Total Buy-In. From ownership on down, the Boston Red Sox never gave up and that attitude translated to the fan base who rooted this team onto victory for their 9th World Series Championship and 4th since breaking the curse in 2004. This team was a wagon that beat down the competition in the regular season to a record 108 wins and didn’t stop there in the playoffs collecting win-after-win up to 119 and not losing more than one game against very game competition, including both teams who met in the Fall Classic one year ago. This Red Sox team was truly the best one in history from start to finish.
Dave Dombrowski: The President of Baseball Operations was brought in towards the end of the 2015 season after back-to-back dismal seasons where a team that was a champion missed the playoffs two years in a row. Everyone knew his reputation coming in of making big trades and going for it all every year. He lived up to the reputation with the Red Sox in trading away a slew of prospects to get Chris Sale and Craig Kimbrel. Sure he did miss on a few trades such as for Tyler Thornburg and Carson Smith, but he hit it out of the park with the timely acquisitions of eventual World Series MVP Steve Pearce, big-game Nathan Eovaldi and Ian Kinsler who got some big hits and played great defense despite the Game 3 gaffe everyone will remember. Dombrowski made the moves guys that preceded him were afraid to or didn’t quite have the blessing to like committing $217 million for David Price that was often criticized, but he’s wound up being worth every penny with his big-game performances this October. He also waited out the market and signed an impact bat in J.D. Martinez who put the roster over the top and wound up being a $100 million bargain. Dombrowski did a remarkable job with the team of young talent he had in place to put it over the top and make it a world champion. Theo Epstein drafted the young nucleus of stars, so he deserves his credit here too as does former General Manager Ben Cherington who traded for Rick Porcello, Joe Kelly and more importantly refused to trade any of the legit stars this team had despite the pressure from the media and ownership to win. Dombrowski knew the move to make was with his Manager to get this team over the top, that’s why despite winning the division back-to-back years he made the final call to fire John Farrell in favor of Alex Cora after two straight first round exits.
Alex Cora: What more can you say about this first-year skipper? He managed his team perfectly through the long peaks and valleys of the regular season on their way to a 108 win season, keeping his arms fresh and giving the hitters enough days to be ready for the October grind while keeping them ready to produce in the postseason. He had this team buying in from day one and motivated while keeping all of the great personalities and talented players committed to the same cause of winning a championship. He pulled all the right strings in the bullpen when deciding which hitters to keep in the lineup and when to bring guys off the bench, of note Eduardo Nunez in game one against LA and Mitch Moreland’s three-run blast, but it was all October long. He was fantastic in the clubhouse and all the players had his back. The work he did with the bullpen despite all of the question marks coming in was something to behold and he absolutely went for the jugular when he had the chance to close out a series. The “Rover” was implemented in each round with his starters that were on their side days and he did not shy away from getting outs by any means necessary. Alex Cora was an instrumental part of the Red Sox historic season and championship puzzle.
David Price: David Price was as much as a contributor as anyone else on this club all season and rose to the occasion changing the narrative. Price was the Red Sox ace for the majority of the season and especially in the second half with Sale sidelined with the shoulder injury. Price rose to the occasion with a 16-7 record and a 3.58 ERA in the regular season and silenced all of the critics in the postseason with three fantastic starts. After an abissmal first start against the Yankees in Game 2 of the ALDS, Price got the ball in Game 2 of the ALCS and while he did not have the result he was looking for, he battled all night and kept his team in the game that they went on to win. Then, Price took the postseason monkey off his back in the series-clinching effort in Houston in Game 5 with 6 shutout innings of work allowing just three hits and zero walks while striking out 9. That’s when the city rallied behind him, his manager and teammates had the confidence in him all along, but once he finally got that win there was no stopping the Boston ace. He showed up, pitched his ass off and sent the Red Sox to the World Series and the defending champions home in 5 games.
