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2016 Red Sox, a Team with High Hopes, Big Expectations

Players, fans return to Fenway for home opener today

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Despite the recent resurgence of winter weather, a sure sign that spring is indeed here arrives today, when Fenway Park once more fills with the scent of grilled hot dogs and the roar of thousands of fans celebrating the Boston Red Sox 2016 home opener.

The Sox began the 2016 campaign last Tuesday on an auspicious note, with a 6-2 opening day victory over the Cleveland Indians on their home turf. The Sox open at home with a 3-2 record, hosting the Baltimore Orioles at Fenway at 2:05 p.m., the first of a three-game series.

Following an off-season headlined by changes to front office and roster personnel, the Sox enter 2016 with a retooled roster, high expectations, and the promise of a much improved season, this in spite of last year’s disappointing 78-84 record and erratic playing that landed the team last in the American League East three of the last four seasons.

The biggest storyline for the team is the final season for veteran slugger David Ortiz. Known to Red Sox faithful as “Big Papi,” Ortiz announced last November, on his 40th birthday, that he will be retiring at the end of the season, his 14th with the Red Sox and 19th in the majors.

“Every single one of us, athletes-wise, we run out of time at some point,” said Ortiz in his retirement announcement video on the Players’ Tribune website. “Life is based on different chapters, and I think I’m ready to experience the next one in my life.”

Red Sox fans will be forever indebted to Ortiz for his contribution to ending the team’s 86-year World Series drought in 2004. The designated hitter became even more popular after the team won two additional World Series pennants, in 2007 and 2013. As he closes out a brilliant career that has so far seen him hit more than 500 home runs, Ortiz is coming off his best statistical season since 2006, hitting .273 with 108 RBIs and 37 homers in 2015.

Ortiz isn’t the only player drawing attention. During the off-season, the Red Sox significantly upgraded the pitching staff, which finished 25th out of 30 teams in earned run average (ERA—the average earned runs allowed by a pitcher per nine innings) in 2015, at 4.31. In December the Sox signed free agent pitcher David Price (for a cool $217 million), who battled the Red Sox for years for the Tampa Bay Rays before brief stints with the Detroit Tigers and the Toronto Blue Jays. Price, a premier lefty ace who won 18 games in 2015, brings eight years of experience to the mound and is now undoubtedly the team’s go-to pitcher. The Red Sox also traded minor league prospects to acquire four-time All-Star closer Craig Kimbrel from the San Diego Padres. Since his first full season in 2011, the 27-year-old Kimbrel has led major league relievers in saves, with 224.

Boston’s roster alterations were spurred by front office changes that began during the 2015 season. On August 1, Red Sox president and CEO Larry Lucchino (Hon.’08) stepped down from his role after 13 years in management positions. General manager Ben Cherington also resigned. Executive vice president and COO Sam Kennedy was then promoted to president, but the team’s biggest front office shake-up came in mid August, when the Sox hired former Detriot Tigers president and general manager Dave Dombrowski as president of baseball operations. Dombrowski is in charge of overseeing all Red Sox baseball operations, including free agent acquisitions and trades.

As new faces in the front office and locker room adjust to calling Fenway Park home, two budding young players are expected to have a major impact this season: shortstop Xander Bogaerts and outfielder Mookie Betts. Last year, his third in the majors, Bogaerts narrowly missed being an All-Star selection and went on to lead the Red Sox in hits, with 196, and batting average, at .320. The 23-year-old from Oranjestad, Aruba, paces the team with his defensive playmaking in the infield and consistent hitting in the batting order third slot.

In his third year in the majors and just 23, Betts, with his superb athletic ability, is also an all-around asset, making leaping catches in the outfield and with speedy base running. The Nashville, Tenn., native played 133 of 144 games at center field last year, racking up 68 extra base hits (the most by a Red Sox player since Ted Williams and Bobby Doerr 76 years ago). This season he will be playing right field to accommodate other positional changes on the defensive end.

So both Red Sox fans and players begin the season with high hopes and dreams of another pennant. Time—and the next 155 games—will determine whether those dreams come true.

The Boston Red Sox play the 2016 home opener against the Baltimore Orioles today, Monday, April 11, at 2:05 p.m. at Fenway Park, 4 Yawkey Way, Boston, the first of a three-game series. The second game is Tuesday, April 12, at 7:10 p.m., and the third Wednesday, April 13, at 7 p.m. Current college students can attend a Red Sox game for $9 through a special offer: #Student9s. The tickets are sold on a first-come, first-served basis, and students must bring their student ID with the ticket to the game. Purchase student tickets here. Interested fans can call the Red Sox ticket office at 877-733-7699 to check for student ticket availability.

Josh Gutchess can be reached at jgutch12@bu.edu.

1 Comments

One Comment on 2016 Red Sox, a Team with High Hopes, Big Expectations

  • Robin Ginsberg Guarino on 04.11.2016 at 9:50 am

    Red Sox v Yankees game spring 1973. Watching kids climb on the Jimmy Fund sign. Luis Tiant pitching- Carlton Fisk hitting a Home run.

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