The 2018 World Series is approaching quickly. Every year, 30 teams situated in the United States of America and Canada compete in 162 games to decide who will play in the World Series. Ten teams can advance to the World Series and the favorites have already started to emerge before we even reach the All-Star break. Let’s take a look at these teams to see which one has the mental edge.
Founded in 1901, the Boston Red Sox have won 8 World Series Championships despite having to wait 86 years between titles in 1918 and 2004. By winning in 2004, they ended the dreaded “Curse of the Bambino”, which could only be accomplished by a team capable of a great collective concentration and an affinity for each moment. With players like Manny Ramirez, David Ortiz, and Pedro Martinez, there is ample talent while internal motivation to win for the city of Boston came from veterans such as Kevin Millar, Tim Wakefield and Kurt Schilling. These experienced players were always reminded of the curse from chants of “1918” from the New York Yankee faithful at Yankee Stadium. We can draw on these points to determine the value of the 2018 Boston Red Sox and their potential to win the World Series.
The offense is considered one of the finest in Major League Baseball. They are league leaders in several important offensive categories: runs, hits, doubles, runs batted in, total bases, batting average, slugging percentage, and OPS. They are second in total home runs to the New York Yankees, unsurprisingly. A fine offense that is well rounded can be expected to translate well in the postseason.
However, we have seen it all before.
In 2016 and in 2017, the Red Sox won the East Division titles. They appeared in the playoffs against teams that eventually reached the World Series in Cleveland and in Houston, respectively. In each case, the offense struggled against premium starting pitchers of opposing teams. In Cleveland, top pitchers with little postseason experience foiled this offense, which was put under greater pressure due to uncharacteristically poor starts from Rick Porcello, David Price, and Clay Buckholtz. Buckholtz is no longer with the team. In Houston, two other starters were hammered in their first games – Chris Sale and Drew Pomeranz. The pattern is now firmly established where the offense gets its chances from quality starting pitchers in the postseason.
It will be different in 2018.
The Boston Red Sox have become the 2016 Cleveland Indians and the 2017 Houston Astros. Their offense can generate runs in a variety of ways. They can be consistent against quality starting pitchers in October since they are not reliant on the home run, unlike the New York Yankees.
They have beaten quality-starting pitchers handedly in 2018 including J.A. Happ (July 12th), Charlie Morton (June 3rd), and James Paxton (June 15th). However, Dallas Kutchel, Justin Verlander, and Gerrit Cole remain to be seen and they will likely have dates in September. Equally important will be the seven games to be played against the Cleveland Indians in August and September. Luis Severino of the New York Yankees appears to have this team’s number after two games on May 8thand July 1st.
By the time we reach October, there is no chance that this offence will get going against each of these pitchers. They will need time to face relievers meaning that their starting pitchers must be equally strong.
The starting pitchers for the Boston Red Sox have been fire! Rick Porcello, David Price, and Chris Sale are capable of putting up zeros for several innings while the offense finds its rhythm against top pitchers.
Admittedly, there is no weakness. However, take a look at the 2013 World Series Champion Boston Red Sox to find one – motivation. On April 15th, 2013, a notorious event took place that was titled the Boston Marathon Bombing where two bombs detonated at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. Two people died and several hundred were injured including 16 people that lost limbs. The Red Sox became a major part of the healing process for citizens of Boston and they led with several meaningful gestures such as the Boston Strong patch on their jerseys, hanging a custom jersey with the number 617, providing victims with the honor of throwing the ceremonial first pitch. The cohesion amongst the players was evident in that many sported beards throughout the season, which caught on with the fan base too.
This team’s involvement proved to the players that there are greater tragedies in life compared to losing a baseball game, which is an important perspective to have when you are entrenched in a classic winner-take-all postseason game. It facilitates concentration at the plate and sharpens focus when on the mound. Also, as part of the healing process, the players wanted to bring a championship to citizens of Boston so they felt greater joy.
I do not see an overarching objective for the 2018 Boston Red Sox. I will recognize that there are a number of players that are not World Series Champions. Many players from the 2013 team have left. The next step in their careers is to win a Divisional Series. If it’s done against Houston or Cleveland, two teams that have already been to the dance, these victories will propel them to the World Series.