FORT MYERS, Fla. — If we have learned anything from watching the Red Sox over the last dozen years, it’s that we don’t know anything.
The 2011 team was a high-scoring World Series contender for six months before a historic collapse chased Theo Epstein and Terry Francona out of town.
A good bunch of scruffy dudes then somehow won the World Series in 2013 only to fall into last place for two consecutive years.
The 2018 team was one of the best in baseball history, winning 108 games and storming through the postseason to a championship before failing to make the playoffs in ’19.
An unexpected appearance in the 2021 ALCS sparked hope but instead led to a dismal and dull 2022 season followed by a massive turnover of the roster.
So as the Red Sox begin to assemble at Fenway South, the idea that any of us know what will happen is fantasy baseball.
For this particular team, that is especially true. A strong case can be made that they’ll lose 85 games, and there’s a realistic counter-argument that they could win 85 if everything falls into place.
But the smart guys and the wise guys don’t see it.
Baseball Prospectus crunched the numbers and has the Sox in fourth place with a projected 81.4 wins. The Fangraphs.com projection is for last place and 79 wins. The over/under at most of the Las Vegas sportsbooks is 78.5 wins.
A former writer at Baseball Prospectus, Chaim Bloom, disagrees.
“Sometimes, I think, when you’re looking at those [projections], you need to look at the assumptions that are going into them, especially how they handle different factors and especially what they’re expecting of certain guys,” he said Tuesday.
The internal projections are much rosier. Bloom sees a roster that fits together better than last season’s, and has more athleticism and more power.
But the Sox were 21 games behind the first-place Yankees last season. More than incremental steps will be needed to get back in the race.
It could work if Chris Sale, Corey Kluber, and Garrett Whitlock stay healthy, if Trevor Story returns from elbow surgery in July, if Masataka Yoshida is the hitter he was in Japan, if Triston Casas drives in 80 runs, if Christian Arroyo proves he’s an everyday player, and if Alex Verdugo is motivated.
The list of what needs to go right for the Sox to contend feels endless.
Optimists bring up the 2013 team as an example that anything is possible. But that team had David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, Jon Lester, and Jacoby Ellsbury as a base of proven talent.
This team has Rafael Devers and, to a lesser degree, Sale. There are more 2018 Dodgers on this team than 2018 Red Sox.
That puts Bloom on the toastiest seat in Boston sports.
Celtics president of basketball operations Brad Stevens and Bruins general manager Don Sweeney have built the best teams in their respective leagues, and Bill Belichick is collecting plaudits for bringing Bill O’Brien back as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.
In his fourth season as chief baseball officer, this is Bloom’s team. Twenty-seven of the players on the 40-man roster have been acquired on his watch.
On a given day, most of the lineup will be his guys. Whatever happens this season can’t be pinned on the past.
He accepts that.
“There’s really only one outcome to a season that is going to be truly satisfying, and I haven’t achieved it yet,” he said.
“Obviously you don’t know how exactly it’s going to go. There’s been some things that worked better than expected and some situations that haven’t. We try to learn from all that.”
The Sox have a four-game series against the Yankees at Fenway Park in mid-September. Those could be meaningful games or the perfect setting for one of the organization’s patented press releases in the eighth inning that they have “parted ways” with Bloom.
“I don’t think about things that way,” Bloom said. “It’s not something I think is productive to think about. It’s not something I control.
“What I control is trying to put us in position to win.”
Pitchers and catchers have their first workout Wednesday. The year of living dangerously is underway.