If you’re a Boston Red Sox fan, you probably had high expectations for the 2019 season. After winning a franchise-high number of games and eliminating every playoff opponent with relative ease, the club brought back nearly every member of the 2018 squad.
There were a few questions surrounding the bullpen and closer spot, but still, Red Sox Nation marched into Opening Day in high spirits. New England was ready for another great season and, hopefully, a second consecutive World Series championship.
If you’ve spent any time on sports Twitter in the last 72 hours, you’ve read the name, “Mike Trout.” Even if you don’t follow baseball, you should know who this man is and why he’s important. He made headlines on Wednesday morning when he signed a contract extension with the Los Angeles Angels. The contract, which would have expired at the end of the 2020 season, will now keep him in LA until 2030, a ten-year extension. The value of the deal? $430 million. Trout is now the most valuable athlete in North American sports.
Last year, Boston dominated Major League Baseball. At the risk of repeating something you’ve already read 100 times, the Red Sox won 108 regular-season games and won 11 of 14 games in three playoff series. The best season in franchise history was accomplished despite a bullpen that was the source of concern throughout the year.
What’s the status of this year’s bullpen and how will it impact the team’s chances of back-to-back World Series titles? Here are some thoughts to answer that broad question.
The bullpen last year was led by Joe Kelly, Matt Barnes, Ryan Brasier, Steven Wright, Bobby Poyner, and closer Craig Kimbrel. While it was definitely the weakest part of the team and was worrisome among the fans of Red Sox Nation, the numbers were surprisingly solid.
For a long time now, the American League East has been regarded as the toughest division in Major League Baseball. It’s a real clash of the giants. The mammoth Boston Red Sox, who have won four championships over the last 14 years, battle their hated rivals, the monolithic New York Yankees, who have won 27 championships in their history, the most of any MLB team. The American League, for a long time now, has been dominated by the East. Consider that the team with the worst record in baseball last year, the Orioles, play in the AL East. They won only 47 games. It was open season in Birdland, and the other teams in the division took advantage.
The Boston Red Sox had few questions entering the 2019 season. Coming off of the most successful year in franchise history, they only lost two players – elite closer Craig Kimbrel, and playoff hero Joe Kelly – to free agency. With the bullpen and closer spots becoming the only needs that had to be addressed this offseason, the Red Sox made the trip down to Fort Myers, Florida, home of JetBlue Park, in high spirits. It was Spring training, and it was time to prepare for the long road to winning back-to-back championships. The mood wouldn’t last long.