The Boston Red Sox just won their third World Series title in the past decade, and clinched in front of the home crowd for the first time since 1918. (In 2004 and 2007, the Red Sox won the World Series on the road.)
It was an improbable end to a weird World Series that featured a couple of error-filled games, the first walk-off obstruction call in postseason history, and, quite unexpectedly, the Boston Red Sox.
Yes, after a last place finish in 2012, the Red Sox looked to be in full rebuild mode. They traded away their biggest contracts in a mega deal in August 2012, then quietly signed cheaper players in the offseason.
Meanwhile, the competition in the American League East improved, at least on paper. Toronto picked up almost every good player from Miami and snagged reigning NL Cy Young winner R. A. Dickey from the Mets. Tampa Bay traded excess pitching to Kansas City for the best hitting prospect in baseball, Wil Myers. The Yankees and Orioles seemed poised to challenge for the division title, too.
So the dozens of professional baseball analysts who made preseason predictions can be forgiven for, almost across the board, picking the Red Sox to finish at or near the bottom of the division in 2013.
Of the 43 sportswriters who made predictions for ESPN.com, none picked Boston to win the American League East. Twenty picked Toronto (who finished last) while another 20 took Tampa (who made the playoffs as a wild card before losing to the Red Sox). Only four had the Red Sox even winning one of the two American League wild cards.
Sports Illustrated pegged Boston to finish last in the division — and fourth from the bottom in the entire American League — with 77 wins. The Red Sox won 20 more games than that and finished with the best record in baseball.
None of the seven Sports Illustrated baseball experts who made their own predictions had Boston reaching the playoffs. Several predicted Shane Victorino would be the biggest "free-agent flop" of the year. Victorino won a Gold Glove and smacked a late-inning grand slam to send Boston to the World Series.
Three of four Yahoo! writers placed Boston last in the division (the fourth had them breaking even and finishing in fourth place.) No one at Hardball Talk had the Red Sox anywhere near a playoff spot either.
Even the stat heads at Baseball Prospectus picked Boston to finish in fourth place — though one of the 42 writers had Boston winning the division. Grantland's Jonah Keri also had Boston finishing fourth, but barely.
Only three of seven members of Boston.com's sports staff had the Red Sox in the playoffs, and just one staffer from the print side said the same. Boston.com's Eric Wilbur had Boston winning the second wild card, and finishing behind only the Rays in the AL East, which he said would be "far more competitive than people are giving it credit." However, he predicted Boston would bow out in the first round of the playoffs.
Boston Globe sports columnist Dan Shaughnessy topped everyone, though, with his preseason prediction titled, "It's hard to get excited about these Red Sox."
"This must be what it feels like covering the Pittsburgh Pirates in Bradenton every spring," he wrote, adding that, "It is difficult to pick them anywhere but last."
Sorry. The juice glass is half-empty today. These guys could be really bad. And really boring. "Scrappy" doesn't sell in Boston in 2013. Not after everything that's happened. For $170 million, a little more prime-time talent would have been nice. [Boston Globe]
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