Boston Red Sox
Red Sox Nation is already planning for the postseason, and as much as one might want to chastise them for such smug arrogance this early in the year, it's hard not to agree with the premise—Boston is as good as any team has a right to be right now, and thanks to the Wild Card concept, if they don't make the playoffs, it will be an upset on par with the great collapses of the '51 Dodgers, the ’69 Cubs, and (ahem) the '95 Angels.
Led by the Killer Bees—Xander Bogaerts, Mookie Betts, and Andrew Benintendi—and DH J.D. Martínez, the Red Sox have a deep lineup with a lot of power and a lot of tenacity. They lead the AL in hits, runs, total bases (by a lot), and batting average, and they are 1-2 with the Yankees in home runs and RBI. There are a few weak spots in the order—catchers Christian Vazquez and Sandy Leon are below average; center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. is having a down year (currently well below the Mendoza line); and third base is on-the-job training for 21-year-old Rafael Devers, who can hit them out (season pace: 24 HR) but not often (season pace: 174 Ks)—but keeping these guys off the scoreboard is a tough assignment.
On the mound the guy you don't want to face is Chris Sale, last year's Cy Young runner-up. The Boston ace led the league in innings and strikeouts in 2017, and is on pace to post similar numbers this season. He is fallible, though; the Braves rocked him for six earned runs over 41⁄3 innings a couple weeks back. Even if the starter gets knocked out, though, the bullpen is no picnic; the league has thus far combined for a meager .218 batting average against Red Sox relievers, and closer Craig Kimbrel is second only to our own Edwin Díaz in saves. In fact, Kimbrel and Díaz have put up basically interchangeable numbers thus far:
One face you won't be seeing is that of Hanley Ramírez. The onetime superstar infielder, inked to an $88-million contract after the 2014 season, was released earlier this year before his $22-million option year vested for 2019. GM Dave Dombrowski insists the decision wasn't made for financial reasons, but because when a roster spot was needed for Dustin Pedroia's return from the DL, manager Alex Cora lobbied to cut Ramírez as the most expendable player. In three-plus seasons in Boston, Ramírez put up a cumulative slash line of .260/.326/.450 and played abominable defense in left field and at first base.
Players to Watch
Mitch Moreland: This 9-year veteran first baseman is having his best season yet, posting career highs in batting average, OBP, slugging, and on pace for a career-high in homers. The M's saw a lot of Moreland when he was with the Texas Rangers, and have handled him pretty well; for his career, he's hit just .230/.307/.408 against Seattle.
Steven Wright: No, not the droll comedian (though he also can be seen frequently wearing a Red Sox cap), the knuckleball pitcher with the schizophrenic stat lines. Wright has spent his six big-league years alternating between good and bad, and unfortunately it's been the even years when he's good. After getting rocked in his first two appearances in 2018, he hasn't given up a run since; he was moved to the starting rotation early this month to replace the injured Drew Pomeranz and figures to stay put after Pomeranz returns.
Andrew Benintendi: Runner-up for Rookie of the Year last year, Benintendi is making a name for himself in a big way in 2018. At this writing, he owns a place in the top ten of the following categories: on-base percentage, slugging, runs, extra-base hits, total bases, triples, walks, RBI, and stolen bases. He's also one behind Mitch Hangier for most outfield assists.
Alex Cora: Boston's rookie manager spent the last two years as Houston's bench coach. Cora, younger brother of former Mariner fan-favorite Joey Cora, succeeds John Farrell, who was fired after winning the division two years running and winning Manager of the Year honors before that. That's failure in Beantown these days, as ever since they cast off the Curse of the Bambino, Red Sox Nation demands pennants as only Yankee fans and Yankee GMs used to. No pressure, Alex. Fortunately for Cora, he took over a team that was already plenty good and then improved with the addition of J.D. Martínez. (Also, he got the Sox to commit to a three-year deal despite his lack of managerial experience.) Cora will likely be in a dogfight with fellow first-year manager Aaron Boone's Yankees for the AL East lead all year long, but it seems his job security lies solely in what happens after that.
Carson Smith: The only player or coach currently with the Red Sox to ever play for the Mariners, Smith is on the disabled list, lost for the season after throwing his glove in frustration after taking the loss in a game against Oakland. He hurled the glove across the dugout with such force that he dislocated his shoulder, and tearing of the labrum was discovered afterward. Shoulder surgery was required, and Smith now faces a long rehab-and-recovery time. Whether the injury was solely due to his, let's call it an "expression of dissatisfaction," is an open question; Smith contends that he had been being overused and had potentially begun the labrum tear before his dugout tantrum.
Smith was drafted by the Mariners in 2011 and made the big club in Seattle in 2014. He made 79 appearances with the M's before being traded to Boston after the 2015 season, along with the now-returned Roenis Elias, for pitchers Wade Miley (now with Milwaukee) and Jonathan Aro (now in the San Diego minor league system).
|Boston Red Sox||(1908 - present)|
|World Champions:||1903, 1912, 1915, 1916, 1918, 2004, 2007, 2013|
|League Champions:||1904, 1946, 1967, 1975, 1986|
|Division Titles:||1988, 1990, 1995, 2016, 2017|