Price followed up the massive Game 5 win with an equally as impressive start in Game 2 at home in the frigid Fenway temperatures grinding out 6 great innings of work on just two runs and three hits while striking out five. After J.D. Martinez delivered the go-ahead hit, the Boston pitching staff locked in combining for 16 straight to end the game to take a commanding 2-0 series lead. Not convinced on Mr. Price yet? In that 18-inning Game 3 marathon Price worked on just one day rest out of the bullpen to get Boston through an inning, but more importantly it was his support of teammate Nathan Eovaldi after the heroics he performed and the heart-breaking loss that sent Price over the top. He was with Eovaldi every step of the way after the loss, he was the first one to greet him in the dugout, he stood with him all through treatment, through the team bus back to the hotel. Everything David Price was there to show his support for Eovaldi and it was a moment no one in Boston will soon forget. Last night was just the icing on the cake with 7 terrific innings pitched and just the one solo home run allowed to the clutch David Freese. Steve Pearce provided the value early with the two-run homer, then the one to break the camels back at 5-1 and the Boston pitching shut the door to close out the championship. From all the negativity and the same old narrative surrounding his postseason performances to three straight MASSIVE games pitched and won as a starter and being a world-class teammate, the Red Sox don’t win a championship without David Price.
Chris Sale: Sale was the leader in the clubhouse. It’s why Alex Cora wanted to give him the ball to close it out last night. His teammates love him. I get chills just watching him finish his warm up pitch and entering the game with all of his teammates on their feet and loudly cheering him. This guy is a freaking maniac and they love every ounce of it. He pitched through some serious stuff going on in that shoulder as we will all soon see leak out, and he did not take no for an answer or use his injury as an excuse for an poor performance. He had to grind through four innings in both his starts against Houston and Los Angeles and after 5.1 innings and a win in Game 1 of the ALDS against New York and the appearance from the bullpen throwing an inning, only had so much left in the tank. Alex Cora knew after Game 1 he only had one more appearance from Sale left in his arm to feel comfortable with which is why he went with Price in Game 5 and wanted Sale for the 9th last night. After that emotional speech in Game 4 down 4-0, Sale was the leader and he wanted him on the mound as they reigned in a championship. He was brought to Boston to win a championship and the entire mood changed when that happened. Let’s not just gloss over the first-half Sale was having at 12-4 with a 2.11 ERA, if Sale didn’t miss so much time he was on his way to the American League Cy Young Award and also got his third straight start in the All-Star Game for the AL. Sale was a major factor in the 108 win regular season and winning a championship.
“The Rovers” Rick Porcello & Nathan Eovaldi: These two right-handers will be forever intertwined with how stellar they were in the postseason and how they were ready to go at the drop of a hat no matter the circumstances. First, the former Cy Young Award winner Porcello went 17-7 in the regular season and was an anchor at the top of the rotation with the consistent work and innings logged through the grinding regular season. Porcello was put in the “Rover” role at the jump in Game 1 against the Yankees when he started the 8th and served as the bridge to the closer in a winning effort for Boston. After his relief appearance, Porcello started Game 4, the eventual-clinching game for the Red Sox in the divisional round going 5 innings allowing just four hits and a run when the Sox would win 4-3 to send New York packing. Porcello came out of the pen once more in a pivotal Game 2 at home against the Astros with Boston trailing 1-0 in the series and pitched a clean 8th with two strikeouts as Boston brought the series back to even. Porcello started Game 4 in Houston where the controversial Mookie Betts home run robbing effort call came into play, and the Boston starter grinded through 4 innings allowing solo homers to Springer and Kemp saw him face an early exit. The offense battled back to re-take the lead in Game 4 that the bullpen locked down and gave Boston the 3-1 series lead before Price took over in Game 5. Porcello’s final outing of the postseason in Game 3 in Los Angeles where he was pulled after just 4.2 innings of work with only one run against him, the Joc Pederson solo shot, and just three hits. Cora went to the bullpen too early many believed and that game went on to go 18 innings, but was also the only game the Red Sox would drop in the series.
Next up is Nathan Eovaldi. Talk about a July trade acquisition for Dave Dombrowski. Many pundits felt Boston needed to seek bullpen help rather than the starting rotation and Eovaldi wound up being a gem for the Red Sox and served in both roles admirably in October. He started his career with the Red Sox with 7 & 8 shutout innings respectively before a rough patch, but the Sox skipper had confidence in Eovaldi against the Yankees. The flame-throwing Eovalidi tossed 7 innings of one-run ball in Game 3 that Boston went on to win 16-1. Eovaldi followed that up with 6 innings allowing just two runs in Game 3 that Boston won 8-2 before throwing gas in Game 5 out of the bullpen in relief to clinch the series over the Astros. Eovaldi worked the 8th inning in Game’s 1 & 2 of the World Series throwing perfect innings to bridge the gap to the closer and put Boston in a 2-0 series lead. His performance in Game 3 is what inspired so many of his teammates bringing some to tears and as Joe Kelly said at one point, “I woke up sore this morning, then I thought of Nate.”
