Thursday was perhaps the most anticipated day of the year in New England – opening day for the Red Sox.
After two straight first-place finishes in their division and two straight first-round exits from the playoffs, there are many questions about the team going into this season.
Will Rick Porcello be the Rick Porcello of 2016, when he led the league in wins, or the Rick Porcello of 2017, when he led the league in losses?
Will 34-year-old Dustin Pedroia be able to come back from knee surgery and stay healthy?
Which baseball legend will David Price bully this year to distract fans from his disappointing performance on the field?
How will the starting rotation fare against the Yankees with the addition of Giancarlo Stanton, who hit 59 home runs last year, behind Aaron Judge, who hit 52?
I decided to make a few predictions, and ask a couple of local super-fans to do the same.
Rick Newell, of Newcastle, is the county treasurer and pastor of two churches in Alna. I know he is a super-fan because the only thing he posts about on Facebook as much as fiscal management and Christianity is the Red Sox.
“I think they have an outstanding starting rotation, a great bullpen, fine starting position players and depth,” Rick said in response to my inquiry. “I think we saw their potential by the fact that they had the best record during spring training.”
Rick predicts the Red Sox will win between 93 and 98 games, as well as the division. And?
“If they stay healthy, I think they have a shot at returning to the World Series.”
As far as players to watch, Rick predicts that Red Sox ace Chris Sale will win 20 games for the first time in his career, free-agent acquisition J.D. Martinez will hit 30 home runs, and center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. will “finally” get his Gold Glove for his stellar defense.
Next I went to Wayne Farrin, of Jefferson, owner of Farrin Properties in Damariscotta.
“I think if the pitching comes together, with Price and Porcello having comeback years along with Sale staying strong, we will be neck-and-neck with the Yankees for the East division,” Wayne said.
“Love the addition of J.D. Martinez to our three B’s – Betts, Benintendi, and Bradley,” he said. “Get Pedroia healthy and we can compete with anybody!”
Wayne predicts a 30-home run, 100-RBI season for Red Sox slugger Hanley Ramirez, who will benefit from the addition of Martinez to the lineup. Betts will threaten to join the 30-30 club for the first time, and Sale will win 20 games.
And here is my prediction: Despite great performances from Betts and Sale and a breakout second year from left fielder Andrew Benintendi, the Sox will struggle with the Yankees lineup and finish second to the Yankees in the AL East, but make the playoffs as a wild card.
However, the Sox will win the wild card game and advance to play the Yankees, where great pitching will beat great hitting and they will advance to the AL Championship Series. After that, who knows?
We are looking forward to a fun season. Happy baseball watching!