By: Chad Jones
For the first time in the history of the Boston Red Sox, they have won the American League East Division three years in a row. Since MLB realigned the two leagues into divisions in 1969, the Red Sox have won the AL east 10 times. For more recent history, they have reigned supreme in their division in four of the last six seasons.
We all know it is not the team’s ultimate goal to just win the division and be bounced in the first round. That has been the result the last two seasons, and the Red Sox cannot let that happen again. This is a very important postseason for the entire Boston Red Sox organization.
However, Thursday night was not the time to remind them the team that the journey is over. They certainly know that fact, especially the likes of Betts, Bogaerts, Price, and company who have been on the team for the past three years. They know what is at stake and what they still need to go out and do.
They should have enjoyed Thursday night’s celebration because they earned it. They earned every second of it. The players absolutely deserved to spray champagne all over Yankee Stadium’s visiting clubhouse.
This team has proved again and again that they are the best team in the east. Some would argue the Houston Astros are the best team in the sport, which is certainly a reasonable opinion considering they are the defending champions who are also having a fantastic season. However, no Yankee fan, not even Sal from the Bronx who wears his Mickey Mantle jersey to every game, can possibly say the Yankees are a better baseball team than the Red Sox.
What also must have made that champagne taste so delicious was the fact they clinched in “The House that Jeter Built”. Many professional sports media members picked the Yankees to win the division after they traded for Giancarlo Stanton in December, even after the Red Sox signed J.D. Martinez in late February.
Not to bash these takes, because at the time, Red Sox fans had to be worried that the Yankees were going to be the better team. It seemed that the Yankees were the favorites, in most experts’ eyes.
Also, last year when they clinched the division in Yankee Stadium, it was celebrated after a loss. It must have been much more satisfying to pop those bottles after a victory.
This Red Sox team cannot claim to be the scrappy underdogs, however. You cannot use the “nobody picked us” rallying cry when you have the leading payroll in the sport by a large margin. Although, athletes often do go to the media to get that extra kick of motivation. Whether preseason predictions actually had a tangible impact on the team would be impossible to say.
What we do know is that this is a damn good baseball team. It would not surprise any fan, of any organization, if the Red Sox capture their ninth World Series title in franchise history. The Red Sox should feel confident going into a series against any team. They would be clear favorites against any playoff opponent, with the exception of the reigning champs down in Houston.
The Red Sox and their fans should really enjoy this celebration. This was one of the best regular seasons by a Boston sports team ever. They looked fired up when they were staining their “Defend Fenway” shirts with bubbly last night.
Now it is time to rest the important players; lock up the best record in the majors; figure out who makes the postseason roster; and define the roles for a couple guys for the October run.
Alex Cora will have some decisions to make, but the only choice he made during last night’s party was when to end his interview with the media. Chris Sale will have to pitch as well as Schilling in ‘04 and Beckett in ‘07 if he wants his first ring. However, what was going through his mind last night was which teammates to drench in champagne first.
Betts and Martinez have enjoyed two of the best individual seasons in franchise history. Come October, they will have to be in pure fuego if the Sox want to capture the team’s fourth title this century. However, last night, they relished a great team accomplishment with the entire organization, as they should have.
This team’s stars can enjoy the rest they will get during much of the last three series, and the role players can concentrate on cementing a spot for the playoff roster. Everyone in that clubhouse knows they need to be at 100%, both physically and mentally. If this team wants to be riding in the Duck Boats this fall, they cannot be satisfied with one champagne party.