Kimbrel. Although Craig may be heading towards a big payout from a GM not named Dave, the Sox have shown a propensity for finding closers when need be. They’ve found unique success out of Flash Gordon, Tim Wakefield, Ugueth Urbina, Derek Lowe, Keith Foulke, Jon Papelbon, and now the incumbent Craig. The team will be going into the year with a revamped bullpen, as Abad, Ross and others have moved on, creating competition between Elias, Velazquez, Maddox, Workman, Smith and hopefully Tyler Thornburg shortly. Coupled with their ace that the front office surely has to been looking to lock up for a few more seasons, on top of a young rotation that features Cy Young winners, young bright spots in E-Rod and Brian Johnson, plus a roster that only features two pitchers over the age of 30, Boston proves they possess the pieces between the lines to win them ballgames.
But of course, modern day free agency as well as team’s tendencies to trade high end players prior to a big payout means that the aforementioned stars and stars in the making may not be long in a Sox uniform. The 2019 team could be without Kimbrel, Price, Pomeranz and Kelly. To remedy that, the Red Sox have two avenues, both to be masterminded by the president of baseball ops: either go outside of the organization to bolster the roster, or continue to grown from within. Boston will have two thirds of the entire starting nine coming directly from their AA and AAA affiliates this year, plus young pitching is on the way, meaning Dombrowski has shown an ability to build the team without depleting the minor league system, make quality free agent signings, and has kept the core group intact throughout.
Luckily, the hurlers aren’t beating down the hatches of Pawtucket, clawing to crack the Opening Day Roster. Prospects such as (ranked #1 in the system) Jay Groome and (#3) Bryan Mata are still teenagers, (#8) Mike Sharawyn finished last year in Portland, and that leaves just (#10) Jalen Beeks as the lone arm in Boston’s top 19 to see any time with the PawSox, only Maddox at 20th to make the transition beyond Triple A. So this tells us that Dombrowski’s maneuvering of prospects has been well timed, if not perfectly played. The outpour of young bats at catcher, short, third, and the entirety of the outfield has replaced the need for immediate help from the farm with the time and resources needed to develop a deeper pool of draftees coming at the lower levels of Greenville and Portland.
So with a considerable amount of Boston’s core locked up through 2020 and presumably a few sticking around through the perils of free agency, the ability to win is furthered by the turnover of an ill-fated coaching staff. Alex Cora, Tim Hyers and the Massachusetts born, Red Sox native Dana Levangie will bring with them radical new changes in approaches and analytics, with Cora already making headlines with his proclamation to bat Mookie and Hanley 1st and 3rd in the order. Hyers’ vapid launch angle approach resulted in a surplus of power with the Dodgers last seasons, as he managed to pull in 39 bombs from a rookie, and five more 20 home run hitters. With JDM anchoring the lineup, a blend of core and power, as well as what looks to be a deep bench, the new managerial crew could be responsible for producing a dynamic offensive machine that Boston hasn’t seen since they scored 910+ runs during a three year stretch from 2003-2005.
An overlooked but promising statistic is the overall age of the team heading into ’18: 27.9. Both colored Sox’s will be tied for the Junior Circuit’s youngest roster, which is impress within itself. Boston’s surprisingly got the 5th youngest club in baseball, more youthful than even the rebuilding Florida franchises.
With baseball’s prime ages coming between 28-32, we will bear witness to multiple career years and awards between now and 2022; the only remaining question is whether or not that’ll include World Series hardware.