The Red & Black

Are the Red Sox Underperforming?

After completely defying expectations in the 2018 season by winning the World Series title with a rookie manager, the Red Sox have been fairly underwhelming thus far in the 2019 season with their current record (as of June 9th) being 34-32, 7.0 games behind the Yankees and the Tampa Bay Rays.

The obvious question all Boston fans are asking is, what is going on with the Sox?

This simply doesn’t feel like the same team that won it all next year.

In my opinion, I believe that the main culprits for the underwhelming start to the Red Sox 2019 season are the long postseason run, the uneventful offseason, and the curse of expectations.

    The Red Sox were magical in the 2018 campaign, continuously defying expectations, and they needed this magic to defeat the New York Yankees, the reigning champions, as well as the Houston Astros, and finally the NL Champions -- the LA Dodgers -- en route to the World Series title, their first under rookie manager, Alex Cora.

Frankly, there was a lot of doubt surrounding the Red Sox in the beginning of the 2018 season. Alex Cora was, of course, a young rookie manager and the only offseason acquisition was J.D. Martinez.

The New York Yankees, on the other hand, also had a rookie manager, Aaron Boone, but they had acquired Giancarlo Stanton, who had hit 60+ home runs the previous year, to complement Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez, elite home run hitters, to form the formidable and fearful Bronx Bombers.

Many thought the Red Sox stood no chance. However, when the season came, the Red Sox completely flipped the script.

They continuously piled up on wins behind their powerhouse of an offense; Mookie Betts hit himself into the AL MVP and J.D. Martinez hit 40+ dingers, second in the league behind Athletic’s Khris Davis.

Alex Cora also had a fantastic year, and personally, I felt like he was robbed of AL Manager of the Year even though he had a stacked team.

He constantly made the right decision and they always payed off in a big way, especially in the playoffs.

Take Game 1 of the World Series, for example. In a tight game against the Dodgers, Cora sent out Eduardo Nunez to pinch hit against Alexander Wood, one of the better relief pitchers in the Dodgers bullpen.

Many people questioned Cora’s decision, but they were silenced when Nunez hit a 3 run homer to blow the game open. Decisions like these were what accounted for the success of the Red Sox offense.

The motto #DoDamage was heavily worshipped; just go check the Red Sox statistics for their offense in 2-out situations, they were absolutely absurd. Pitching in the World Series was outstanding, with notable performances from Nathan Eovaldi and David Price, who was even considered for the World Series MVP for all his work.

All these factors created the monster team that won a total of 119 games in the 2018 season, but these factors seemed to have disappeared in the 2019 season.

In the 2018 season, the Red Sox did not lose more than 4 consecutive games, but in this season, that has already happened many times en route to 32 total losses.

The Red Sox have been tailing off drastically. I personally saw this coming in Spring Training watching the Red Sox play.

They were giving up runs and not providing run support, the formula for losing games.

Why was this happening? One reason, two words: Championship hangover.

This condition seems to occur with almost every American team in all different sports (unless you’re the New England Patriots).

The logic behind this condition is that postseason takes away a lot of offseason training and preparation for the next season.

In a deep playoff run, players get tired and if they win, they usually celebrate with their families well into offseason, resulting in a lack of preparation.

This lack of preparation severely impacted the pitching rotation of the Red Sox. In brutal honesty, the pitching rotation in the beginning of the season was atrocious.

Chris Sale, the Red Sox ace, was surprisingly terrible. The rotation had an ERA of over 10 in the first 10 games of the season.

I mostly attribute this shockingly terrible performance to their extensive usage in the World Series.

Cora had decided to use many of his starting rotation pitchers in the bullpen to lock down late innings, but this may have backfired in the long run.

Additionally, the Red Sox made zero notable offseason acquisitions over the summer.

They tried to stick with the team that had gotten them to the championship, a plan that would usually work, but it did not.

I was particularly upset that the Red Sox had let Joe Kelly and Craig Kimbrel walk away in free agency.

The Red Sox knew that they needed bullpen help yet they let two of the most instrumental pitchers walk away.

The bullpen this year has been atrocious at times and there is no true closer because, truth be told, there is not one pitcher in the Sox bullpen that can emulate Craig Kimbrel.

And finally, the Red Sox are suffering through what the Celtics had to suffer through this season: expectations.

The Red Sox were expected to be good this year. They just aren’t. The team has lost its magical touch that allowed it to win games.

