The Boston Red Sox are atop the MLB standings at the beginning of June, which doesn’t mean a whole lot unless they finish there. The Sox will need their current crop of stars to keep them on top for the next few months in hopes of a World Series run. Will they deliver? History says yes.
In my eyes, as a lifelong Red Sox fan, the current Boston lineup — bolstered by Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez — is mirroring the type of star power provided by former Red Sox sluggers David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez.
Ortiz and Ramirez were not just fan favorites but household names, and while Betts and Martinez haven’t quite reached that status yet – they aren’t far from achieving it. Perhaps every household in the New England area might know their names, but Ortiz and Ramirez could be heard across the country as early as 2004 when the duo helped Boston to success for the first time in a while.
Take a look at the numbers Ortiz and Ramirez put up at this time of the season in 2004:
■ David Ortiz [thru June 6] – (54 G, .271 AVG, 12 HR, 49 RBI, 26 R, 59 SO, 221 AB, .880 OPS)
■ Manny Ramirez [thru June 6] – (54 G, .351 AVG, 15 HR, 40 RBI, 36 R, 46 SO, 205 AB, 1.103 OPS)
Now for Martinez and Betts’ numbers in 2018:
■ J.D. Martinez [thru June 6] – (57 G, .318 AVG, 20 HR, 52 RBI, 40 R, 59 SO, 219 AB, 1.036 OPS)
■ Mookie Betts [thru June 6] – (48 G, .359 AVG, 17 HR, 37 RBI, 52 R, 25 SO, 184 AB, 1.187 OPS)
It may appear that the Martinez and Betts duo has better stats up to this point and, based on projections, should finish with better numbers than the 2004 Ortiz and Ramirez duo. But that remains to be seen.
In 2004, Ortiz and Ramirez each finished the season boasting a .300 average or better with 40+ home runs and they both finished top 5 in MVP voting. They each enjoyed one of the best seasons of their careers in 2004.
Ortiz and Ramirez would eventually go on to help Boston win the World Series, despite a 3-0 deficit to the Yankees in the 2004 American League Championship Series. The Red Sox won eight straight games after that Game 3 loss to New York in the ALCS, culminating in Boston’s first World Series title since 1918 as they broke the ‘Curse of the Bambino’ along the way.
The duo paved the way for the Red Sox, who would eventually win two more World Series titles (2007, 2013) after that fabled run in 2004. Boston hasn’t won a title in five years and fans are itching for another shot at the Sox hoisting that hefty Commissioner’s Trophy. With the way the 2018 season is going, the sky is the limit for this Red Sox team.
Let’s compare the two, starting with: Star power: Ortiz and Ramirez have the slight edge over Martinez and Betts.
But… that’s only two of the bright stars on each roster, and we haven’t even mentioned any pitchers or role players yet.
So, let’s get down to it. Shortstop Nomar Garciaparra’s nine-year reign with the Sox ended in the middle of the 2004 season as he was dealt to the Chicago Cubs, but Orlando Cabrera emerged as a suitable replacement in the infield and finished the season with a .294 batting average with six home runs and 31 RBIs while being instrumental in Boston’s title run.
Xander Bogaerts leads the Sox infield in 2018, and the 25-year-old shortstop is currently shining. Bogaerts did miss quite a bit of time earlier in the year, but Brock Holt and Tzu-Wei Lin lent a hand at the position while he was out.
Holt, a utility guy that can play virtually every position, currently owns a .319 average and has impressed Red Sox Nation despite not actually owning a permanent spot in the lineup. Lin hasn’t played since May 3, but has proven to be a valuable asset should anyone go down with injury.
At second base, Mark Bellhorn had an under-the-radar year in 2004 as the journeyman batted .264, drove in 82 runs and belted 17 homers.
Pokey Reese was a valuable utility infielder for the Sox in 2004, which was his last season in the league. He provided a spark for Boston, much like Holt is doing this season.
Second baseman and former MVP Dustin Pedroia, who is still ailing from knee surgery, picked up just one hit in 11 at-bats after rehabbing with Triple-A Pawtucket and is now back on the disabled list. Good thing Eduardo Nunez has been a key instrument for the Sox as he has put up decent numbers and consistently gets it done in the field.
2B/SS: 2018 Red Sox middle infield has the slight edge.
