Boston Red Sox: Let’s be optimistic about 2018

(Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
(Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) /

In just 45 days the Boston Red Sox will begin their quest to win a third consecutive division title. In advance of Opening Day, Red Sox fans should be optimistic.

After the team’s second AL East title followed by an early exit from the playoffs, fans of the Boston Red Sox are growing restless. Skepticism has taken over and the Fenway Faithful is no longer confident in this team’s ability to win a World Series.

This year, the Sox will be returning a team that’s nearly identical to the 2017 team. The Red Sox have acquired no new players and only Doug Fister and Addison Reed left during free agency. Eduardo Nunez has yet to decide where he will spend the 2018 season, but the 2017 team is otherwise intact.

So why, after a 93-win, Division Title yielding season, are Red Sox fans so concerned? Is this season really a lost cause without a big free agent signing? Let’s try to be optimistic for a minute.

Building Off 2017

The unequivocal number one issue Red Sox fans have with the current lineup is the lack of a power bat. Boston was dead last in the American League in home runs and second to last in slugging percentage, so the frustration is warranted.

But is bringing in J.D. Martinez or a similar caliber slugger really going to make the difference between a throwaway season and a World Series Championship? Absolutely not.

In 2016, the Red Sox had the best slugging percentage in the MLB. Leading the way was one of the greatest players in franchise history, David Ortiz. He led the team in many offensive categories, but he wasn’t the entire offense.

Losing a player like Ortiz is sure to have negative effects on a team, but yet the Red Sox found a way to win the exact same number of games in 2017. The didn’t do it in Big Papi fashion, with an emphasis on the long ball and extra base hits. No, they did it with pitching, defense, and small ball.

The team added Chris Sale and their ERA dropped from 4.00 to 3.70. They stole 103 bases to the 83 they stole in 2016. Most importantly, they found a way to win without their players at their best.

Mookie Betts had a down year. Xander Bogaerts had a down year. Hanley Ramirez, Jackie Bradley Jr., and Sandy Leon all had a down years. Dustin Pedroia was injured for a large portion of the season. They also had multiple rookies in the lineup.

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Fast forward to now, and the team is looking strong. Andrew Benintendi is a rising star. Rafael Devers has the potential to be a perennial 40 home run guy. Mookie Betts will hopefully rejoin the conversation for American League MVP, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him eclipse the 30/30 mark. Hanley Ramirez is healthy now and will look to contribute much more power than he did this past season. JBJ hasn’t nearly reached his full potential and Xander Bogaerts is going to return to form. Do I sound too optimistic?

Despite the team’s lack of improvement on paper, there’s plenty of room for them to improve on the field. If they can get everything to click, they’ll be a similar type team to the 2017 Houston Astros, and I don’t think anyone wants to face that team. With good coaching, the Red Sox will play as well as they’re capable of.

New Leadership

I never thought I’d be as excited about a manager change as I was when the Red Sox hired Alex Cora. I’m not just ready to see him coach this team, I can’t wait for it. In my opinion, he was the perfect hire.

He has no managerial experience, but Cora spent last season as bench coach for the World Champion Houston Astros. Ever heard of them? He knows what it takes to succeed and will foster a winning culture as Boston’s manager.

What’s great about Cora is his coaching philosophy. He feels that a player and his coach can never be too close. That’s very important, especially with a team as young as the Red Sox. Cora won’t be like an oppressive dictator, he’ll just be one of the guys.

The icing on the cake is that Cora, a Puerto Rican, speaks Spanish. This will easily allow him to connect and communicate with the Hispanic players on the team, such as 20 year old phenom Rafael Devers.

Finally, Cora is a huge step forward from John Farrell. Last season, Farrell showed his incompetence on many occasions. He made poor in-game decisions and it cost the Red Sox the game multiple times. The new manager figures to be more in tune with what’s going on and what the right coaching decisions are.

Focus On The Good

I could go on all day about what’s to like about this year’s team, but I’ll close with this. Baseball is evolving, and last year’s Boston Red Sox were not following the trends of the game.

The “statcast” and “fly ball” eras are upon us, and the 2017 Boston Red Sox didn’t seem to care. They still found a way to win. The did it the old fashioned way: by grinding out at-bats and getting runs across the plate any way they could.

They didn’t rely on genetically engineered strong men like Aaron Judge to force the ball out of the stadium, and they didn’t abandon their approaches to try and hit dingers.

The team’s identity wasn’t in line with the overarching theme of the league, and that was just fine. They won 93 games and came out on top of the AL East. What more can you ask for?

Yeah, yeah. A World Series trophy, I know. But don’t take this team for granted because they had some tough luck in the playoffs these past two years. They’re very capable and they’ll get it done. We just have to be optimistic about it.

Next: Boston Red Sox Rumors: Logan Morrison a slugger of interest

Only 45 more days until March 29th, when the Boston Red Sox kick off the season on the road vs. the Tampa Bay Rays. That day can’t come soon enough. Go Sox.