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Previewing the 2021 season from A-Z

Let’s do this, Sesame Street-style.

MLB: Boston Red Sox at Atlanta Braves
Hit the ball!
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The headline says it all; no introduction necessary. To the letters!

Always Be Churning

The Red Sox will not win the World Series this year. Sorry to offend. This is a bridge year, and should see a fair amount of players shuffling on and off the team. This isn’t just between Triple-A and the majors, but between the Sox and other teams. You can be pretty sure that at some point this year Matt Barnes will be trade bait, and maybe Michael Chavis as well. It’s okay. The Sox are in motion toward contending and need to stay in motion, and the way to do that is keep the churn alive. It’s what we wanted after 2018, but that’s ancient history now. I’m ancient so it’s still sort of fresh to me, but I’ll live.

Does Everything Feel Good?

At the moment, for the first time in a couple of years... yes, it kinda does. The Sox have a competitive lineup with a competitive enough pitching staff, and what’s more, the players are largely likable and/or improving. I’ve personally surmounted my knee-jerk Alex Verdugo revulsion and am excited to see him pelt the Monster with doubles. Even the more so-so signings, like Hunter Renfroe and Franchy Cordero, have BDE and should add some virility to a suddenly powerful Sox lineup. Even the utility players have a lot to offer—there’s a great chance Kiké Hernández is extremely popular in the Brock Holt mold (though there’s only one true \o/), and Chavis could surprise people as he moves around the lineup.

On the pitching side, there are a lot of guys who are easy to root for, most notably Eduardo Rodriguez, Nathan Eovaldi and Garrett Richards, and I don’t take this for granted. It’s pretty charming if we’re being honest.

How Is J.D. looking? (LOL)

If the Sox are going to compete for a back-end playoff spot this year, they need J.D. Martinez to return to form. Last year was an abomination, but then again, last year was an abomination, so we can throw out what we don’t like without much fear. I move that we throw out Martinez’s 2020 on this basis, but this gambit will only work until the games start. Then he’s gotta hit.

And he should. On Wednesday’s Over the Monster Podcast, Matt was listing off some of Martinez’s most insane stats, like the time in his last pre-Sox season he hit 45 homers in fewer than 120 games. The ball may not fly as far as it did back then (and it yet might), but if Martinez can channel that guy, the Sox could be pesky. If he’s anything close last year’s output, they will likely not be.

Maybe No Playoffs, Quite Realistically Speaking, Tho, Unless:

  1. Variance, plain and simple?
  2. Winning early, and adding pieces?
  3. Xander’s MVP season?
  4. Yankees suck?

All of these are possible, and dovetail together. If the Sox get some good bounces, and get them early, they could be in a position to add some players in midseason that could help them, be they from other teams or the minors. Furthermore, a huge season from Bogaerts (or any other player X) and a down year from the Yankees could push the Sox up the AL East ladder. I don’t expect it, but unlike last year, I’m not ruling it out.

Zzzzz

Hopefully the deadening of the ball and current and future pace-of-play measures speed up the game and game action, and make it something more fun to watch than it was in 2020, when the Three True Outcome game was at its absolute apex in front of empty seats. That’s the worst type of baseball to watch. With fans slowly returning and MLB (at least attempting to) slowly turning back the dial on the homers and strikeouts, the game should get less sleepy, but it won’t fully awaken for me before the Sox do. The night is always darkest before the dawn, but the good news is, the dawn’s coming. It really is. Now I know my ABCs; next time, won’t you sing with me? I promise it’ll be light out.