I tend to take baseball far too seriously for my own good. I usually view games with a cold, analytical eye informed by a lifetime spent reading about baseball history and a calculated knowledge of statistical probability. I often wish it was just an entertaining game of unlimited possibility and spontaneous outcome, but it can all be a bit predictable.
So predictions I will make.
The Boston Red Sox just won their division for the third straight year, and with Monday night’s win against the Baltimore Orioles, they've won more games than any team in the 118-year history of the franchise. They play their first postseason game on Friday, October 5.
Were you aware of this? Well, you're reading a short sports piece in a free alt-weekly, so odds are you're a casual fan who watches opening day, a few ESPN Sunday Night games against the Yankees, and and doesn't hunker down in earnest until the first week of October to check out some post-season baseball. That’s fine — it's a glorious time to be a fairweather sports fan in New England. It's 72 degrees and sunny pretty much year round.
Fairweather fans don’t typically get a lot of respect. Urban Dictionary defines a “pink hat” as "an overzealous, typically female fan of a recently successful local pro sports franchise” who “...spends the majority of game chatting on cell phone, waving to tv camera, asking idiotic questions & being a stupid annoying nuisance in general." This definition is, of course, misogynistic and derogatory and a pretty crass stereotype. Overzealous and/or female sports fans make sports more interesting and enjoyable. It's all bread and circus anyhow.
Most baseball caps, including those worn by Red Sox players and fans, are kind of ugly and dull. That blood red Olde English "B" on midnight navy blue is stuffy looking. My Sox hat is covered in sequins. It glitters in the sun and blinds passersby. Wear a pink hat! Shriek every time a player is announced whose name you recognize! You’ll be in good company.
Mookie Betts, less than five years removed from being a Portland two-way superstar at Hadlock Field and Bayside Bowl, is now a household name around New England and one of the game's best and most beloved players. He'll likely win the AL MVP. Chris Sale would've won the Cy Young if he'd stayed healthy (and if Blake Snell hadn't started up with his greedy stat-grubbing). JD Martinez was the best free agent signing of the offseason, the best high-profile free agent signing Boston has made since Manny Ramirez. David Price is actually very good (though it’s worth noting that he's now given up 18 runs in 15 2/3 innings against the Yankees this season). Andrew Benintendi is the all-American “aw shucks” outfielder of my dreams. Jackie Bradley Jr. has been hitting just enough to merit keeping in the lineup. Xander Bogaerts has been fielding just well enough to merit starting at shortstop. Craig Kimbrel is closing almost filthily enough to live up to his 'Dirty Craig' nickname. Alex Cora has been a downright lovable rookie manager who almost never deserves second-guessing. They really are the greatest Red Sox team you'll ever see!
Now all they have to do is beat the winner of the Wild Card game. Probably the Yankees, who have hit the most home runs in one season in their own franchise history and have a +165 run differential, third best in baseball. If the Sox take this series — and I believe they can (though it will likely take all five games to do so) — it's off to Cleveland or Houston for the ALCS.
The Astros won the World Series last year and are actually a bit better this year. Their run differential is +250, best in baseball. They made the Sox look terrible in the ALDS last year. Or the Cleveland Slurs, who have underachieved all year and still won their division handily. They swept the sox in the ALDS two years back. Even if he looks a bit like an idiot with his hideous racial stereotype cap, Terry Francona is an expert tactician who seems to usually be one step ahead of each move the Sox make. I don't like the Red Sox chances against either of these teams, especially the Astros, who I believe are likely to be the first team to win the American League pennant back-to-back since the 2014-2015 Kansas City Royals.
But if somehow the Carmines do get to the World Series, it will probably be against the Cubs, Braves, or Dodgers, all of whom are good but none of whom are anywhere near as good as the four best teams in the AL. Look for the Astros to win it all in 2018, developing a dynasty to rival the Yankees of the late 1990's.
The Red Sox would have to win all three of these playoff series with their ace, Chris Sale, who hasn't pitched more than five innings in a game since July. They don't have a clear third or fourth starter. There's nothing resembling a cohesive bullpen for the sixth, seventh, and eighth innings. Though it's basically a footnote, the bench will be overcrowded with catchers because none of them have more than a single basic tool. I'm afraid the odds of the Sox winning their first World Championship since 2013 are really quite slim. But I never thought they'd win 106 games (and counting!), either. So, go Sox, and if I’m wrong, prepare to see more pink hats in line at Reny's then you'd ever imagined.