However, things have been turning for the better. Chris Sale is back to being Chris Sale and he recently threw 17 strikeouts vs. the Rockies, a new career high.

The offense has been livened in spurts. Signs suggest that the Red Sox are slowly improving, but if they want to catch up to the top teams, or even make the playoffs, they will have to find some sort of win streak and close the gap.

Baseball season is long, but we are getting close to halfway. The Red Sox are losing time and they need to change something now.


NBA Finals Preview/Prediction by Yiming Tian

(DISCLAIMER: By the time this goes to press, the results of the playoffs may be known.)  

With June beginning and finals coming right around the corner, that means the NBA finals are here.

This year, in a seven-game series, the Toronto Raptors face the heavy favorite,  Golden State Warriors, to see who can be the 2019 NBA Champions.

A familiar sight yet again in the west are the Warriors, making their 5th finals appearance in a row.

However, there is an oddity when looking at the other side of this finals match up. The Raptors are the candidate coming out the east this year.

Prior to this year, LeBron went to the finals an unstoppable  8 years in a row from the east.

This year, with LeBron on a new team, the Los Angeles Lakers were not even able to make the playoffs.

The Raptors have not been the most successful franchise to this day.

They are in the midst of their greatest season as a franchise, making their first finals appearance in franchise history this year due to their superstar, Kawhi Leonard, doing much of the heavy lifting.

Toronto acquired Kawhi during the 2018 offseason in a package deal where they had to part ways with All-Star Demar DeRozan who had played his previous eight years for the Raptors.

But Toronto’s success and ability to reach the finals this year is not solely because of Kawhi.

A budding star in Pascal Siakam, who was drafted in 2016, has become the clear cut front runner to win the most improved player award this year.

Averaging numbers like 16 points per game and 9 rebounds per game, Siakam’s contributions to the Raptors are endless.

Kyle Lowry, the Raptor’s starting point guard is also a key piece to the team. His offense is not the most consistent, but he is known to be one of the hardest workers in the NBA, diving for every loose ball and being a defensive stalwart.

In addition to these players, Danny Green, who was involved in the trade that brought Kawhi to Toronto, also makes numerous contributions for the team as well as their starting center, Marc Gasol, who is an NBA veteran and all-star that was traded to Toronto before the trade deadline this February, being a key addition to the team.

On the other side of the court, however, stand the almighty Golden State Warriors. When healthy, their starting line-up is composed of only All-Stars.

The squad that the Golden State Warriors had had for the past few years might also go down as THE best team in the history of the NBA.

Yet, this super team was still unable to beat the Raptors in game one of the finals, where the Raptors had a crushing victory over the Warriors, 118-109.

People that defend the Warriors say that they lost this game due to their best scorer, Kevin Durant being injured, as well as their new starting center Demarcus Cousins, who they had just acquired for a veteran minimums low in the 2018 offseason, just coming back from a torn quad.

With the series then 1-0 in the Raptors favor, many began to think that the Raptors might finally win this year.

This thought was dispelled by the end of game 2 for most, however, where the Warriors ended up defeating the Raptors 109-104 after trailing for most of the game.

This game was even more difficult for the Warriors to play, with the injury of their All-Star shooting guard Klay Thompson mid-game.

Now, with the series tied 1-1, many think the series is already over for the Raptors.

With Cousins becoming healthy, Klay Thompson already back in the lineup for game 3, as well as Kevin Durant projected to come back for game 4, people are already predicting that the Warriors will cruise past the Raptors for the remainder of the series.

However, most overlook the fact that the only player on the Warriors that really matters, is, in fact, Stephen Curry, and he’s been as healthy as could be these past two games.

Sure, all of these bonuses for the Warriors with Kevin Durant, Cousins and Klay Thompson returning to the lineup for the rest of the series sound great, but they do not positively impact the team to the extent Curry does.

Since the 2014-2015 season, the Golden State Warriors have had a dismal record of 23-22 when Curry is out of the lineup.

However, when Durant had been out of the line up this past year, the Warriors play even better than without him on the floor, recording a ridiculous record of 31-1.

So does the return of Kevin Durant into the line up alter the outlook of the finals as much as we think they do?

It’s time to find out. For now, as underdogs, the Raptors are not in bad shape at all.

They have a serious chance of knocking down the Warriors, preventing them from a 3-peat and winning their first franchise championship, even if the Warriors are healthy.