With an exciting Super Bowl in the books, pitchers and catchers reporting to Spring Training is now that much closer. The New England Patriots became Super Bowl champions for the fourth time, and in the Boston and New England area, it is yet another trophy for what seems to be the new Title Town in sports. Since 2001, in the four major sports, Boston has won nine championships. In the 2004 calendar year, the Patriots and Boston Red Sox both took home championships. Here in 2015, the Patriots have won once again, but are the Red Sox also a contender to win their fourth championship this season?
A year ago, the then defending World Series champions did not make many changes in the offseason. Boston kept much of their core, and on paper, had a strong starting rotation that could win in October. But as the season progressed, the Red Sox never made it to October baseball, finishing in last place. The one key loss of Jacoby Ellsbury really became a focal point throughout the challenging year. Also that strong rotation at the start of the year did not exactly finish in tact.
Pitchers Jon Lester, John Lackey, Jake Peavy, and Ryan Dempster all left the club in 2014. This winter, Boston lost out on Lester, did not sign Max Scherzer, and appear to be out on James Shields. A much talked about trade for Cole Hamels also appears to be on the back-burner. The backbone of the team could now be looked at as a giant question mark this season. With Clay Buchholz, Rick Porcello, Wade Miley, Justin Masterson, and Joe Kelly the projected five, that unit will really need to take on heavy workloads in order to get back to the fall classic.
On the offensive side, young stars Xander Bogaerts, Mookie Betts, and Jackie Bradley Jr. have a year of experience under their belts at the big league level. Boston also inked Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez to strengthen the lineup. The Sox still also have veterans and team leaders Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz, and Mike Napoli. Two seasons ago, Boston led the league in runs, and were near the top in home runs. In 2015, to at least start the season, it will be imperative that the offense carries the team until the pitching staff can get their legs underneath them. A fast start out of the gate will be a must for this team to contend in October.
Having two guys like Ortiz and Pedroia will help getting the lineup producing. They are clubhouse leaders and MVP caliber players. Pedroia stated that he is 100% healthy and ready to go. He figures to have a big year statistically with Big Papi producing his typical numbers. If the offense can stay healthy, which has been a concern in the past, the versatility of the lineup will put up their share of production.
In 2013, the Red Sox went from worse to first. They will look to do the same here in 2015. Now after the Patriots have sealed their fourth championship and bring another back to Boston, the Red Sox will have that extra motivation to do the same. Even manager John Farrell sees the team popping champagne in October. They may not look the part now, but Red Sox Nation will be contenders this season for the World Series.