The oddsmakers are no dummies. The Red Sox are tied with the Cubs for the best odds to win the World Series because the Sox are good and there are a lot of Red Sox fans willing to part with their money to that end. Nor are many of the Red Sox writers on the tubes dummies; nearly all of them, except myself, pick the Cleveland Indians to beat out the Sox for the American League title this year, based on solid enough logic with which I’m going to argue anyway. I’m picking the Red Sox to win it all. Here’s why.
First off, I think picking the Indians to win the title this year is taking the easy way out, predictions-wise. This doesn’t make it wrong. Last year’s easy pick was the Cubs, and that pick was successful, if only barely. Still: Great team was great. As tonight’s Gonzaga/North Carolina NCAA men’s basketball title game shows as a battle of No. 1 seeds, sometimes chalk is chalk for a reason.
The Tribe certainly has a lot going for it. They were one game away from the ‘ship last season and added Edwin Encarnacion to their already stacked lineup. They have a healthy-ish Michael Brantley. They have Andrew Miller for the whole year. They still Corey Kluber and Jose Ramirez and Carloses Carrasco and Santana. They’re quite good.
All that said, and most importantly in the predictions game, they were the runners-up in a close race last year, and like politicians who just lose out on a presidential nomination the first time around, they fit the narrative of the rising star team. Furthermore, within the last few years, we’ve seen another AL Central team, in the Royals, lose a heartbreaking World Series in 7 games only to win it easily the next year. A clear precedent exists.
Given all of this, and their 92 projected wins by Baseball Prospectus, I’ll concede that I think a plurality of potential outcomes of this season yield the Indians the American League title. There’s still a more-than-likely chance they don’t make it, though, and I think the margin of error between them advancing in the playoffs and losing to a team like the Astros (93 projected wins) or Red Sox (87, clearly depressed on David Price’s low stock) is basically the length of Kluber’s elbow tendon.
Of course it is for completely selfish reasons that I, unlike virtually every other Red Sox fan I know, have picked them to win the World Series, just like last year. There is no downside to picking the Sox and being wrong and there is all the upside in the world to being right. It’s also a branding exercise: I want to be the guy telling you we’ve always got a chance, because I was the panicked one for a long time, and I have learned, at long last, that it is no way to live.
My moment of humility came in 1999, in the American League Division Series in which the Sox fell down 2 games to 0 to the Indians, and I exchanged some depressing emails with my high school friends (we had moved on to college). One of my them was not swayed by any panic and, in fact, was clearly annoyed by it -- the general panic, not mine, specifically, though I certainly didn’t help. After the Sox rebounded to win the series, he sent an email to our group of friends that I can still recite from memory. Parental Advisory: Explicit Lyrics ahead. Here’s what he wrote, which I will present in its original, all-caps form:
FUCK ALL YOU MOTHERFUCKERS WHO DIDN’T BELIEVE IN THE RED SOX
FUCK ALL YOU MOTHERFUCKERS WHO DIDN’T BELIEVE IN THE SOX
FUCK YOU MOTHERFUCKERS WHO DIDN’T BELIEVE
FUCK ALL YOU MOTEHERFUCKERS
FUCK YOU ALL
From that day forward, I decided not to be one of those, ahem, mofos. This was extremely hard to do after the 2003 season and the 3-0 deficit the Red Sox faced in the 2004 ALCS, but it was in my mind the whole time, and thank god for that. I never thought they were dead. I no longer ever think they are dead until they are, and only think the best for them. Including, and especially, on Opening Day.
So to think the best of this year’s Red Sox team, it’s to imagine them winning the World Series title, no more (an undefeated season?) and no less (don’t wanna talk about it). These “predictions” we make are held to account by nobody whatsoever and are a branding exercise writ large, not just for myself. Consider this: Not a single person on that list above picked the Cubs to repeat, despite the fact they are still a cuddly death machine. Not one! It’s a race to be different in which everyone ends up more or less the same.
Not me. In this environment, I’m sticking with the Sox. I’ll go on a limb predicting an Andrew Benintendi MVP/ROY-type season, a Chris Sale Cy Young Award and a Sox World Series win over the Cubs. A sweep of the titles, more or less. It’s a low-percentile outcome, to be sure, and as of right now, it’s mine and mine alone. I sincerely hope it becomes all of ours, so I can show you this column again in November. Otherwise, lol, you’re never going to see it again, mofos.