Like most people who closely follow the New England sports teams, I am intrigued by Mookie Betts. With the exception of David Ortiz (in my opinion, the greatest Red Sox player of all time because he helped end The Curse and delivered THREE (3!) World Series championships), Mookie is arguably the most exciting Sox player I’ve had the pleasure of watching. Ever since he joined the big club in 2014, every season has been special.
Clearly, no season was more special than his American League MVP campaign of 2018. Betts posted career-highs in both home runs (32) and stolen bases (30), 80 RBI, a career-high .346 batting average, a .438 on-base percentage and a 185 wRC+ that said he was a whopping 85 percent better than the league-average hitter. Oh, and most importantly of all he took home a World Series championship in October. What a season, and a very well-deserved MVP award. Thank you, Mookie.
But the Red Sox are now onto 2019, and one of the biggest questions on the minds of Red Sox fans everywhere is: can Betts turn in another MVP-worthy season? Though it wasn’t by much, Mookie actually accomplished everything mentioned above while playing a shortened season. He only played in 136 games during the 2018 season, which is the fewest games in which he’s played over a season since his rookie year in 2014 when he came up at the end of June. Had he not had a midseason stint on the disabled list, who knows what his final numbers would’ve looked like?
Before Mookie was shelved for a handful of games around late May and early June, he and J.D. Martinez were basically neck-and-neck for not just the team-lead, but also the league-lead in homers. It was like we were witnessing a mini home run race reminiscent of Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa back in 1998.
While Betts was out, Martinez pulled ahead for the lead, and Mookie could never quite catch up. He finished with 32 homers, while Martinez finished with a team-high 43. I’m still convinced that had Mookie played the entire season, he may very well have cracked the 40-homer mark. If not, he would’ve come darn close.
That’s something I would like to see him do in 2019, especially now that he’s no longer batting in the leadoff spot. Manager Alex Cora plans to swap Betts in the lineup with Andrew Benintendi, moving the younger Benny to the leadoff spot while Betts hits behind him in the No. 2 hole.
Betts is now in more of a power-hitting position, and if he can stay healthy for the entire season, he might just beat out Martinez for the team-lead in home runs. Anywhere in the 40-45 range is completely reasonable for him.
I don’t know if Betts will win another MVP award. But now that he has truly entered the prime of his career, I would love nothing more than to see what kind of damage he can do while playing a full season, and not missing any time on the DL. The sky is the limit for Mookie in 2019, especially as he inches closer and closer to his contract season in 2020.
Not that I’m crazy about the long ball or anything (actually, yes I am), but my personal wish for Betts in 2019 is to crack 40 homers. Only a fool would think he couldn’t do it.