30 in 30: The Boston Red Sox
2016 Record: 93-69
2016 Finish: 5th in MLB, 3rd in AL
2016 in Review
I love Mookie Betts. I rarely get player t-shirts, just because like… I’m at the point where I would rather get a knock off jersey from China than get a player tee for the same amount of money. HOWEVER, I almost bought a Mookie Betts shirt, because he’s an exciting player to watch. Boston has not had an outfielder like this since Manny Ramirez, except Betts, is a way better fielder. The move from Center to Right to make room for Jackie Bradley, Jr. was also a very smart call in that Right Field at Fenway is still difficult, and you need a smart fielder to play those angles. Moving Betts to Right allows the Sox to have incredible fielders in their two most difficult positions.
So how was Betts at the plate? WELL. PRETTY GOOD. Betts hit .318 in 2016, with a.363 On Base Percentage, a .534 Slugging Percentage and an .897 OPS. Betts’s offensive numbers continue to look good with 122 Runs scored, 113 RBIs 42 Doubles, 214 total hits, 24 Stolen Bases and 31 Round-trippers. Not too shabby for a guy’s third year in the league, culminating in a 9.6 WAR for 2016.
The other great thing about Mookie Betts is that he can hit pretty much anywhere in your lineup. In 2016 Betts saw 109 Games in the leadoff spot, 12 in the 3-Hole and 36 batting cleanup. Mookie hit above .300 in all of those spots but topped .400 when hitting in the 4th spot. Mookie gives you options, you can put this dude anywhere in your lineup and he’ll dominate. With David Ortiz retiring, the Red Sox were worried about a lack of power in the lineup, possibly why they signed Panda to the ENORMOUS deal they did. Mookie is that guy who can provide those clutch hits, those doubles to get the table setters in, and can also play the field with the best of them. Without Mookie Betts, the Red Sox don’t make it to the playoffs. He’s next in line to take control of this Red Sox team an usher in a new era at Fenway.
The Red Sox might have won the David Price Sweepstakes prior to the 2016 season, but that also means they won the privilege of dealing with David Price. 7-years, $217 million dollars. David Price got $30 million dollars in 2016 and turned in the MLB equivalent of a fart. Look, I'll give him the benefit of the doubt, Price tried to straighten his year out. Price watched game film, changes leg angles, started more games this season than any other, but still turned in a lackluster performance. That's what's disappointing about his debut season for the Sox.
Some players don't make it work in big baseball markets. Jay Bruce couldn't hack in New York last year, Carl Crawford in Boston had the same issue. The stakes are higher, the spotlight brighter, a lot of guys can't handle the pressure. David Price was overdoing it to appease the Fenway faithful, pouring over every detail, getting in his head, analyzing everything. That's gonna kill your chances of being mentally prepared for a game. That's what's disappointing here, we made David Price crazy and now he's likely out for a while.
The Red Sox are stacked this year. The additions of Mitch Moreland, Chris Sale, and the ascension of the Killer B's (Benintendi, Bradley, Jr and Betts), the Red Sox are the Vegas favorites to win it all. However, there's a lot left unproven for this squad. The outfield is young, and while they seemed enigmatic at the plate to most opposing pitchers, you can bet your red socks those same pitchers are finding weaknesses. This year for the Red Sox is not about climbing back to the top, but being resilient in that climb. The Red Sox put a target on their backs this offseason by going out and snagging Chris Sale. They now carry two fo the best pitchers in the American League, and an MVP finalist. The league is looking out for the Sox, that's a fact. This is also the first time in 14 years that the Red Sox will open the season without David Ortiz in the starting lineup. And that will be difficult not only for the team but for the fans.
I love Big Papi. I always have, I always will. Anyone who knows me will tell you that I put a lot of stock in Ken Burn's Baseball. I LOVE IT. I remember watching it in school and always wanting more. What struck me while watching was the thought "who is going to be that baseball player that I grew up watching who was larger than life, god-like, a player who carried a city on his back?" That player for me is David Ortiz. No question. I went to a Red Sox game this past season while home in Massachusetts and while it's always a treat to see a game at Fenway, and it struck me in the 8th inning that this is the last time I will see David Ortiz play in person. At the end of his career, he commanded an audience, he was still the biggest threat at the plate. That's a ballplayer. That's a legend. So much of my childhood surrounds David Ortiz and so much of my short adult life has as well. Every time I return to New England, I get a lot of questions like "how can you be a Mets fan when you're from Boston?" It's a long complicated explanation, but at the end of the day, I will always love the Boston Red Sox. That's a fact. David Ortiz made that happen. David Ortiz will always have a place in my heart. David Ortiz is my ballplayer. He was OUR ballplayer, and he's not a guy you can replace without it sending some shockwaves through the team.