Here’s one thought on each player who was on the Red Sox World Series roster
The Red Sox won the World Series 16 days ago Tuesday. They’ve sprayed their champagne, reveled with the city on the duck boats, and scattered for the offseason. It’s over, and it has been for a while, but their achievements are still on replay in my mind, and I miss writing about them.
So here’s a thought on each of the players who were on the World Series roster, plus one more. Consider this the transition to 2019. . . at least until I can’t resist writing about the glorious ’18 season one more time, and maybe one more time after that too.
Mookie Betts: I know Sox fans adore the likely ’18 American League Most Valuable Player . . . and yet, sometimes I feel like his feats are slightly underappreciated. This is a 25-year-old who put together a 30-30 season (32-30 actually), won the batting title (.346), led the league in slugging (.640), scored 129 runs, played spectacular defense in right field, and conducts himself with even more grace than he plays with. I’m not sure there are five more likable stars in modern Red Sox history.
Andrew Benintendi: The power outage was strange — he didn’t homer after Aug. 31 — but man did he ever made up for it with his glove in the postseason. Expecting a giant step forward in ’19.
Steve Pearce: He’s third in this lineup since he was third in the lineup during Game 5 of the World Series. He was pretty good too, if I recall correctly. He’s always been a capable hitter (.783 career OPS) but who knew he was Stretch Armstrong at first base. Keep him, please.
J.D. Martinez: He hit like David Ortiz and brought a dedicated, professional approach to the clubhouse. If he provides a similar sequel in ’19, he has to be considered one of the great free-agent signings in franchise history. Maybe he already is.
Xander Bogaerts: I’ve heard his 2018 season (.288/.360/.522, 23 homers, 45 doubles) referred to as a career year, and I suppose it was even though he already owns a pair of Silver Slugger awards. The next step is to turn an excellent regular season into an excellent postseason.
Brock Holt: I’ll admit it: I thought he might be done after he hit .200 in ’17 while dealing with post-concussion symptoms. Instead, he came back and delivered a truly valuable season while validating Red Sox’ fans longstanding appreciation for him. His cycle against the Yankees in Game 3 of the ALDS is a permanent part of Red Sox lore.
Rafael Devers: He needs to want it, and wanting it means getting in better shape. But I’ve been confident that he’s going to be a genuine offensive star, and his go-ahead RBI single in the ninth inning of World Series Game 4 fully convinced me. He’s not just talented. He’s fearless.
Christian Vazquez: I’m not sure he’s a better hitter than Blake Swihart or a better defender than Sandy Leon, but he’s probably the most complete catching package on the roster.
Jackie Bradley Jr.: Won his overdue first Gold Glove and delivered the most improbably clutch postseason performance by a Red Sox outfielder since Troy O’Leary in the 1999 ALDS. JBJ defenders, and I am one, will feel vindicated right up until he goes 4-for-May. Hey, he’s streaky, and it sure worked out well in October.
Chris Sale: No idea what to expect going forward, at least in terms of durability, given that he pitched 17 innings from Aug. 1 on in the regular season before leaving it all out there with 15⅓ innings over five apperances in the postseason. The shoulder is still a mystery. But he looked pretty good driving Manny Machado to his knees to end it.
David Price: He was more defiant than gracious after his World Series redemption, but I can’t really blame him, and he was right — he does hold all the cards. Might even be an ace in there for ’19.
Rick Porcello: What a bulldog. I used to think of him first as one of the most obscure Cy Young winners of all time. Now I think of him as a pitcher who did everything the Red Sox needed, and whenever they needed it, to win.
Nathan Eovaldi: Logically, it may not be prudent to get into a bidding war for his services given his injury history, modest career comps (Dave Giusti, Jay Tibbs, Jhoulys Chacin), and the reality that the perception of him will never be higher than it is now. Sentimentally, you hope the Red Sox give him every dollar he wants. I’m cool with sentimentality here.
Eduardo Rodriguez: Don’t know about you, but I loved the Gronk Spike of his glove after his excellent start in Game 4 was ruined by Yasiel Puig’s three-run homer. More encouraged about him than I’ve ever been.
Craig Kimbrel: He’s one of the most accomplished closers of all-time, but some team is going to be paying a lot of money for his decline.
Matt Barnes: Deserves the first crack at closing, if Alex Cora actually goes with a conventional closer. Struck out 106 in 72 innings between the regular season and postseason.
Ryan Brasier: The find of the season had a 1.60 ERA in the regular season, a 1.09 ERA in the postseason, and an admonishment of Gary Sanchez that was as impressive as any of his feats on the mound.
Joe Kelly: The JBJ of pitchers. Talented, streaky, maddening, and absolutely brilliant when the Red Sox needed him most. He’s going to make a lot of money to be someone else’s enigma, but he’s assured of being remembered well around here.
Heath Hembree: The kind of bullpen arm you need in the regular season, but don’t quite trust in the big moments. Throws hard, can get you roughly a strikeout an inning, but is too homer-prone for the closing scenes.
Drew Pomeranz: As far as I know, he’s still sitting alone in the bullpen at Dodger Stadium.
Mitch Moreland: A Moreland-Pearce platoon works for me. I’ll never forget how his three-run homer in the Game 4 comeback at Dodger Stadium immediately flipped a switch with the crowd. All of a sudden, it was Fenway West Coast.
Sandy Leon: He played 82 games this year. He should play about 60 next year, max. But he’s the quintessential trusted backup.
Ian Kinsler: As far as veteran cameos on a Red Sox champion go, he’s not going to be remembered like, oh, Doug Mientkiewicz, let alone Orlando Cabrera or Dave Roberts. But he played a steady second base until that time he didn’t. He must have had the deepest exhale when the Sox won it all.
Blake Swihart: Can you still be a prospect at 27 years old? That will be his age in April, and he’s still trying to establish himself has a major-leaguer. He’s had an unfortunate career path, with obstacles that were more the Red Sox’ fault than his. I think he can hit, but it might take a change of address to prove it.
Eduardo Nunez: His three-run homer in the seventh inning of Game 1 of the World Series turned a 5-4 lead into an 8-4 advantage, making a win pretty close to a formality. It was the most overlooked clutch hit of the postseason. He’ll be back next year to provide occasional pop while suffering three apparent career-ending injuries per week.
Dustin Pedroia: He’s got three World Series rings now, tied with David Ortiz for the most of any Red Sox player this century. Slap an asterisk on this one if you want since he played just three games, but I’m not writing off a comeback and a quest for a fourth.