COMMENTARY | The Boston Red Sox are on top of MLB and while the season is still young, they look to be a serious contender to make a push to return to the postseason. But is merely returning to the playoffs the upper limit to their capabilities this season?
Here are five reasons they can reach that goal for the first time since 2009, and even go beyond:
Aces Being Aces
Clay Buchholz and Jon Lester are off to a combined 11-0 start, with Buccholz's five wins leading the majors. Beyond that, the two have some of the lowest ERAs in baseball, with Buchholz coming in at second. It cannot be overstated how much the Red Sox have missed quality starting pitching that they can rely upon in every game. Despite being the 8th-highest run-scoring team last year, they finished with the third-worst record in the AL. If they are to go far in the postseason, Buchholz has to continue to pitch like the Cy Young candidate that he has been thus far.
The 2012 season was a perfect storm of failure for the Red Sox, but one that perhaps went under the radar a bit was the team's inability to stay healthy. Jacoby Ellsbury and David Ortiz were just a few of the players that missed significant time due to injury. This year, though both players remain on the roster, Boston has players waiting in the wings in case things get dire again. Ortiz has already had a delayed start to the season, and all the team did while waiting for him to recover was get off to a 11-4 start.
To put it bluntly, the Bobby Valentine experiment was a complete disaster in 2012. He openly criticized long-time Red Sox like Kevin Youkilis and then recanted just days later. Though the team may have gotten complacent under former manager Terry Francona, Valentine was worse.
John Farrell has been anything but during his first month in the Red Sox's dugout. Farrell has said and done the right things, infusing life into players that had been struggling, like Lester. Though he may have been a bit too rewarding to spring training phenom Jackie Bradley Jr., he didn't dwell on his mistake in awarding the 23-year-old a starting spot and removed him from the lineup when the situation warranted.
Farrell is the perfect fit to handle this edition of the Red Sox.
Gone are the players who put themselves above the team. After handing out $20 million contracts and being burned by several players over the last couple years, the Red Sox opted to play it relatively safe this offseason, making Shane Victorino their "big" signing at a cool $13 million. Others such as Daniel Nava have paid their dues at the lower levels, earning their shot at the big leagues through their hard work and determination. The cohesiveness from the early-2000s that has been lacking the last couple years appears to be back.
The man is on a mission this season. Since coming back from the disabled list in a mid-April series against the Royals, he's batted over .500 on the season. Not only has he reached base safely in every single game, but he also has two-plus hits in every game but two. Dating back to last season, his hit streak has reached 21 games.
At 37, he's not getting any younger, and his production could begin to slip at any moment. But until it does, Ortiz's power is a welcomed return to the already potent Red Sox lineup. If this is the first year of his last hurrah, he is certainly making the most of it.
Andrew Luistro has followed the Red Sox for over 20 years.
- Sports & Recreation
- David Ortiz
- Clay Buchholz