Please assign a menu to the primary menu location under menu


Red Sox’ silver lining in 2023 is fewer games against American League East opponents


As the Toronto Blue Jays agreed to a three-year deal with Chris Bassitt, a top-end talent now coming to the American League East, the moans could be heard around New England on Monday afternoon.

Are the Red Sox still the worst team in the division?

Probably, and it’s fair to wonder if they’ve gotten even worse this offseason.

So far, they’ve lost Xander Bogaerts and Matt Strahm to the Padres and Phillies, respectively, and still haven’t replaced or re-signed free agents Nathan Eovaldi, Michael Wacha, Rich Hill, J.D. Martinez and Christian Vazquez.

They’ve added relievers Chris Martin and Kenley Jansen, and outfielder Masataka Yoshida.

The Orioles signed right-hander Kyle Gibson and first baseman Franchy Cordero, the Rays scored big with reliever Zack Eflin, the Yankees re-signed Aaron Judge and signed reliever Tommy Kahnle while the Jays added Bassitt and Kevin Kiermaier.

There’s a lot of offseason remaining, but there’s not a ton of separation between the five teams in the East, aside from the Red Sox, who clearly look like the bottom-feeders of the division.

The Sox do have one thing going for them, however: the balanced schedule in 2023.

After getting smoked by A.L. East competition in 2022, when the Sox went 10-9 against the O’s, 7-12 against the Rays, 6-13 against the Yankees and 3-16 against the Blue Jays, the Red Sox won’t have to face their divisional opponents nearly as often next year.

MLB is beginning a new schedule that will see teams decrease their divisional games from 76 to 52, meaning each team in the East will play each other only 13 times, down from 19 a year ago.

“I think if you ask anybody in the American League East this question and they don’t tell you they’re looking forward to a more balanced schedule, they’d be lying to you,” Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom said. “That impact, recognizing there’s going to be more travel, I think it’s more fair and should be helpful.

“But we look at what everybody is doing. We have to build a roster that works for us and that fits and we have to focus on that more than what other teams are doing.”

While there were questions in years past about the Red Sox adding more lefty relievers to counter the left-handed hitting lineup of the Yankees with their hitter-friendly right-field wall, decreasing divisional games makes it a little less important to plan around facing a single team.

It also adds a different element to handicapping the 2023 season.

Manager Alex Cora is looking forward to not playing the Blue Jays 19 times.

“If you take that away (those 19 games), of course we cannot do that, but we become a playoff team,” Cora said. “For how bad it looks, if you start breaking it down the way I’ve done it the last two or three months, yeah, we’ve got work to do, but we’re not as bad as we played last year.

“I think at one point during the season we were 10 games over .500. We got to Chicago July 1st and everything happened.”

Cora’s point is that the Jays clearly had the Sox’ number in 2022. A more balanced schedule could make that less of a factor in 2023.

“Yeah, the organization finished last, but you could see that there were pieces,” Cora said. “And I was just talking about our rotation, our pitching staff. You talk about Brayan Bello and Tanner Houck and Garrett Whitlock, you’re playing somewhere else, you’re like, wow, there’s upside there — the young kids, the young guns.

“But we play in a market where the expectations are high and the pressure of the fan base and the media and everybody that’s involved is part of it, right? But those three kids are really good.”

The Red Sox aren’t the only team looking forward to a change in scheduling.

“I think it’s going to be interesting to see how teams, how they’re built and how they line up and how teams’ three and four pitchers line up against three and four pitchers in different divisions,” Jays manager John Schneider said. “It’s going to be interesting. And I think that it’s a good thing for the game. I know I’m looking forward to it.”

Schneider also made the point that if you want to make the playoffs, you have to beat the good teams. The Red Sox couldn’t do that in 2022, and it’s why they watched the playoffs from their couches.

“I’m thrilled with the new schedule,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “We’re not playing them as much. It is going to be a grind. It’s been a grind… You get tired of seeing it, but you know when you go into that city, whether it’s Boston, New York, Toronto, Baltimore — what they did was pretty spectacular, and they’re only going to get better — you’ve got your hands full.”

The Red Sox have arguably gotten worse to this point in the offseason, but there’s plenty of time to change that.

At least they’ll only have to play the Jays 13 times.


Source link