Now that the postseason participants have been determined, there is some more certainty about who the Red Sox will face in the division series that begins Friday afternoon at Fenway Park. By virtue of Tampa beating Texas in Monday's play-in game, it'll either be the Rays or the Indians who are heading to Boston.
Jeff Pini's slideshow featuring all the former Sox still alive in the pursuit of a ring got me thinking, though: Who'd win a series if all those ex-Red Sox ganged up, and it was a team fully comprised of old friends who came here to face the current club in a best-of-five?
It's impossible to answer, of course -- but it sure would be fun to see how it played out, wouldn't it? As good as the 2013 Red Sox have been en route to 97 wins and the American League's No. 1 seed, it would seem as though they'd have their hands full with an opponent exclusively featuring players the organization has traded away or let walk for one reason or another over the past decade.
There would naturally be some depth issues -- have you ever heard of Stephen Fife? -- but the vengeful exes would have plenty of star power at the top of the roster, a really good lineup, and loads of motivation. And as Cleveland's fans can attest, they'd be helmed by a heck of a manager.
Let's check out what that team might look like:
Manager: Terry Francona
Bench coach: Brad Mills
Pitching coach: Curt Young
Hitting coach: John Valentin
Bullpen coach: Kevin Cash
CF -- Coco Crisp (.261 AVG, .779 OPS, 22 HR, 66 RBI)
DH -- Victor Martinez (.301, .785 OPS, 14 HR, 83 RBI)
1B -- Adrian Gonzalez (.293, .803 OPS, 22 HR, 100 RBI)
3B -- Hanley Ramirez (.345, 1.040 OPS, 20 HR, 57 RBI)
RF -- Brandon Moss (.256, .859 OPS, 30 HR, 87 RBI)
2B -- Jed Lowrie (.290, .791 OPS, 15 HR, 75 RBI)
LF -- Carl Crawford (.283, .736 OPS, 6 HR, 31 RBI)
C -- Tim Federowicz (.231, .631 OPS, 4 HR, 16 RBI)
SS -- Jose Iglesias (.303, .735 OPS, 3 HR, 29 RBI)
Analysis: This is a really nice lineup, blessed with switch-hitters and balance. Crisp brings speed and power at the top, then comes Martinez, who has become something of an ideal No. 2 hitter with his high average, his patience, and his low strikeout rate. Gonzalez is a classic No. 3 hitter, and he's got the protection of Ramirez, who's got the protection of Moss -- his teammate at Portland in 2005 -- and his 30-homer power. Lowrie's 45 doubles play well as an RBI threat in the six hole, then Crawford and Iglesias bring a small ball element at the bottom of the order. Federowicz is something of a weak link offensively, but Baseball America declared him the best defensive catcher in the minors after the 2012 season.
The 2013 Red Sox scored more runs than any team in baseball, and, if fully healthy, they can match the top of this lineup. And farther down the order, especially with the option to platoon Daniel Nava, Mike Carp, or Jonny Gomes depending on the matchup, the current Sox are deeper with Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Stephen Drew, and Will Middlebrooks joining the left fielder du jour.
Advantage: 2013 Red Sox
Analysis: Byrd had a really nice year between New York and Pittsburgh, rebounding from a 2012 campaign in which he was twice released, then busted for drug use, to hit 24 homers and knock in 88 runs. He'd be the primary backup in the outfield, ahead of Reddick, who regressed from 32 homers to 12. Loney had a good year, hitting .299, so he'd be the left-handed pinch hitter, while Aviles and Punto are functional utility men. Shoppach played only one game since Cleveland picked him up late in the year.
Given the starting staff of the former players, Nava would probably start for the current Sox, so the bench would likely be Carp, Gomes, Xander Bogaerts, David Ross, and some combination of Quintin Berry, Jackie Bradley Jr., or John McDonald. As such, both teams could find help on their bench, but both benches are somewhat shallow.
Game 1 -- Anibal Sanchez (14-8, 2.57 ERA, 1.15 WHIP)
Game 2 -- Bartolo Colon (18-6, 2.65 ERA, 1.16 WHIP)
Game 3 -- Bronson Arroyo (14-12, 3.79 ERA, 1.15 WHIP)
Game 4 -- Justin Masterson (14-10, 3.45 ERA, 1.20 WHIP)
Analysis: Let's go game by game with the matchups. In the opener, Jon Lester certainly gives the 2013 Sox a chance to win, though Sanchez was the AL's ERA champ this season. In Game 2, the ex-Sox send out Colon, who finished second in the ERA race and dazzled against Boston this season, so he gets the edge over John Lackey. The contemporary Red Sox would have a decided advantage in Game 3, between Arroyo and Clay Buchholz, though Game 4 would come down to how healthy Justin Masterson is as he meets Jake Peavy.
There's not a lot of difference there, though the current Sox might have a hard timing working counts against those four arms.
Advantage: Ex-Red Sox
Analysis: Clearly, Koji Uehara would give the 2013 team an edge at closer -- and as shaky as some facets of the team's bullpen might be at this point, they'd be no more comfortable with this group. Carpenter has been terrific for the Braves this season after the Sox let him go last winter (he was the requisite player sent from Toronto in the John Farrell-for-Mike Aviles trade), and Albers and Hill are both serviceable, but neither Fife nor Hagadone is likely to make his team's postseason roster.
Advantage: 2013 Red Sox
AND SO...: If we go by wins above replacement (WAR), using the Baseball-Reference formula, the 2013 team has a big offensive advantage. With Nava as the left fielder, the current Sox have a starting lineup that has totaled 35.6 WAR this season; the lineup of ex-Red Sox outlined above has produced 23.2 WAR. However, Boston's former players have the advantage in WAR among the starting pitchers, 17.3-12.6.
That all considered, we'd give the 2013 club the slight edge in a hypothetical series, thinking they'd win it in five exciting, fun, potentially wild games. And though we'll never know what actually would happen in reality, the next-best thing in the way of drama-drenched, fun-filled Fenway returns is still very much possible in these playoffs, and in some ways might be just as compelling.
So here's hoping Tito and the Tribe win Wednesday night.
The author is solely responsible for the content.