Hello Everyone at Talking Seaweed. If you have listened to the sports podcast on our site you will know me as Sam, or half of the Talking Seaweed sports team. I am going to be here weekly to keep tabs on the world of sports, and beyond.
On our preseason baseball podcast we had mixed hopes on the 2018 Boston Red Sox season. The Sox were coming off of consecutive division titles for the first time in team history. Despite this, they canned manager John Farrell and replaced him with Alex Cora heading into 2018. It seemed like there were at least as many question marks as answers and a lot was up in the air. They had talent clearly, but with the Yankees adding Giancarlo Stanton most people were no longer talking about them as the class of the A.L East. As of writing this the Sox are through 43 games, roughly a quarter of the season. Bob and I had a few questions in the podcast that we thought the Sox hopes would hinge on throughout the season. During the summer I am going to check on a few of these and see how they panned out.
One of our biggest keys to the 2018 season was what kind of season all star outfielder Mookie Betts would have. Two years ago Mookie Betts was an MVP caliber player. He did it all in 2016, finishing second place in the AL most valuable player voting. He was a true young star, changing games with his defense, speed, and power combo. He brought new youthful energy to the team and was the young star they needed to take the team to the next generation of Red Sox baseball. That was his second strong full season and he seemed poised to take the leap to very top echelon of players in the league.
2017 was not the season most people, including Mookie, envisioned. Don't get me wrong, it was not a horrid season by any stretch. He made the AL All Star team, came to play every day and was a good solid player. He just was not the budding superstar he flashed in 2016. He finished the season with a .262 batting average, way down from 2017’s .318 average. And he just did not seem right with the eye test. He had long slumps, had trouble hitting in clutch spots, and seemed to wear down during points in the season. Almost as much mentally as physically. You could see he was pressing and felt a lot of pressure to carry the team.
Heading into this year’s season, obviously it would be huge for the Sox if they could get the 2016 version of Mookie to come back and lead them. Well, a quarter of the way into the season the Sox are not getting 2017 Mookie. They are not getting 2016 Mookie either. Somehow, they are getting an even better than imagined Mookie Betts in 2018. 43 games into the season he has been nothing short of a revelation. He is hitting .353 with 13 home runs, leading the league in 7 important offensive categories. He is on pace to shatter his career high in almost every category, but it is much more than that. He has carried the entire team for stretches, had clutch hit after clutch hit, and has been ridiculously exciting to watch.
At his best, Betts can do it all, and he certainly has done that so far this season. Last season there was a vacant space in the clubhouse with the loss of David Ortiz to retirement. Some of the spark, the flair, and the leadership was gone with Big Papi. A lot of people looked to Mookie to step into that role and personally I think he was simply just not ready yet. That is a big step up for a young player to carry a team and be the leader. The trials and tribulations of the 2017 season were an invaluable learning experience. You can see how he is different this year. Not just in his play, but in interviews, his demeanor during games, and also watching him interact with teammates. He has stepped up to the plate in every way imaginable.
Nationally, he is being touted as the early favorite for the AL MVP and his production helped the Sox get off to a 17 and 2 start. Currently they are a half game behind the Yankees and have the second best record in the entire majors at 29 and 14. Baseball is a long haul and nothing is official yet, but it is a huge start for the Sox and fans alike- that their best player is playing at a superstar level.
New England summers at Talking Seaweed Sports consist of blunts, barbeques, beers, bongs, baseball, and BETTS! Hopefully for many years to come- catch you next week.