CHARLOTTE, NC. In recent days, we’ve heard all about launch angles, pitch speeds, bullpen strategies, shifts and everything else under the sun from TV’s sports mavens and stats fanatics. But nobody mentioned that this year’s World Series victors, the Boston Red Sox, also won the Series back in 1918. Not to mention their more recent Series wins.
The Curse of the Bambino
But this year’s title means that the 2018 championship happened, ironically, in the 100th anniversary year of the team’s infamous earlier trophy. That victory allegedly created the 86-year World Series drought for the Sox that lasted until their next Series title in 2004.
The actual cause of this Series jinx, however, only occurred in 1920, when the Red Sox chose to sell their star pitcher (!) – Babe Ruth – to the New York Yankees. The now-Bronx Bombers promptly took him off the mound. The rest, as they often say, is history. In any event, Red Sox fans still trace their long Series drought to that Babe Ruth transaction. It’s still dubbed “The Curse of the Bambino.”
The 100th Anniversary Edition of the Boston Red Sox
Say what you will. Call it corny if you like. But this year’s edition of the Boston Red Sox rekindled the old school charm of what baseball used to be. This was a sports version of the “Band of Brothers.” And it was infectious.
Announcers and pundits who did not follow the team all year were frequently surprised by the strategies employed by rookie manager Alex Cora. The second-guessing and Monday morning quarterbacking were rampant as usual in such microscopic media events.
But the fans who watched the team play from the first pitch of spring training were never in doubt. The 2018 Red Sox transcended the sport. They were a team. They picked each other up and they each contributed, whether in the dugout, the clubhouse or on the field and everywhere in between.
Back in the day, cynics made fun of Willie Stargell’s “we are family” Pittsburgh Pirates in the 1979 World Series. That is, until “Pops” Stargell won the MVP and his team defeated the Baltimore Orioles. “Family values” prevailed in that year’s edition of the Series.
Family values arrive at Beantown’s Fenway Park
A similar phenomenon was at work for this year’s Boston Red Sox team.
In the lead-up to the annual fall contest, the new 2018 champions of baseball didn’t lose four straight games the entire season. They only lost three straight on three occasions. That’s unheard of in modern day baseball.
This year, the Red Sox were one of only three teams to win 100 games or more during their regular season. They beat the other two, New York (100 wins) and Houston (103 victories), in the American League Championships before ousting the Dodgers in the World Series. In each case, Boston lost only once.
But this team was more than a mere baseball team. If nothing else the World Series proved it in front of the world. Boston had stars like Mookie Betts, J.D. Martinez, Chris Sale and David Price. But it also had more than it share of shooting stars with comets likes Andrew Benintendi, Raphael Devers, Xander Bogarts, Eduardo Nunez, Mitch Moreland, Ian Kinsler and Steve Pearce. Every one of them worked together harmoniously. As a result, this year’s trophy is theirs.
Playing old time baseball
But this was no “Big Bang Theory” baseball team. They didn’t simply homer, strike out or walk their way through the season the way most modern teams do. No, the 2018 Red Sox played REAL fundamental baseball with stolen bases. That means hit and run plays, bunts when needed, great defense and solid pitching even though the Sox bull pen was often maligned.
When another team gave the Red Sox an inch, the Sox took a mile. They did this over and over again, en route to 108 wins.
Oddly enough the season didn’t begin that way. Boston blew a big lead in the 8th inning on opening day in a game against Tampa Bay. It looked like a typical year of frustration for Beantowners. But that turned out to be the final frustration of the season. They reeled of 17 wins over their next 18 games and never looked back.
Mookie Betts did a little bit of everything. He did it to such a degree he will likely become the American League’s Most Valuable Player.
J.D. Martinez was in the hunt for the Triple Crown until late in the year, but still led the league in RBI.
Chris Sale was dominant on the mound along with David Price and a cast of big-hearted starters, complimented by a solid if unheralded bullpen.
As the series neared its close, reliever and part-time starter Nathan Eovaldi was sensational in an 18-inning loss in which he threw 100 pitches in relief and shut down the Dodgers for nine innings. It was one of the strongest, most gut-wrenching losing performances in World Series history.
A remarkable losing ovation and little in the way of politics, personal or otherwise
The key for understanding this team, however, is the way in which Eovaldi’s mates responded in the clubhouse after the heart-breaking loss. They gave him a standing ovation. That was a scene that was not witnessed under the glare of the spotlight and the camera. But it defined what the Boston Red Sox were and are all about in 2018.
There was no knee taking. No protesting social ills. None of that. This was a team that loves to play baseball and thrill their fan base. What a joy to watch sports the way sports used to be played and were meant to be played.
When Betts and Martinez struggled at the plate during the series, Eduardo Nunez slugged a pinch-hit three run homer. So did Mitch Moreland. Then along came Steve Pearce with a solo home run and a bases-clearing double in Game 4 to put it on ice. He followed with two more home runs in the 5-1 championship Game 5.
No one realized that Pearce’s two-run first inning dinger would be all Boston would need. But they added icing to the cake with home runs by Betts and Martinez later, just to remind everyone that the big stars were still inside the park.
Price, who had heard pundits snarking about his lack of ability to pitch in the post-season, won three games. In fact, he pitched the title game on limited rest. He allowed just one run in yet another outstanding effort.
The clincher came in the ninth, when manager Alex Cora sent his ace Chris Sale out to nail down the final three outs.
That was the magic of the 2018 Boston Red Sox.
It’s a fact that in 2004, the Curse of the Bambino came to an end. Boston won its last eight games including a come-from-behind victory over the Yankees when the Sox were down three games to none.
The 2007 championship, another Series sweep, was perhaps the least dramatic of Boston’s four trophies in the 21st century.
In 2013, the year the Bearded Sox captured the imagination of the country. That was the year they won the Series after the horrors of the Patriot’s Day terrorist attack. That shocking tragedy rocked the city of Boston. But also strengthened the city’s resolve.
But this year, 2018, was all about the team itself. It was about a dedicated band of players who unified from day one under a rookie manager to prove they were the best in the game.
The saga of sports championships in Boston is long and rich. But the 2018 Boston Red Sox will be remembered most for their drive, their work ethic, their spirit and their dedication to the game.
This is a team for the ages. That’s ultimately because for this Boston Red Sox team, it was all about sports, pure and simple.
— Headline image: Victorious Red Sox players mob the pitchers’ mound after their convincing 2018 World Series win
vs the L.A. Dodgers at Boston’s Fenway Park. Screen capture from YouTube video game highlights via Fox Sports.
Fair use, MLB game coverage.
About the Author:
Bob Taylor is a veteran writer who has traveled throughout the world. Taylor was an award winning television producer/reporter/anchor before focusing on writing about international events, people and cultures around the globe.
Taylor is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)
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