119-Win Red Sox Cement Legacy as 1 of MLB's Greatest Teams Ever with Title

Scott Miller@@ScottMillerBblNational MLB ColumnistOctober 29, 2018

The Boston Red Sox, Sandy Leon, Rafael Devers, Eduardo Nunez, Xander Bogaerts celebrate in the clubhouse after Game 5 of baseball's World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018, in Los Angeles. The Red Sox won 5-1 to win the series 4 games to 1. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
Elise Amendola/Associated Press

LOS ANGELES — Quack, quack. Cue the Duck Boats and shred the ticker tape. The Boston Red Sox have done it again. The franchise once synonymous with a curse now casts spells on everybody else.

Four World Series titles in 15 seasons? Behold. Boston is strong. Boston is stronger and strongest. No other franchise, not even the San Francisco Giants, has won four championships this century.

Chris Sale blasted an 84 mph ninth-inning slider past a flailing Manny Machado—a final indignity in a fall full of them for the fallen Oriole—and the Red Sox stormed the field after thoroughly dominating the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 114th World Series.

It was the second consecutive autumn in which the World Series champion was crowned in Dodger Stadium. A tidy five games this year, seven last. Both ended 5-1. Both finished with the Dodgers slumping back to their clubhouse.

"This is what we came for," said Red Sox slugger J.D. Martinez on the field just after the trophy presentation, holding his niece, surrounded by family and teammates. "This is what we came for. This.

"This is why I signed here. This was the idea. Dave Dombrowski [Red Sox president of baseball operations] told me last spring, 'This is a championship team, and you're the missing piece.'

"This was the mission from day one when I signed."

From day one, these Boston Red Sox were too good to be true, and as Steve Pearce slugged his way to the series MVP trophy, David Price aced another October test and Sale closed it out, history's furnace already was heating up to forge this team among the all-timers.

Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

They weed-whacked their way through the American League this season to a franchise-record 108 wins. They punched a 100-win New York Yankees team smack in the nose in the division series. They whipped a 103-win Houston Astros club in the championship series.

"Has anybody ever done that before?" Martinez asked.

No. The answer is no, and not even close. Nobody has run an October gauntlet as stacked with W's as the Red Sox to reach this point.

A mind-bending 108 regular-season wins, plus 11 more in the postseason to rack up 119 for the year. Including the postseason, only the 1998 New York Yankees (125) and 2001 Seattle Mariners (120) have won more in major league history.

They employ the presumptive AL MVP (Mookie Betts), another MVP contender (Martinez) and another who was on track to win the Cy Young Award before August shoulder trouble lightened his workload (Sale).

And yet, other names kept popping up like lobster rolls throughout greater Boston: Brock Holt hit for the cycle in a division-series game against the Yankees. Jackie Bradley Jr. slugged his way to the ALCS MVP award. Pearce, who, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, is the first position player to win World Series MVP with 50 or fewer regular-season games for the champions in his career.

The top four spots in their lineup suffered through a hideous 0-for-41 from Game 3 to late in Game 4, and the Red Sox were five outs Saturday from falling into a 2-2 tie in this World Series when Pearce ambushed Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen with an eighth-inning Boston cream pie to the face to even the score at 4-4. Then the Sox scored five more in the ninth to run away 9-6.

The talent, depth and level of play have been staggering all summer.

"This is as good as it gets," said Dombrowski, who was hired in Boston in August 2015 for precisely this moment. "A fantastic feeling."

"Everything I ever dreamed of," said Sale, cradling the World Series trophy like a newborn while standing in center field during the Sox's postgame revelry.

From an impressively enormous contingent of Red Sox fans stocking the 54,367 people stuffing Dodger Stadium came the chant "Yankees suck! Yankees suck!" in the ninth inning as the 5-1 Boston cruise was coming complete. And as that contingent gathered behind the visitors' dugout down the first base line postgame to view the trophy presentation and celebration, it howled, hooted, cheered and sang. But sometime before an a capella rendition of "Sweet Caroline," they found time for another round of "Yankees suck! Yankees suck!"

Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

At all times, a thread connects those two stately organizations, and it's all part of the fun of this game. As suck, er, such, remember the various versions of the Yankees dynasties? Yeah, "remember" is the key word: They may have 27 World Series titles, but those also come with the dust of the 20th century. Since 2000, the Red Sox now have twice as many titles.

All those old Boston jokes—there are three-year-olds who haven't seen the Red Sox win a World Series!—aren't even remotely funny anymore.

Whoever dreamed that a World Series title one day would be the birthright of every New England newborn?

