The Boston Red Sox have achieved the ignominious feat of going from worst to first to worst, the first team in major league history to do so. Talk about a super high stakes game of "Red Light, Green Light" the club is playing with New Englanders: Bobby Valentine is our manager! We're going to the World Series! Never mind we're terrible again!
A lot of things have to go right to win a World Series, and a lot of things have to go wrong to be 66-84, in dead last, 24 games out of first, less than a year later. Yesterday, James Sentelli detailed how the Red Sox faltered this season, although he failed to mention the Red Sox' raffle experiment that allowed an inebriated fan to pitch an inning of relief at all Boston home games.
As Sentelli suggests, a few minor tweaks could bump Boston's bipolar win totals back into the 90's (it would also help if the team discontinued that raffle, and, while they're at it, Brandon Workman). Could the Sox go from worst to first to worst to first? Sure! Here's why Boston, and two other teams, could rise from the depths to the non-depths of their divisions.
Boston Red Sox
It all starts in the outfield. Or, technically, it starts in Cuba. Recently-signed Cuban Rusney Castillo will debut in the Boston outfield in 2014, and Yoenis Cespedes, from Cuba by way of Oakland, has hit well in his 40 game stint in Fenway Park. The addition of these two dynamic, athletic, and powerful outfielders will change the scope of the Boston lineup, which scuffled with Jackie Bradley, Jr. too often this season. Allen Craig also hopes to bounce back from a down 2014, and the young Mookie Betts might be hard not to play. The team may even have to move Shane Victorino, who'll return from injury, or flip the promising Betts for a pitching arm.
In the infield, the Sox will return the familiar faces: Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz, Mike Napoli, and Xander Bogaerts, each hoping for -- and should expect -- some positive regression in 2015. Jon Lester seems like he wants to come back, and the team has the money to go after another big-name starter, like, say, James Shields or Max Scherzer.
Could it all add up to another unprecedented Red Sox worst-to-first run...again? We've seen crazier things happen.
Everything is bigger in Texas, including the giant wave of putridity emanating from Globe Life Park in Arlington. 2014 was a lost season, but it was lost in a particularly harrowing way, as if the team played a big game of hide-and-go-seek, and all their players got lost, then hurt, then abandoned to coyotes never to be seen again, leaving a scattered group of twenty-somethings to play major league baseball wearing Texas Rangers uniforms.
coyotes Texas training staff has nursed many erstwhile Rangers back to health, and the team that went to two straight World Series and played in 2013's Game 163 should be in position to rebound next year. Among the Rangers' injury returnees: Prince Fielder, Yu Darvish, Jurickson Profar, Shin-Soo Choo, Matt Harrison, and Derek Holland (who's already returned impressively late this year).
The team still has Adrian Beltre -- who just keeps smashing baseballs -- Alex Rios, Elvis Andrus, and Leonys Martin. Can the Rangers leap from the worst train to the first train in 2015? They'll also have to leap the Angels and A's, and, heck, the Mariners, but it can be done.
Wild Card: Chicago Cubs
The Cubs are a bit of a wild card here, which is of course a double meaning and a caveat to this worst-to-first discussion. The Cubs are not going worst to first, not unless Steve Bartman, Sammy Sosa, and the ghost of Harry Caray perform a goat-exorcism on Waveland Avenue before next year. But could the Cubs leap up and snag a wild card spot?
They have a powerful, spunky lineup, featuring breakthrough first baseman Anthony Rizzo and shortstop Starlin Castro. Javier Baez and Jorge Soler are up. Arismendy Alcantara has impressed. Kris Bryant is coming to hit all the home runs. With a couple of unexpected pitching performances in 2015, the Cubs could go from worst to almost-first next season. And for a fan base as languid as Cubs fans, "almost-first" might just do the trick.