The Boston Red Sox are facing a very uncertain 2014 MLB season coming off an unexpected 2013 run to the World Series, the team’s third title since 2004. The Sox bounced back after a last-place finish in 2012 that brought about scandal, injuries and a monumental trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers that essentially hit the reset button on the Red Sox organization.
During the offseason, the Red Sox lost franchise stalwart Jacoby Ellsbury to the New York Yankees for $153 million. Catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia and shortstop Stephen Drew have also changed uniforms, representing a changing of the guard in Boston. Replacing these three key cogs in the lineup will be catcher A.J. Pierzynski and two rookies in centerfield and shortstop in Jackie Bradley Jr. and phenom Xander Bogaerts.
The roster turnover does not mean expectations are to be tampered. This team is back in “win now” mode after one abysmal season. Fox Sports previewed the season for the Red Sox, and they noted how the loss of Ellsbury could have more of an impact than anticipated. Ellsbury led the league in steals last year once again, posting 52 while being caught just four times. He has been the catalyst for this Sox offense for years, and it is a lot to expect the team to move on overnight.
The preview also brought up the idea of a World Series hangover. Another reason why the Red Sox are facing an uncertain 2014 season is because going through a whole postseason is strenuous, mainly on the pitchers. Staff ace Jon Lester threw a combined 248 innings last year including the postseason, with John Lackey throwing 215.1 in his first season back from Tommy John surgery. Their health was taken for granted last year, but luckily Boston is prepared with a deep farm system should something occur.
Another huge subplot surrounding the 2014 Red Sox is the unheralded signing of a former superstar who has had his career derailed by injuries. Former Cleveland Indians outfielder Grady Sizemore is now in Boston and ready to get his career back on track. Sizemore was once one of the most dynamic and durable young talents in the game before a multitude of knee and back injuries destroyed him. Sizemore, who hasn’t appeared in a game since 2011 is apparently coming along much better than expected, according to NESN.
“I didn’t expect to come in here and have continuous days without any issues and be able to keep pushing it to keep up with the volume and keep going from there,” Sizemore told Ricky Doyle of NESN on Tuesday. The outfielder is not expected to take on a huge role immediately as the team has a lot of faith in Bradley playing center field, but Sizemore was not signed just to make headlines. There is a role on this team for him and if he can get back to being even a shell of his former self, the Red Sox will be feeling the loss of Ellsbury a whole lot less.
The Boston Red Sox are facing a very uncertain 2014 MLB season because of the loss of some free agents, the added pressure of coming off a World Series title as opposed to a last place finish and because of the presence of two rookies at centerfield at shortstop. Nevertheless, expectations are as high as ever and if we learned anything from 2013, this team is going to be a joy to watch.
By Justin Hussong