By Tony Massarotti, 98.5 The Sports Hub
The question entering last year, frankly, was simple. We knew the Red Sox were good. We wondered whether they could be great. Then they rumbled to a 17-2 start, won 108 regular season games and 11 more in the playoffs. Along the way, they wiped out the three next-best teams in baseball – the Yankees, Astros and Dodgers – and left nothing but rubble in their wake.
It was, truly, an extraordinary season.
Which is why you shouldn’t expect it again.
Extraordinary. In 2018, it was the right word … so I looked it up. And the very first definition? “Very unusual.” If that sounds like an indictment on the 2018 Red Sox, keep your pants on. It isn’t. Rather, it’s an acknowledgment of just how truly special and dominant their rampage to the World Series was, a performance that was the greatest in Red Sox history.
For a team that has been in existence since 1901, that is no small statement – or accomplishment. Any praise heaped upon the 2018 Red Sox is well-deserved – individually and collectively – and it would be absolutely fabulous if we witnessed it again.
That said, the overwhelming likelihood is that we won’t.
Which hardly means that this season is not worth watching.
On the field, by now, you know all questions with this team. Who will close? And beyond that, is the bullpen deep enough? Can Chris Sale hold up? Has David Price turned a corner? Is Nathan Eovaldi really worth $17 million? Is Rafael Devers ready to blossom? And perhaps more important than any of them, what happens when boy king Alex Cora faces his first real adversity, on the field or off, and there are clubhouse rumblings about playing time or pitching decisions? (Because there eventually will be.)
If you believe this Red Sox team will handle them, you should. Over the last three seasons, the Red Sox have won more games than any team in baseball. Along with the Cubs and Astros, they have won a World Series. They have scored the most runs in baseball and allowed the sixth-fewest, which speaks to offense defense, pitching and everything in between.
And last year, they showed us they could elevate to the highest levels when it mattered.
But look, we all know how things work. As the saying goes, history is not necessarily a predictor. If that were true, the 2018 Red Sox would have been doomed. They clearly weren’t. In the long-term, the question is how long the Red Sox can keep this together, especially with Rick Porcello, Xander Bogaerts and J.D. Martinez, among others, facing free agency. In the short term, the question is something altogether different.
How close can the Red Sox come to replicating a 2018 season that was, in all probability, a once-in-a-lifetime achievement?