FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The last time a team repeated as World Series champions, you were probably looking for a dial-up modem to get hooked up to the internet. Hopefully you didn't get any Y2K bugs. The 21st century was just a couple of months away.This is to say: It's
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The last time a team repeated as World Series champions, you were probably looking for a dial-up modem to get hooked up to the internet. Hopefully you didn't get any Y2K bugs. The 21st century was just a couple of months away.
This is to say: It's been a while. In fact, it is long overdue.
And that's why the 2019 Red Sox enter the official start of Spring Training on Wednesday bursting with excitement. The opportunity they've been presented with -- to become MLB's first repeat champions since the Yankees won their third in a row in 2000 -- is one to be savored.
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That fearless Red Sox team you remember from last year that won 108 games and then mowed through the Yankees, Astros and Dodgers with a glittering 11-3 run in the playoffs? Just about all of them are back. And most are in their prime.
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The loaded lineup is led by Mookie Betts, J.D. Martinez, Xander Bogaerts and Andrew Benintendi. The rotation is stacked with Chris Sale, David Price, Rick Porcello, Nathan Eovaldi and Eduardo Rodriguez.
The bullpen is one area that will likely concern fans, at least for a while. Reliever Joe Kelly went to the Dodgers as a free agent. Craig Kimbrel somehow still is a free agent, so he can't be talked about in the past tense just yet.
Other than that, pretty much the entire team is back. So why can't they make another run at it?
The chance to repeat, without question, will become the story of Spring Training. That is when the foundation starts, just as it did a year ago.
"The thing that I look forward to is competing, and that doesn't stop just because you won a World Series," said Porcello. "I'm more excited to come out and here compete. Or just excited as I've always been. Even coming off of that season, and like I said, that feeling and realizing how great that felt, to be the last team standing, I want to feel that again. So that's kind of where I'm at mentally right now."
Red Sox manager Alex Cora could sense the drive to repeat just days after the World Series ended when he heard his players already talking about 2019.
And in the days before the official start of Spring Training, the field has been filled with players who arrived early.
"Our entire starting rotation has been here for a while. And guys are coming into camp looking great and in shape," said Porcello. "When you see that, you know where everyone's at. Everyone's focused and driven towards our goals in 2019. It's a great feeling coming in and obviously we've got a lot of work in front of us to get back to where we want to go."
The last 18 teams who tried to repeat went 0-for-18. Only two of them (2001 Yankees, '09 Phillies) made it back to the World Series. Five of them (including the '08 Red Sox) lost in the League Championship Series. Two (including the '05 Red Sox) bowed out in the Division Series. And you might be surprised to know that nine of the 18 (including the '14 Red Sox) didn't even make the playoffs.
So why is it so hard to repeat?
"Well it's extremely difficult to win one. Trying to win two in a row just makes it that much harder," Porcello said. "I think that's the biggest thing. Not only does it take luck and a good clubhouse and leadership and all those things -- it does take luck, that's my point. Things have to fall into place for you, too. You get hot at the right time, guys healthy at the right time and that sort of thing. So it's difficult. And to do it back-to-back years, all the harder. But it's not anything that can't be done."
Interestingly, the job is to turn the page from a year ago while ultimately trying to produce the same ending. How do you do that?
"Happy medium," said Jackie Bradley Jr. "Do a little bit of both. Draw on things you learned from last year. You also have to turn the page. We've got a lot of the same guys back, but [this year's] team is going to be a different team than it was last year. We're not going to do everything the exact same. As long as our mindset is winning, we still have a pretty good team."
And with Cora setting the tone, the Red Sox feel pretty good about their chances. He feels his most important players are already on the same page he is.
"Your big boys, David and Chris and Nate and Rick, Mookie and J.D., those guys, all they talk about is looking forward to 2019," said Cora. "It makes it easier for me to sit down with these guys, send a message and be ready to roll."
Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.