Eovaldi, in Game 3 tossed 6 innings of work out of the bullpen and threw nearly 100 pitches after working in relief in both the first two games of the series. They were on their way to a win before Ian Kinsler made a massive error and Eovaldi pitched his heart out until Max Mucny ended it in the bottom of the 18th inning. This guy was pitching his heart out and his teammates noticed, “I actually, after the game was over started crying because that was – I mean, he’s grinding. Every pitch. He literally gave everything he had on every single pitch and it was special,” Rick Porcello said. He finished by saying that was the most incredible pitching performance he’s ever seen, and the Red Sox comeback in Game 4 signaled just that. Resiliency, never giving in and Nathan Eovaldi exuded that.
Bullpen: What can I say about that bullpen that hasn’t been said already? They were the biggest question mark entering the playoffs and answered the call of duty. Sure, Cora dove back into his starting rotation for key outs, but that doesn’t take away from the big spots Joe Kelly, Matt Barnes & Ryan Brasier were put in and each guy responded time after time. Those three guys were money pumping the fastball in triple digits and working their off-speed in to get critical outs in each round. Eduardo Rodriguez was good in the lefty specialist role and was fantastic in Game 4 up until Cora left him in at least one batter too many. Even Craig Kimbrel who was tipping his pitches early on, got the saves and locked down the wins, although he did not make any single one look easy. The bullpen rose to the occasion and are a key component as to why the Red Sox won the championship.
Steve Pearce: World Series MVP Steve Pearce. Father hails from Massachusetts, and he jokingly said to his teammates before the series he wants to win MVP so he can hang in Robert Kraft’s luxury suite at Gillette during a Patriots game. I bet that wish comes true for Pearce now after his postseason heroics. An under the radar move acquiring a veteran power-hitter to match up with LHP never rose to this level on this stage. Pearce became a Boston legend for life this postseason and World Series.
I guess we should’ve known this guy was going to make a major impact when he homered on the first pitch he saw in a Red Sox uniform against CC Sabathia. The 35-year-old Pearce took Joe Smith deep in Game 3 of the ALCS to give Boston the lead that they did not look back from. Pearce hit the game-tying home run in Game 4 to draw it even at 4 and cemented his case for most valuable player with a two-run home run leading off the clinching Game 5 against Clayton Kershaw before adding his second of the night later on to make it 5-1. Pearce opened up Game 4 with a bases-clearing double as well. What a story by a guy that grew up a fan of the Red Sox, was drafted by the club before electing to attend the University of South Carolina. A fantastic story for the journeyman Pearce who was a key cog in the Red Sox machine this postseason.
J.D. Martinez: This signing will go down as one of the best free agent signings in the history of Major League Baseball and it’s only just finished year one. Martinez is one of the best all-around hitters in the sport and the Red Sox got him for a bargain five-year, $110 million deal that includes an opt-out after year three. All Martinez did in his first year with the Red Sox in contend with his teammates for the most valuable player award mashing 43 homers and 130 RBI’s with a .330 batting average and a 1.031 OPS. Amazing and he has already been announced as the Hank Aaron Award Recipient for this season in the American League.
Martinez was a force in the postseason as well doing damage in each round and forcing opposing pitchers to execute every single pitch against him or the game could quickly flip in an instant. Martinez gave Boston the lead in Game 2 of the World Series with a two-out two-run single and added a solo homer to dead center off Kershaw in the clinching Game 5. He homered in every round of the postseason and was a key x-factor at the heart of the Boston order every game. Martinez is a major reason why this Red Sox team finally got over the hump this year and will go down as the greatest in franchise history.
