There is no denying that this is a great time to be a Boston sports fan. Many fans are still riding high from the Patriots’ incredible win in the Super Bowl, and the Celtics are in a good position to make a playoff push in the NBA’s Eastern Conference. The real reason however that Boston sports fans seem to be so excited right now, is that the Red Sox season is right around the corner. Football and basketball and even hockey can get Bostonians on their feet and cheering; and for some people, one of those sports is by far the most important. But there is something about the Red Sox that just seems to capture the heart of everybody in the city. People get a certain glow about them when the team is even mentioned. The Red Sox are Boston’s sweethearts, and this year they’re giving their fans a reason to be excited: they are flat out going to be good.
The Red Sox 2016 season ended in disappointment when they were swept in the first round of the playoffs by former Sox Manager, Terry Francona and the eventual American League Champion Cleveland Indians. The pitching staff of the Red Sox was not able to match that of the Indians, and the series was never even up for grabs once it started. 2017 however, does not figure to end in a similar fashion. New President of Baseball Operations, Dave Dombrowski, took notice of the poor playoff pitching last season and responded by making a trade for one of the best pitchers in the entire game right now. While shipping off some good young talent, most notably Yoan Moncada, to the White Sox, the Red Sox were able to garner in return the five time All-Star and 2015 AL strikeout king, left-hander Chris Sale. Sale is known for his long wiry figure and the menacing movement on his pitches that he releases from his unique, low arm slot. If you combine Sale’s talents with the likes of reigning Cy Young Award Winner Rick Porcello and add multiple Cy Young Award Winner David Price (assuming he stays healthy), it’s no wonder the Red Sox are already being talked about as having one of the best pitching staffs in the American League, if not all of baseball.
It is impossible to ignore the fact that when the Red Sox full 2017 Spring Training Camp opened up a few days ago, they were without a figure who has been there every year for more than the last decade. For the first time since the 2002 camp, the Red Sox are without their beloved Designated Hitter and fan favorite, David Ortiz. Big Papi retired at the close of last season and leaves a glaring hole not only with the numbers he put up on the field, but also in the elder leadership role that he played on the team. Ortiz’s presence is impossible to replace but the Red Sox remain hopeful that his production will be replaced. With the return of core hitters such as Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts, coupled with the continued emergence of rookie Andrew Benintendi, the Red Sox lineup looks to be in good hands. The team will be especially pleased if they can get production out of aging former stars such as Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval.
This is the time of year when many baseball pundits make their bold predictions and deliver hot takes on what they believe will come from the 2017 season. Many if not most people, myself among them, are picking the Red Sox to go to the playoffs once again as the AL East Champions and quite a few are already picking them as the early favorites to go to the World Series. Of course all of that is very premature; but with this strong team that has shown up to Spring Training ready to win, the talk is not unwarranted. It is an exciting time with Spring Training fully underway, and now Red Sox Nation has nothing left to do but sit back and count down the days until that first game at Fenway.