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On Potential

Seems everyone else is introducing themselves ‘round these parts so I thought I’d throw my clichés upon the pile and say hi.


I’m Matt Kory and I’ve been writing for Red Sox Beacon for seventeen years encompassing over 18,000 posts. It’s been a wild ride and look, already I’m yanking your chain. As Patrick Sullivan mentioned, The Beacon has been around for only nine months, but due almost entirely to the hard work of Marc Normandin and the aforementioned Sully, it's managed to set a high standard for Red Sox analysis. It’s a standard that I’ve been privileged to repeatedly attempt to destroy. And yet here I am.

Some things you should know about me. I’ve been a Red Sox fan since new Orioles owner Peter Angelos fired radio announcer Jon Miller for not cheerleadering enough for his lousy team. I was a Sox fan before that but afterwards I was only a Sox fan. That was fifteen years ago (I am old) and now my two-year-old kids (I said I was old) wear Red Sox shirts and can identify David Ortiz on sight.

But enough about me. You didn’t come here to read me prattle on about my favorite color (blue, oddly enough), my favorite animal (cats!) or how I like to spend a Sunday afternoon (bobbing for apples, of course!). One more thing before moving on to actual baseball. I want to thank both Marc and Sully for taking a chance on me at the Beacon and I want to thank Ben and everyone at OTM for opening their arms to us Beaconers. We won’t let you down.

OK, enough of that. It’s Red Sox time. I want to talk a little bit about the Red Sox potential.

Many picked the Red Sox to be the best in baseball after their high profile pickups this off season. Being the very best in the league is one thing, but maybe like me, you heard some wild predictions, like 110 wins. Winning that many games is shockingly rare. The 1998 Yankees won 114 games, two off the record for most wins ever in a season, by both the 1906 Chicago Cubs and the 2001 Seattle Mariners. So, in just over 100 years of baseball, we've had three teams win 114+ games.

The moral of the story: winning lots of games is hard. Things have to go very right for that to happen. Conversely, very few teams lose 110 games. Most teams are close to .500. Indeed when we talk about regression to the mean that's the force of which we're speaking. It's next to impossible to be the very best ever, and it's equally difficult though far less glorious (and generally more funny) to be the very worst.

This Red Sox team is, I think we can all agree, incredibly talented. Collectively they've been to 3,472 All Star games if you include Dustin Pedroia's time with the LA Lakers. It was an impressive group before adding Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez, but adding them made many national baseball writers begin drooling uncontrollably. But adding talent and turning that talent into greatness are two different things. For one, greatness requires a bit of luck on your shoulder.

For example, take the 1998 Yankees. Please! (I'm so, so sorry.) That team, winners of 114 regular season games I need not remind you, used ten different starting pitchers. Remember the immortal Mike Jerzembeck? Me neither, but he started two games for an all time great team. The '98 Yankees also got starts from Mike Buddie (2), Ryan Bradly (1), Jim Bruske (1), and everyone's favorite ring thief, Ramiro Mendoza (14). Even with that quad-umvirate of suck plus Ramiro Mendoza gumming up the works, the Yankees got 142 starts from their five starters. To clear up any confusion: that's good.

Back to the Red Sox. The potential exists for this team to be great. After their 2-10 start they've gone 28-14. That's a 108 win pace. Of course, 2-10 is a 27 win pace. It remains to be seen where this team comes out, but it's going to take fewer of the Mike Jerzembeck's of the world and more Pettitte-Cone-Hernandez to get them there.

A good part of that luck is health. As I mentioned over at Red Sox Beacon, Dustin Pedroia is having his best season by fWAR which is due almost entirely to his excellent defense. The Sox need him to stay healthy and on the field, even if the laser show doesn't happen this year. Kevin Youkilis is showing no signs of his injury last season, and the Sox are going to need him in the lineup as well if they're going to over come the injuries and under performance at the back end of their rotation. Rinse, repeat.

Over the past 100 plus seasons the Red Sox have struggled to put potential on the field. They've been the franchise equivalent of Dave Kingman. They swing for the fences but they only ran into one every couple decades or so. Now that John Henry is here and he's brought in Theo Epstein, putting the potential on the field is almost taken for granted. The team will be good (unless they're all eaten by bears, like last year), the question is how good will the be? This year's team may just be the best of the Henry Era by potential alone, but many said that about last year's squad (Motto: Eaten By Bears!) too.

We'll have to wait around a few months to see what comes of the vast potential the Sox have put on the field this season. One thing I know for sure is I'm excited to be here to write about it. I hope you enjoy reading about it as well. Welcome to the new Over The Monster. Here's to an exciting season.