As is the case with all World Series champions, they have targets on their backs the following season. Opponents might anticipate these games more than others as it gives them a chance to knock off the defending champs and see where their team stacks up against the best in the game.
This is what the Red Sox will face in 2014, particularly in the first few weeks of the season as the shape of the league begins to form.
“It’s to get back to a mindset that was the first day of spring training last year, and not the most recent memory, which was a great one, but to recognize that there was a lot of work, a journey that went into getting to that final out recorded at Fenway,” manager John Farrell said. “As you’ve been around the guys since they’ve reported, the conversation, the talk is about what we do today and not what has happened previous.”
Despite getting the best from the opposition night in and night out early on in the season, defending MLB champions have enjoyed a great deal of success in the months of March and April as in the last 10 years, defending champions have had .500 records or better nine times.
As for the rest of those seasons, five defending champs have missed the playoffs entirely, while one made it back to the Divisional series, three made it back to the Championship series and one to the World Series. The Red Sox will be looking to be one of those five teams to make it back to the postseason and ultimately be the first team in the last 13 seasons to repeat as World Series champions.
“In this group, no one’s going to let anybody sit back and relax,” Dustin Pedroia told the Associated Press. “We’re always going to push each other and make sure that we’re respecting the game and playing the game the right way. If we do that, we should be all right.”
Particularly for this year’s team, the first month will be especially important as 15 of Boston’s first 28 games will be at Fenway Park, a place they went 53-28 last season. Of those 28 games, 19 of them come against AL East opponents.
Leading the division for 141 days last year, getting off to a good start will be crucial in their title defense, and with their opponents particularly divisional, itching to prove themselves against them, the first month might be a grind.
But, if there is any team in baseball that knows how to grind, it’s this group, as they return the majority of a team that didn’t lose more than three straight games in 2013.
Follow Metro Boston Red Sox beat writer Ryan Hannable on Twitter @Hannable84