Mookie Betts: The historic regular season the Boston Red Sox had was in large part to soon-to-be announced American League Most Valuable Player Mookie Betts. A superstar right fielder, Betts was a menace atop the order all season long and although the numbers didn’t shake out quite the same come October, Boston was able to win and dominate anyways having their superstar’s back and were rewarded with some outstanding defense every step of the way. Betts snapped an 0-for-13 skid in the World Series with a home run that made the game 3-1 in Game 5, and his teammates would rally behind him with two more solo shots before closing out the championship win.
Betts had one of the best statistical season’s any one has every seen to go with his gold glove caliber defense in right field, Betts slashed an outstanding .346/.438/.640 with 32 home runs and 82 RBI’s from the lead-off spot, a 1.078 OPS and joined the 30-30 club with 30 swiped bases and 47 doubles on top of that. Mookie Betts had a historic season as did his Red Sox club.
Andrew Benintendi: Talk about an overall playoff MVP and Benintendi has to be your guy. Some of the most remarkable and spectacular defensive plays in each round including the diving grab in Houston where if he doesn’t come up with that ball the series is 2-2 and maybe the Astros fight back to dethrone the Red Sox. He flashed the leather in the Fall Classic as well as the lumber slashing .333/.368/.389 in the 5 World Series Games and was a force at the top of the Boston order through each round. Add his defense to the .290 batting average 16 homers and 87 RBI’s and it’s clear to see why Red Sox Nation loves themselves some Andrew Benintendi. He is awesome.
Jackie Bradley Jr.: ALCS MVP Jackie Bradley Jr. This guy was something else against the Astros, man and really all postseason long driving in 10 runners and 9 against the Astros to go with the two game-changing home runs. All of his damage came with two outs and he played elite center field every round. Bradley is a very streaky hitter and that showed through the postseason, but he was a key cog in the machine for the Red Sox.
Key Contributions: Rafael Devers. Mitch Moreland. Christian Vazquez & Sandy Leon. Brock Holt. Eduardo Nunez. Don’t want to discount any of the other positional players that played a role on this historic championship winning season for the Red Sox. Devers had some big hits down the stretch as did Nunez with Cora flip-flopping both guys in at the hot corner playing the matchup and after a few struggles early on against New York, both guys played solid defense at third base in October. Brock Holt stepped up this postseason becoming the first player to hit for the cycle in the postseason and along with Ian Kinsler both locked down second base with little to no mistakes, outside of the Kinsler Game 3 gaffe, and each guy came up with some timely hits. Moreland gave way to Pearce more often than not at first with his hamstring injury, but still came up and delivered in big spots against RHP none bigger than the three-run homer in Game 4 that swung momentum back in favor of the Red Sox. Lastly, the catching all regular season and postseason was fantastic. Not much production offensively, but that’s the trade-off Boston was willing to take for two elite defensive guys who could call a game and massage the pitching staff. Each guy had their moment at the plate such as Vazquez with the homer against New York. The catching was great and both guys are a key reason why the Red Sox are World Champs today.
Ownership: John Henry & Tom Werner. They are the one constant in the four championships. Credit where credit is due, they know how to manage their business. They made the call to bring in Dave Dombrowski to run all of the baseball operations while sending Larry Lucchino into an emeritus role and brought in Sam Kennedy to oversee their business operations. They gave Dombrowski all of the ability to make the moves to win, which he did, and weren’t afraid to open up their check-book. You have to give these guys credit for building an empire and letting the baseball guys make baseball decisions without interfering such as firing John Farrell in favor of Alex Cora despite two straight division titles, that takes guts and you have to give your blessing as an owner for that to take place.
There’s no way I can possibly acknowledge every one that played a role in shaping this Red Sox team. From all of the coaching staff with the players every step of the way, front office personnel who shaped a lot of the key decisions, minor league affiliates and their staff who developed these players through the grind of the minor league season to make the big leagues. The list goes on and on and everyone who touched this team in any way shape or form is on cloud nine for the foreseeable future.
What a historic season 2018 was for the Boston Red Sox. 108 wins and kicking every opponents ass in the regular season then stomped some very game competition in route to the World Series Championship going 11-3 in October. Incredible, something baseball fans alike will not soon forget. Thank you all for following along all season and for indulging me as I celebrate the historic season for everyone involved in this epic year for the Red Sox.