At the hot corner, Bill Mueller (.283 average, 12 HR, 57 RBIs) put up some flashy offensive numbers in 2004 alongside fellow third baseman Kevin Youkilis, who was emerging from the Boston farm system that season. Youkilis still managed to belt seven homers and drive in 35 runs in 72 games in 2004.
Current Red Sox third baseman Rafael Devers is very young at a ripe age of 21, and has lit up MLB pitching at times but still needs some development both at the plate and in the field.
Devers emerged last year as a hot bat and it remains to be seen if the young slugger can continue to hit MLB pitching at a consistent rate. But, Boston manager Alex Cora seems to be sticking with Devers, who is currently batting .226 with nine homers and 28 RBIs despite committing 11 of the team’s 30 errors this season.
First baseman Mitch Moreland has been a pleasant surprise for this 2018 squad, batting .305 with 10 HRs and 30 RBIs. He now takes over full-time at first base as the Red Sox released Hanley Ramirez, who was batting .254 with six homers and 29 RBIs.
At this time in 2004, Red Sox first baseman Kevin Millar was batting .275 with four homers and 16 RBIs while splitting time with Doug Mientkiewicz, who was batting .263 with two home runs and 15 RBIs.
1B/3B: Neither stands out among each other. Tie.
Catcher Jason Varitek enjoyed one of his best seasons in 2004 as he played 137 games, posting a .296 average and 18 home runs with 73 RBIs while splitting time with Doug Mirabelli (.281 AVG, 9 HR, 32 RBIs in 59 games) behind the plate.
The Red Sox currently have a platoon of catchers in Christian Vazquez, Sandy Leon and Blake Swihart. Leon has the most consistent bat, but Vazquez is the best defensively and Swihart doesn’t seem to fit in well. This may be a problem for the Red Sox until they can seem to settle on everyone’s roles.
C: 2004 Red Sox Catchers have the edge.
Now, for the outfield.
Andrew Benintendi, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Betts have spent the most time in the outfield this season for the Red Sox. Martinez, Holt and Nunez can also fill in, but haven’t been used much.
Benintendi is emerging as a real star power after being called up last season. He has excellent offensive numbers and his defensive production has been excellent as well. Bradley Jr. has been struggling at the plate, but is one of the best (if not THE best) defensive outfielders in the game. And Betts is, well, a monster.
Johnny Damon, Trot Nixon, Gabe Kapler and Ramirez all roamed the outfield for the Red Sox in 2004, but can’t outshine the current crop of outfielders the Sox have.
OF: 2018 Red Sox outfield has the edge. Let’s get down to pitching, now.
Rotations: 2018 – Chris Sale, David Price, Rick Porcello, Eduardo Rodriguez, Drew Pomeranz vs.
2004 – Pedro Martinez, Curt Schilling, Derek Lowe, Tim Wakefield, Bronson Arroyo
Martinez is the best pitcher on either list, and I would be hesitant to give Sale the edge over Schilling – who was the Cy Young runner-up in 2004.
Plus, the rest of the 2004 rotation was much better than the current squad.
SP: 2004 Red Sox rotation has the edge.
Bullpen: 2018 – Craig Kimbrel, Joe Kelly, Hector Velazquez, Brian Kelly, Matt Barnes, Heath Hembree, Steven Wright vs.
2004 – Keith Foulke, Mike Timlin, Alan Embree, Scott Williamson, Curt Leskanic, Lenny DiNardo, Byung-Hyun Kim, Mike Myers
Kimbrel is emerging as a potential Hall of Fame closer, and much better than Foulke was in 2004. Kelly and Velazquez outduel any of the other 2004 relievers. The 2018 bullpen is much deeper.I rest my case there.
RP: 2018 Red Sox bullpen has the edge.
2004 Red Sox – 3
2018 Red Sox – 3
We could put the managers head-to-head, but given its Alex Cora’s first season as an MLB manager it’s unfair to compare him to the legend that is Terry Francona. We’ll just have to call it a tie.
The two teams, while very much different are very alike and they each bring much of the similar excitement to the diehard Red Sox fans watching them play. Now, we don’t know if the 2018 Red Sox team will follow suit with the 2004 squad.
But they certainly are on par in terms of talent.