"There have been a ton of great Red Sox teams," reliever Matt Barnes said to the question of where this club ranks among MLB's best ever. "I'm not going to be the one to say we're one of the greatest ever. Let someone else say that."

That's not to say that Barnes and his teammates didn't believe they would be the last team standing on this October night.

"We always believed, we always did," Barnes said. "We expected to win the World Series from day one of spring training. A lot of different guys did a lot of different things over the course of the year."

Yes, from the start, these Red Sox were too good to be true. On the eve of the season opener in Tampa, they held a team dinner for the players, coaching staff, trainers and clubbies that drew perfect attendance of the 54 men on the list. At 2 a.m. overnight in Boston following Game 2 of the World Series, Betts and his family distributed food to the homeless in Copley Square.

"He's done a lot of other things, too," Bradley, one of Betts' best friends on the team, said. "He's done a lot for his hometown in Tennessee. It's not just one thing. He does it all."

From what could have been a soul-crushing, 18-inning loss here in Game 3, the Red Sox bounced right back to steal a 4-0 Dodgers lead and Game 4 in what Dombrowski called "one of the biggest wins that I've seen in my career of any club I've been with."

That started earlier in the day Saturday with an impromptu team breakfast that included families—wives, kids, parents, grandparents—in the team hotel on the morning after that 18-inning loss that lifted spirits instantly. It was the first such team breakfast for these Red Sox.

"We turned the page, but if somebody forgot to do it, then [Saturday] morning was the moment," manager Alex Cora said.

Said Dombrowski: "It's a very close-knit group. Alex and the coaching staff have been able to bring that together starting in spring training, really. A lot of it is communication and caring and sincerity about people, and that's all Alex is."

In his first team meeting this spring, Cora went around the room and asked the players: Who here has won a Most Valuable Player award? Who has won a Cy Young? And so on. Then, done with individual accolades, he asked: How many of you have won a World Series? Well, there was Dustin Pedroia. And Xander Bogaerts and Brandon Workman. And nobody else.

Then they raced out to a 17-2 start.

Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

The Red Sox were the only team in the majors this season with no losing streak as long as four games. They were resilient all year, never more so than the turnaround between those 18 innings in Game 3 on Friday night and Game 4 on Saturday night. Cora held a rare team meeting following Game 3 just to tell the Sox how proud he was of their 18-inning effort even though they lost, and the team showered Nathan Eovaldi with a private, clubhouse standing ovation for his 97-pitch relief effort in the loss.

Then during their comeback in Game 4, Cora spent the last third of the game thanking the players, telling them "you guys picked me up." Angry with himself for leaving young starter Eduardo Rodriguez in too long as Los Angeles seized a 4-0 lead, Cora said: "I was kicking myself the whole sixth and seventh innings. Eduardo pitches his ass off, and I put him in a spot there with [Yasiel] Puig."

But that is how you win 108 games during the regular season—and 11 more in the postseason. Sure, it takes talent. But it also takes so many other things. Like when Betts, Martinez, Pearce, Andrew Benintendi and Co. were buried in that 0-for-41 slide at the top of the lineup to start things in Los Angeles.

"It's not individuals," hitting coach Tim Hyers said. "It's about the team, and the bottom has picked up the top."

To make history, that's how it must work. Sometimes the bottom picks up the top. Sometimes the top picks up the bottom. Sometimes, the expected comes from the unexpected.

Look at Price, who could have been awarded the World Series MVP: He started Game 2, pitched in relief in Game 3, warmed up twice in Game 4 and threw seven sensational innings to win Game 5. At one point, he retired 14 in a row. Had Martinez not lost a routine fly ball in the twilight that went for a David Freese triple, it would have been 18 in a row.

"This is why I came to Boston," Price said. "I knew it was a tough place to play. I knew it would be a challenge. I've been through a lot in three years here.

"But this is why I came here."

One hundred and nineteen wins. Rack 'em.

"It's wild," Martinez said. "It's crazy. It's such a special group of guys. The resilience. You never know who is going to step up."

And then, here comes Sale in from the bullpen to close it all out.

"You get chills," Barnes said. "I got chills when he did it in New York. One of the most dominant players in the game coming in to lock this down for us. It gives you goose bumps. It gives you chills; it really does."

Across the field, Price was wiping tears from his eyes. A few moments earlier, Dombrowski was going from player to player on the stage and issuing hugs.

Too good to be true, from the very start to the very finish.

      

Scott Miller covers Major League Baseball as a national columnist for Bleacher Report. Follow Scott on Twitter and talk baseball.

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