Wednesday, March 13, 2019

"Playing Pepper 2019: Boston Red Sox"

I had the pleasure of being a part of group of four Red Sox bloggers who took part in  "Playing Pepper 2019: Boston Red Sox." We were asked six questions concerning the club for 2016 by Daniel Shoptaw, who runs the fine St. Louis Cardinals blog "C70 At The Bat."

Every year Daniel asks bloggers from all 30 teams questions about their teams chances for the upcoming season. This is the sixth straight year I have taken part.

My thanks to Daniel for letting me take part again. Here are the questions and my answers:

C70: What are your thoughts on the offseason? What was good, what was bad, what else should they have done?

John: I think the offseason went well. The Sox immediately resigned two of the bigger free agents they had, two who were critical to their postseason success in 2018: Steve Pearce and Nate Eovaldi. The offense is coming back almost to a man, one of 2018’s best. Joe Kelly departed to LA as a free agent, and that was expected, as was Craig Kimbrel leaving. Kelly was dynamite in the postseason but struggled in the second half, so I thought the Sox were right to let him walk. Kimbrel’s numbers in the regular season weren’t as dominant as in previous years, and everyone saw him struggle in the postseason. He wasn’t worthy of the six year deal he wanted, so good luck to him on his next team.

C70: How has the afterglow of this championship been different than the last three?

John: All four championships in this century have had a different feel to them. 2004 was the team finally getting the elusive title and will always be the best remembered one, especially the way the Red Sox did it. 2007 was one where the Sox led from start to finish during the season and reinforced that 2004 was no fluke. 2013 has been the most unexpected one, after the Bobby Valentine disaster and the Boston Marathon bombing that April. This one from 2018 comes from the best Red Sox team of all time, and the best MLB team of the 21st century so far. They are so loaded that a repeat title isn’t just possible, it’s almost expected in 2019.

C70: Mookie Betts had an incredible 2018. Can he reach those levels again this season?

John: I don’t see why not. Mookie is a perfectionist and expects bigger and better from himself in 2019. He moves out of the leadoff spot this year, so we’ll see if his power numbers increase.

C70: What is your general outlook for 2019? Where will they finish in the division?

John: I see the Red Sox taking the division again, winning at least 100 games in 2018. The Yankees maybe the “sexy pick” to win the AL East, but as I said last year, the team that pitches better will win it. And I’m sure many pundits will pick New York over the Sox. And it seems like whenever that happens in recent years, the Red Sox surprise everyone.

C70: What’s the biggest question for this team going into the season and what’s the answer to it?

John: Two big questions: who will play second base and who will be the closer. Dustin Pedroia appears to be healthy and ready to go. If he runs into any problems, the Sox have Brock Holt and Eduardo Nunez, who the Sox will use as the two utility players, to back him up. Closer is up for grabs. I’m not sure about Matt Barnes, as you never know which pitcher shows up when he pitches. Alex Cora says he has an idea of what he’ll do, and might even go with matchups instead of one solid closer. I have total faith in Cora, and know he’ll make the right decision.
C70: What do you expect will give you the most joy watching this team on a regular basis this season?

John: Listening to announcers call the Red Sox “the defending World Series Champions” all year, especially from their rivals in the Bronx!!

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