By: Chad Jones
On Wednesday night, the Boston Red Sox beat the Toronto Blue Jays, 1-0, to get their win total into the triple digits. With 16 remaining games, the Red Sox have reached the 100 win mark for the fourth time in franchise history. The last time the team accomplished this feat was in 1946, when Ted Williams and company led the Junior Circuit with a 104-50 record.
This accomplishment should not be glossed over; as many great teams failed to reach 100 regular season wins. In fact, none of the Red Sox 21st century World Series Parades hosted a 100 win ball club. So this achievement is certainly nothing to scoff at. However, this cannot be where the story ends.
Even after this historic season, another failure in October will leave Red Sox Nation with a bitter taste in their mouth. No fan is going to be pleased with this season if the Sox are bounced in round one of the playoffs. A loss in the American League Davison Series would mean the season was a complete failure for the organization.
Excuses would fall on deaf ears. In both of the last two postseasons, the Red Sox lost to the team that would represent the American League in the World Series. The 2016 Indians, who swept the Sox in the ALDS, were up 3-1 against the Cubs in the World Series. Chicago ended up tying the series and winning their first World Series since 1908 after a wild Game 7 comeback.
The 2017 Astros, who the Red Sox could only muster 1 win against in the ALDS, beat the Dodgers in seven games to capture their first World Series win in franchise history. Both of those teams were either clearly more talented than the Sox, outplayed them, or deserved to win the series.
The Red Sox will be favored to win their first round series, regardless if it is against the A’s or Yankees. Not to say either of those teams would be an easy out in October, but the Red Sox would have the better roster in either matchup. To put it bluntly, it would be embarrassing for the Red Sox to lose in the first round of these playoffs. This team is too talented to not manage one series win in October. If they get to the American League Championship Series, that is a different story.
If the Red Sox want to get to the Fall Classic, they will have to beat either the Astros or Indians. No matter which team they face, or what the circumstances are, they need to play competitive baseball. It would be one thing to lose to Houston in seven games because Verlander and Cole pitch out of their minds. It would be frustrating, but understandable.
It would also make sense if in Game 7 the bullpen fails to get Indians slugger Edwin Encarnacion out in a big spot. It is clearly the team’s biggest weakness, so there is a good chance the bullpen lets the team down in an important situation.
One thing the fan base will not tolerate is a beat down. The team was severely outplayed in both of the last two postseasons in every way possible. The starting pitching was atrocious; the situational hitting was laughable; and the team looked timid and nervous throughout those seven awful games. The Sox are a dubious 1-6 in their last seven postseason games. If the Red Sox want to be remembered for the right reasons, they need to play in October like they have throughout the season.
From April until September, they have been a well-oiled machine. They were not swept until the Rays got them for three straight in late August. They have shown poise in big situations; like the time they tagged Aroldis Chapman for 3 runs in the 9th to tie the game, and eventually beat the Yanks to cap off a 4-game sweep. Or that time they embarrassed the Marlins by scoring 11 runs in an inning.
This season has been filled with exciting moments; JD’s slam against the Yankees in April, Mookie’s epic “Time to Party” Grand Slam, Porcello and Sale absolutely shoving against the Yankees. I could go on as this season has produced a lot of memorable moments for Sox fans to enjoy. However, in Boston, you are ultimately judged by playoff performance.
Playoff performance means everything when judging a Boston athlete’s legacy. It is why we hold these legendary names in such great light. Players who only need a last name introduction; Russell, Orr, Bird, Brady, and Ortiz have become as synonymous with Boston just like the names of Franklin, Adams, Revere, and Kennedy.
Those athletes are not as important as those historical figures but are definitely a part of Boston’s history all the same. Those athletes names are forever woven into New England’s culture. Their plays, statistics, and rings are enriched into our minds forever. They cast a shadow among all the other great players to come.
Boston is a city drenched in history, and everything new is compared to the old. Other than politics, no field in Boston is rated in historical context more than sports. This Red Sox team has a chance to be mentioned with revered teams; the ’86 Celtics, the ’04 Patriots. They just need to do what they have been doing all year long.
The 2018 Boston Red Sox have had a spectacular regular season. They have two MVP candidates, the best left handed pitcher in the sport, and a supporting cast that would make any Hollywood director blush. They have all the tools to make it a spectacular postseason as well. They all know what will be at stake when the autumn winds start to chill the air. They have a chance to etch their name into Boston sport’s lore. This Red Sox team will be remembered as either a postseason flame out or one of the greatest baseball teams in this century. We will see what kind of team they really are when Fenway welcomes back postseason baseball this October.
Photo Courtesy: New York Post