As Opening Day for the 2021 MLB season approaches, many have their eyes on the revamped and competitive American League East. The Tampa Bay Rays are coming off a World Series appearance. The New York Yankees enter with the highest payroll in the American League. The Toronto Blue Jays had a splash this offseason acquiring George Springer, Marcus Semien, and bolster breakout potential talent in Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette. The Baltimore Orioles are coming off a fourth place finish and also possess young talent. Then there’s the fly-under-the-radar Boston Red Sox. While many people are writing the Red Sox off, I certainly believe they have the potential and bats to be competitive come October for multiple reasons.
The return of Alex Cora
In the 2020 season, the Red Sox were led by the dull and sarcastic Ron Roenicke who failed to pull the right levers and motivate his players. Alex Cora was serving his suspension last season and spent most of his time watching the team with his family. Cora knows how to motivate his players, especially his veteran leaders like Xander Bogaerts and J.D. Martinez, as seen through the strong World Series run in 2018. Expect to see more team swagger after big moments even if this still involves the Tunnel Time celebration making a return!
This past offseason, Chaim Bloom broke the “interest” barrier and notably acquired Kiké Hernandez, Adam Ottavino, Hunter Renfroe, Hirokazu Sawamura, Garrett Richards, and Franchy Cordero. Hernandez, Renfroe, and Cordero add power to an already strong lineup and provide depth to an outfield who has lost Mookie Betts, Andrew Benintendi, and Jackie Bradley Jr. all in the past 18 months.
Ottavino and Sawamura restock the toolbox of the bullpen and provide serious relief for Matt Barnes closing games. Finally, Richards can bolster a rotation coming off injuries and a rough 2020 season. Richards has a reliable veteran arm coming from the Angels and Padres most recently and if he can stay healthy, can remain a strong candidate for that third spot in the rotation.
Mild April Schedule
The Red Sox enter the 2021 campaign against the Orioles in 6 out of their first 9 games. They also start with a 6 game homestand involving a Rays team coming off an off-season where they lost both Charlie Morton and Blake Snell. Towards the end of April, the Red Sox have an extended stay at Fenway Park for 10 games where they face off against the pennant hopeful Chicago White Sox, the revamped Toronto Blue Jays, and the up-and-coming Seattle Mariners. Expect the Red Sox to win at least 5 of these 10 games with the help from the Fenway Faithful. Finally, the Sox end with the New York Mets and Texas Rangers on the road. As stated many times by the Section 10 podcast, if the Sox can get to that mark of 17-10 in April, they will remain competitive throughout the season.
Red Sox fans, despite what you hear from a lot of the media, continue to have faith in this 2021 group especially with the difference that Alex Cora makes. As long as Sweet Caroline is playing in the 8th inning for fans, this season is destined to be better than the last two for the Sox!
Photo Credit: Charles Krupa