Baseball Is (Almost) Back! (2019 Edition)

Winter is nearing its end and it's almost spring, so you know what that means, right? It means that just as in 2017 and 2018, it's time for my annual ode to baseball and the upcoming Major League Baseball season. There's a lot to get into as I look back on last season before looking forward to this one. It's been a very inconsistent winter where I live; periods of bitter cold and snow followed by unseasonably warm weather, and then back to frigid temperatures. This cycle has gone on ad nauseum and by this point, despite how much I like winter I'm fully ready for spring. Since early January my son's travel baseball team (which I help coach) and my oldest daughter's high school softball team have been practicing indoors and we're all chomping at the bit to get outside onto real grass and dirt. With anticipation for my kids' seasons as well as the upcoming MLB (and by extension, Red Sox) season, this is where I'll look back at the 2018 season on both a baseball as well as a personal level.

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As it pertained to the Red Sox, 2018 couldn't have been any better than it was. The team rampaged through the regular season to the tune of 108 wins and the best record in all of MLB. They finally got past the first round of the postseason for the first time since 2008 with an exciting four-game series win over the hated Yankees that included a 16-1 pasting in game three. They defeated the defending champion Astros in five games in an ALCS that was filled with some truly dramatic moments. Finally, in the World Series they defeated the Dodgers in five games, overcoming a heartbreaking loss in an 18-inning epic game three to take the final two games in Los Angeles for their eighth title and fourth since 2004. It was the culmination of a season for the ages which included the most wins in franchise history and their most dominant postseason run ever (11-3 across the ALDS, ALCS, and World Series). The 2019 squad will bring almost everybody back who was a major contributor in 2018 including Nathan Eovaldi and World Series MVP Steve Pearce, both of whom came to the Sox via midseason trades and who were indispensable contributors in October. The only key losses have been in the bullpen (Joe Kelly signed as a free agent with the Dodgers and Craig Kimbrel remains an unsigned free agent) and second basemen Ian Kinsler who signed as a free agent with the Padres. In addition to everybody returning, the Red Sox will hopefully have some key contributors coming up through their farm system. So far during this Spring Training their number one prospect, Michael Chavis, has looked really good swinging the bat as has Bobby Dalbec. Young players like Sam Travis and Tzu-Wei Lin who played well in their stints with the big club have also played very well. While I'm still very concerned about the bullpen, perhaps more so than in years past given that the Sox now have no real closer (although a growing section of fans and writers seem to think Ryan Brasier will be able to step in and fill the role) this year may be the biggest test of how well the Boston relief corps can replenish itself from within. I will admit that the with the Yankees having gotten seemingly stronger through their offseason acquisitions while the Red Sox stood pat, I could very well see New York winning the division this season. However, this Red Sox team is coming off a dominating season and will be another year older, wiser, confident, and more experienced playing together. It should be another dogfight throughout the summer for supremacy in the AL East (and let's not forget about the Rays who quietly won 90 games last year). Isn't that all we could ever want as baseball fans, for the Red Sox and Yankees to both be good so that the games mean something? I know I can't wait!

On a personal level, the 2018 Red Sox season was one of the best in my life. While it of course wasn't as life-changing (at least as a sports fan) and cathartic as 2004, the 2018 season brought so many new experiences and positive changes to my life that I'll never forget it. First and foremost, the running diary I kept of the entire season from March to October resulted in my third published book and perhaps the one I'm most proud of, A Win For Every Stitch. I've written about it a few times on this site and I don't want to belabor the point, but it's a book I'm very proud of and one that so far has been 100% popular with readers and customers. Sales have been great but what humbles and excites me the most is when I get messages and emails from fans who tell me how much they love the book and how it brought back such great memories of last season. The book, all of the work I put into it, and the Red Sox themselves also led to a lot of other cool new things that happened in my life in 2018. I wrote about these in the book, but they include writing for Guy Boston Sports, two of my kids and I getting to meet Mookie Betts at his baseball clinic, and all of the opportunities opened up and the people I met because of my baseball writing.

One question I've been asked repeatedly since A Win For Every Stitch was released was whether I'm going to write another book on this upcoming season. The idea hadn't crossed my mind and it certainly wasn't my intention to follow it up with another book on the Red Sox. I've acknowledged in the book as well as on this site that I was exceptionally fortunate that the season I chose to challenge myself and write about ended up being the greatest season in franchise history and culminated with a World Series championship. It all ended up being so perfect and honestly, I'm not sure how I could ever top it. However, there is something intriguing to me about the upcoming 2019 season since the Red Sox are returning pretty much the entire team that won it all intact and will be trying to not only defend their title, but become the first team since the 1998/1999/2000 Yankees to repeat as champions. I haven't yet decided if I'll do it, but if I do I may keep it quiet to see either A) how long I keep it going (remember the out I gave myself last year?) or B) whether or not this season ends up being interesting enough to warrant another book.

Regardless of whether I write another book about the Red Sox or not, I cannot wait for this season. Along with my kids' baseball and softball teams finishing up their indoor workouts over the next few weeks before we get outside onto real fields (weather permitting), the winter which has been dragging on and on for the last few weeks should hopefully be coming to an end as spring, warmer temperatures, and the promise of new seasons both amateur and professional gives me hope and optimism as it does every year around this time. There's a old saying that I've always liked that says "baseball is the only game that can make a kid feel like a grown man, and a grown man feel like a kid." A related quote is that "you can be a kid for as long as you want when you play baseball." There's just something special about this game and about this time of year that has always filled me with excitement. Having kids who are as into the game, both watching it and playing it, only makes it more special to me. No matter who you root for, it's all about hope and the promise that this might be the year for your favorite team. With that, I wish you and your team the best of luck (unless it's the Yankees!) and since it's my blog, I'll close with an exhortation of my own: Go Sox!