The Boston Red Sox erased a miserable 2012 season by rolling through the American League East and claiming an eighth World Series title and third in 10 seasons.
The Red Sox approach to winning — chemistry and character — could be mimicked by other teams, but not the rival New York Yankees, who invested $240-plus million in player salaries while allowing second baseman Robinson Cano to flee in free agency to Seattle.
With the hot stove cooled and the final month of winter before spring training reporting dates, The Sports Xchange polled its 30 writers for a bold prediction on all 30 MLB teams.
Baltimore Orioles: After two seasons of winning back fans in Baltimore, the success comes to a screeching halt. Issues with the back of the bullpen, the front of the rotation and the middle of the lineup befall the Orioles, who don’t get nearly the 53 home runs they received from first baseman Chris Davis in 2013. Right-hander Chris Tillman struggles, right fielder Nick Markakis doesn’t rebound. The club shops catcher Matt Wieters at the trade deadline, and second-half attendance plummets.
Boston Red Sox: A year after winning one of the most pleasantly surprising championships in franchise history, most of the band returns for an attempted encore. Shortstop Xander Bogaerts emerges as Rookie of the Year, while ageless designated hitter David Ortiz bashes 30 homers yet again. In the end, though, the Red Sox miss center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury more than they expected at the top of the order, and they come up short in their bid for a repeat World Series title.
New York Yankees: After losing free agent second baseman Robinson Cano, the Yankees went on a holiday spending spree that ensures they won’t miss the playoffs for a second consecutive season. They committed $295 million to six new players — outfielders Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran, catcher Brian McCann, left-handed reliever Matt Thornton and infielders Brian Roberts and Kelly Johnson. Cano’s production is missed, but a more balanced lineup vaults New York back into contention in the AL East.
Tampa Bay Rays: After all the talk, the Rays decide no team met their price, and they instead keep left-hander David Price and ride him into the postseason for the fifth time in seven seasons. With their tidy infield intact, Ryan Hanigan stepping in behind the plate and outfielders Wil Myers and David DeJesus aboard for full seasons, the Rays possess one of their most talented teams.
Toronto Blue Jays: All the things that went wrong last season go at least a little better in 2014. Right-hander Brandon Morrow emerges from injury problems to shore up a rotation that has more depth. The defense improves with more consistency at second base, behind the plate and in the outfield. An offense that held its own last season also will benefit from better health. Does it mean a postseason appearance? Not quite.