For 86 years, the Boston Red Sox went without a World Series title. Then in 2004 David Ortiz, Manny Ramirez, and a bunch of idiots turned up to bust the Yankees in the ALCS and sweep the Cardinals to break the curse.
Two titles followed in 2007 and 2013. For the great rivals in New York it would be business as usual but for the Red Sox, it is a golden age. While only Dustin Pedroia and Xander Bogaerts remain from the 2013 roster, the 2018 version of the Red Sox are looking to hang another red flag over the press box at Fenway Park. Here is why they can be the ones raising the Commissioner's Trophy this season.
Even before they signed JD Martinez, the Boston Red Sox had one of the best outfields in the majors, both offensively and defensively.
Mookie Betts is one of the best all-around players in the league and can rob runs with his glove, create them on the basepaths, and is a monster at the plate. While 2017 was something of a down year offensively, a lot of that can be explained by bad luck. His BABIP was almost 40 points below his MLB average and will bounce back.
Along with him is Andrew Benintendi, who is in just his second full season in the Majors and already has elite on-base skills and posted a 20-20 season in 2017. Then there is Jackie Bradley Jr, whose bat never fully arrived in Boston, but whose glove is among the best in center field.
Throw JD Martinez into that and you have an outfield that could produce more runs than any other in baseball if everything breaks right. With an open DH spot, they can all take days off from the field and still produce at the plate too.
Chris Sale suffered some burnout in the second half of 2017, which you'd expect when you are striking out over 300 hitters in a season. Sale is at worst the second-best pitcher in the American League and the kind of starter that every team would want on their roster.
Behind Sale is the 2016 AL Cy Young winner Rick Porcello and David Price. 2017 was a rough year for Price as elbow inflammation that saw him start just 11 games while also clashing with the easily riled local press. Price seems to have put that feud behind him and after hitting 95 mph as a reliever late in the season, there are plenty of positives with him coming into 2018.
Porcello's magical 2016 season gave way to a shelling in 2017. The true Porcello is somewhere in the middle and is a very good #3 pitcher in any rotation. If he can mix his pitches well, get a little lucky, and consistently hit his spots, then Porcello can get close to his 2016 performance. Even if his ERA hovers around 4.00 though, as long as he is there eating innings, then the Red Sox will be very happy. Behind those three are solid options like Drew Pomeranz, Eduardo Rodriguez, and Hector Velazquez.
Meanwhile, the bullpen is solid without being spectacular, but they do have a lights out closer in Craig Kimbrel who can mow down hitters almost at will. Perhaps the biggest upside on the whole roster is Tyler Thornburg, who continues his return from thoracic outlet syndrome and subsequent surgery.
He hasn't pitched an inning since being traded from the Brewers, but he posted a stellar 2016 campaign with a 2.15 ERA on 67 innings, and if he can produce even 80% of that when he returns (if he returns) then he will be an Andrew Miller type for new manager Alex Cora to throw out in high-leverage moments.
Benintendi isn't the only young bat that has extremely high odds of improving in 2018. Rafael Devers made his MLB debut last season, and in 58 games put up ten homers and a strong slash line of .284/.338/.482. While he got a little lucky with BABIP (.342) and was somewhat strikeout prone, at 21 there is so much upside to come, especially power-wise. While the lefty sees (and hits into) a lot of shifts, he profiles to hit just sixth or seventh for the Sox, and that lifts a lot of pressure off his shoulders.
If both Benintendi and Devers take another step forward this season, then they will round out the Red Sox offense perfectly and give them the extra nudge they need to win another World Series.