Red Sox: Franchise history shows window of opportunity can close quickly

Apr 19, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; General view of Fenway Park while the Boston Red Sox take batting practice prior to a game against the Tampa Bay Rays. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 19, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; General view of Fenway Park while the Boston Red Sox take batting practice prior to a game against the Tampa Bay Rays. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports /

The Boston Red Sox have a window of opportunity that may close quickly, as it did in the post-war 1940’s. Can this team capitalize or will history repeat?

The future is sometimes predictable by the past. An eerie and often depressing connection to past failures when success was expected. With the Boston Red Sox, there is a period in their history when a window of opportunity existed and then closed – not a slam, but just a slow shutting as the light of great promise was blinked out.

That was the Red Sox of the 1940’s or specifically the 1946-50 Red Sox that have a connection to the current team in talent, performance, expectations and resources. That history has been written, but the current one will unfold over the next few years. Will it be as frustratingly as disappointing or will it become a benchmark of success for future comparisons?

The year 1946 was a glorious one for Boston and like 2016 offered up visions of a wondrous future for the next few years. The war had ended and talented players once again returned. The Red Sox simply were the best of the best in the American League as they coasted to a 104 win season my outpacing the Detroit Tigers by 12 games.

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The Red Sox had a remarkable blend of experienced youth, talented veterans, gifted pitchers and the financial resources of Tom Yawkey – the wealthiest owner in baseball who was certainly not afraid to spend to win a championship.

Ted Williams, Bobby Doerr, Johnny Pesky and Dom DiMaggio were all under 30 years old. Veterans such as Pinky Higgins, Rudy York, and Hal Wagner complimented the youth. As with the 2016 edition, the 1946 Red Sox could hit – leading the league in average (.271), runs (792), slugging (.402), OBP (.356) and fWAR (34.3).

The staff was solid with a second place fWAR of 17.2 – a staff that was highlighted by Tex Hughson and Dave Ferriss who combined for 45 wins. Mickey Harris and Joe Dobson rounded out the core of the rotation with only Hughson at age 30.

The World Series was a bitter seven-game loss to the Cardinals, but the future was there for the taking. This team was loaded and would get deeper with talent. In 1947 they took a step back with a third place finish, but in 1948 a 22-year-old Billy Goodman arrived to hit .310. Vern Stephens came over from the Browns and collected 137 RBI. The pitching staff led the league and the offense finished third. What could go wrong?

The Red Sox tied with the Indians and lost a one game playoff. In 1949 the great team assembled again fell short. Despite leading the league in hitting (fWAR 31.5) and pitching (fWAR 23.3) it came down to a two-game series in New York. Boston lost both games and finished second to the Yankees.

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In 1950 it was starting to crumble despite 94 wins. The young were getting older and the veterans were fading fast. Statistically, the team still presented a formidable presence leading the league in pitching (fWAR 17.0) and tying New York with a batting fWAR of 32.7. That, however, was the last gasp before years of frustration that saw a team go from good to bad to awful.

The 2017 Red Sox have a window – at least that is the term applied to the recent moves that have reset the franchise for a push to the World Series. President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombroski has sold some of the future with a series of trades to acquire talent that is supposed to vault the franchise into a three to a five-year run of success.

The methodology may be different from the Red Sox of the 1946-50 time frame, but the promise and expected results mirror each other. So far the first year under the esteemed tutelage of DD has failed with just a three and out as the result. Just as the Red Sox reloaded in the 1940’s, so has this version with one of the best pitchers added to the fold.

The Red Sox in the 1940’s, even made a managerial change with one Hall of Famer – Joe Cronin – being replaced by another with Joe McCarthy. Will disappointment in 2017 create a casualty in John Farrell? Will the injuries to fragile arms cause dire consequences to the current team as it did to that in the past? We have already seen arms get tender.

The youth of the teams in the 1940’s, grew old together and complacent together. Is that possible with today’s team? Will another American League surface to become the dominant road block that the Yankees presented? Or the Yankees?

Next: Red Sox finally give Chris Sale some run support

There are a multitude of potential outcomes for the Boston Red Sox circa 2017 and this season could catapult them into the history books in either a good or a bad way.