The best pitcher on the team. The best player on the team.
A year later ... gone.
Ron Roenicke, welcome to your new kingdom.
Chris Sale, for now, and Mookie Betts, forever, are gone and the new Boston Red Sox manager is expected to bring another championship home.
OK, "expected" is a little strong, maybe even a lot strong, but his future hedges on the Red Sox finding a way to figure this out with depth instead of the key ingredient in four World Series championships in 16 years -- superstar talent.
This is going to be interesting.
The Red Sox have, despite Mookie's exodus, one of the best lineups they've ever had. If that's a little strong, OK, but they have more depth, one through nine, than maybe they've ever had.
Will that be enough?
Roenicke really wanted this job. He was practically begging for it this spring, as the interim guy, before President Chaim Bloom pulled the trigger and gave him the gig.
Bloom did not do much this offseason, other than unloading Mookie Betts and David Price. The other moves were cursory. Maybe a few of those fillers, outfielder Kevin Pillar and second baseman Jose Peraza, could be steals.
But the big moves will wait until next year. Bloom's long-term job is to do what he apparently did in Tampa, and that's build a pitching staff from scratch. That takes time.
In order for Roenicke to survive that much time, 2020 is very important. He needs to manufacture wins.
The starting pitching, compared to the other $200 million-ish clubs, is a nightmare. They have two worthy starters of October baseball, Nathan Eovaldi and Eduardo Rodriguez, and the rest are on a par with Triple-A and the San Diego Padres.
Former Red Sox manager Joe Morgan always said that a major league manager earns his keep by managing the bullpen. And while it's not filled with elite arms compared to the Yankees, the Red Sox have several relievers who have made some hay in October. It is one area where Roenicke has some depth.
His lineup, as noted, has several 20 homer guys, which is a lot. Over 60 games, that's more like eight homers, but the point is there is a lot of sneaky, young power on this squad.
The Red Sox are supposed to be, at best, a .500 team. It's natural considering their losses of Sale, Price and Mookie, without valid replacements.
But in a 60-game season, anything is possible.
Roenicke has some decisions to make. We came to find out yesterday, that analytics says the No. 2 hitter is the most important hitter on the team, instead of the No. 3. In fact, the No. 4 guy is more vital than the No. 3 guy.
Well, as Roenicke noted, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim's analytic guys put Mike Trout there, based on the extra appearances in a season (18 to 20) over batting third.
Hence, J.D. Martinez appears to be the new No. 2. Roenicke noted that Martinez is a better baserunner than we realize (whatever!) and faster than his big, old body looks (whatever!).
Basically, Roenicke is telling white lies for his players' benefit.
Roenicke also had some tough discussions yesterday and more today about cutting the roster to 30. Apparently a few players will be surprised they're not joining the Red Sox, instead heading to Pawtucket to join the other 30 or so guys on the taxi squad.
That's part of the job, but they pale in "toughness" to what lies ahead.
The Red Sox are expected to win. Period. Especially after what was considered a losing and disappointing season when the Red Sox acted like fat cats after their incredible 2018 performance.
Roeicke is a good guy. He is old-school learning the new school methods. And from his answers -- "I'm not really sure why, but I'll have to ask" -- there is a lot to learn.
The Red Sox open with the Orioles. Yup, them Orioles.
While there will be no spectators, there will be a lot of people watching.
It's all about the "Ws." Especially now. Especially with the Orioles in town.
You can email Bill Burt at firstname.lastname@example.org.