WEEI's Fourth Annual Not-So-Special Section: Everything to know about the 2019 Red Sox without any filler


Nothing illustrates the size of your staff (stop snickering) quite like the special section. Blessed with an abundance of bodies? That sucker might be 64 pages and chock-a-block full of giant ads. Struggling to make ends meet? Try eight pages and a few lonely house ads.

Then there's WEEI.com. We dotcominate with deathly seriousness, which is why our special section is a different beast altogether. Whereas the Globe and Herald assault you head-on with all manner of charts, graphs, photos, reporting, and great writing, we're nimble and punchy and lean and streamlined for a digital age with none of the above. We're more like a Minuteman leaping from behind a birch to level a blunderbuss at some unsuspecting Redcoats and then racing back to Concord. Or in this case, Brighton.

So prepare to be amazed as yours truly and WEEI.com's Rob Bradford address some random categories, keep our answers to 140 characters because when is Twitter ever wrong, and maybe provide a couple of bleep-blorps, since market research has told us Millennials find weird noises engaging.

Without further ado: behold WEEI.com's Fourth Annual Not-So-Special Section.

Q. So let's get this out of the way. Will the Red Sox repeat?

@jtomase: No. I'll take the field. Those pitchers threw a ton of innings and that tends to leave a mark. Plus, there's no closer. Plus, repeating is hard!@bradfo: No. I don't know if you know this, but it's difficult to win a World Series. Health was pretty much on the Red Sox' side last year. A blister here. Some Plantar Fasciitis there. It's not easy to win a World Series.

Q. Alex Cora hasn't lost much since leaving the broadcast booth. How will he handle a season that doesn't end with a trophy presentation?

@jtomase: Cora's bullpen blew last year's opener and the Red Sox were staggered over 18 innings in L.A. last October, and virtually everything in between was smooth sailing. I could see him getting irritable, at least.@bradfo: Alex Cora was trained in the arts of the media with his 19 appearances on the Bradfo Sho podcast. We put him through the ringer. There will be more uncomfortable moments than last year. There has to be. But "Lower your heart rate!" moments? Probably not.

Q. The Red Sox player most likely to surprise us in 2019 will be?

@jtomase: Chris Sale. He just signed a massive extension and he looked solid all spring, but in the back of my head I can't help but wonder if and when his shoulder issues are going to crop up again.@bradfo: Rick Porcello is going to be better than his Cy Young year. Put it in the books.

Q. We're supposed to do end of year predictions so we can brag about them if they're right and ignore them entirely if they're wrong. Let's just cut to the chase. Who's your World Series champion?

@jtomase: Astros. Alex Bregman's officially a superstar and both middle infielders could win the MVP (Jose Altuve already has). They're loaded and they're hungry after gutting out last year while riddled with injuries. They'll bounce back.@bradfo: Astros. They hit the Red Sox at the wrong time last year but were still probably just as talented. Right team at the right time this time around will be Houston.

Q. Which potential free agent is most likely to shock us with a long-term contract extension around the All-Star break?

@jtomase: It ain't gonna be Mookie. I believe him when he says he's heading to free agency. Of this group, I'd pick Porcello. His established value isn't off the charts, the Red Sox still haven't demonstrated they can develop a starter, and he seems to like it here.@bradfo: J.D. Martinez. He revealed he actually might talk during the season and I think they just want another few months of proof before bumping up his current deal.

Q. Which potential free agent is most likely to shock us with a long-term contract extension at the All-Star break that falls apart, a la Jason Bay in 2009, or be traded if the team falls out of contention? Take your pick.

@jtomase: I might go J.D. Martinez on No. 1. I believe the Red Sox want him. I also believe it's going to take an overpay to keep him from exercising that opt-out. He got hosed in free agency last year, so I bet he tries to make up for it.@bradfo: Xander Bogaerts ... Yankees ... You figure it out.

Q. Over/under on games played by Dustin Pedroia?

@jtomase: Ugh. 30? I hate to bet against him, but that surgery was no joke. Steven Wright is only a knuckleballer, and his knee hasn't held up, so why should Pedroia, with the pounding he takes, suddenly be available for 125 games?@bradfo: 163

Q. Bigger season in 2019: Rafael Devers or Xander Bogaerts?

@jtomase: I know Devers is everyone's breakout candidate after a great spring, but man, we are sleeping on Bogaerts. Betts and Martinez overshadowed him last year, but he put up an .883 OPS and maintained his production throughout the second half instead of fading. He's 26 and in his walk year.@bradfo: Devers is everyone's breakout candidate because, you know what, he will be breaking out. What will be interesting to watch is if Bogaerts puts up some more stolen base numbers to go with increased power. He said he is going to because his foot doesn't hurt anymore, so there's that.

Q. Who's the chief competition in the American League -- the Astros or Yankees?

@jtomase: I want to say Yankees, because they're a more immediate divisional threat, but come on. The Astros are loaded -- does anyone even remember that they added Michael Brantley this winter -- and the Yankees are struggling in the pitching department right now, especially with ace Luis Severino already sidelined. Houston it is.@bradfo: I guess I have to pick the Astros since I picked them to win the World Series. But I think the Yankees are going to be really, really good. If Luis Severino can actually pitch this year I they might be atop my power rankings (if I had power rankings).

Q. Who will lead the Red Sox in saves?

@jtomase: Craig Kimbrel. All it will take is one shaky week from Matt Barnes and/or Ryan Brasier to remind Dave Dombrowski that there's no reason to mess around with the final three outs on a team with legitimate aspirations to repeat. Kimbrel could show up May 1 and still save 30.@bradfo: Matt Barnes. He hypnotized me on the Bradfo Sho.

Q. Name one player within the organization who'll make an unexpected impact.

@jtomase: Darwinzon Hernandez opened eyes as a power arm from the left side, and he was among the team's final cuts. A bullpen with some retreads may ultimately require an infusion of higher-ceiling talent.@bradfo: Durbin Feltman. Ever hear of him?

Q. Will Jackie Bradley's winter with J.D. Martinez's hitting coach lead to consistency, or will he continue riding the offensive rollercoaster?

@jtomase: I'm in. The low-contact, high-impact Bradley of last postseason is fine by me. He only hit .200 in the playoffs, but he walked nine times and added five extra-base hits for an .835 OPS.@bradfo: I've never come across a player more convinced the changes he has made will translate. Ever. I'm buying it.

Q. If the Red Sox fail to win the World Series, what will be their downfall?

@jtomase: The hangover. There's a reason no one has repeated in 20 years, and it's known as attrition. All of those extra days in uniform, the extra high-leverage innings, the extra relief appearances, they take a toll. The Red Sox are young, but they're not indestructible. The Astros wore down last year, and so will Boston.@bradfo: Injuries. My Achilles hurts. My hamstrings are tight. My back is sore. I may have Carpal Tunnel. Injuries ... for everyone.

Q. If the Red Sox succeed in winning the World Series, what will be their salvation?

@jtomase: Alex Cora. The manager guided them through every potential trap last year. He arrived at spring training this time around refreshingly wondering why it was so important to turn the page. If anyone can keep a team from settling into complacency, he can.@bradfo: Analytics!!!!

Q. Bleep-blorp?

@jtomase: Bleep-blorp.@bradfo: (Please embed the Bleep-blorp emoji here)