The Boston Red Sox will coast into the playoffs, but that will be the beginning of a historic march to failure or success. Here are some selected highlights and lowlights.
Not winning a Worlds Series after setting the team record for wins will just make 2018 another addition to Boston Red Sox teams that have failed. The previous franchise record holder for wins – the 1912 Red Sox – won it all. The 1946 team ran away with the pennant and fell in seven games. Which team will they emulate this year?
The Red Sox have four potential opponents with the A’s, Yankees, Indians, and Astros and each is a significant challenge. Would it shock anyone if they lost to any of the four? The season records show a certain level of equality in performance against each, so expect no romp.
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A manager can fail during the season and Alex Cora is no exception since in 162 games you simply make mistakes. Cora has addressed some since he is a no excuse guy, but then the postseason. Why wasn’t Dave Stapleton at first base? Whose idea was it to start Denny Galehouse? That is just two and that is enough since venturing further brings on nausea. Will Cora display the same excellent gamesmanship in the postseason?
The hero status is Mookie Betts. No one I have seen in a Red Sox uniform has had a season like Betts except for Carl Yastrzemski. Most Red Sox fans didn’t see it or have had to rely on accounts, but, trust me, as good as Betts is, Yaz was better that season. Yastrzemski hit .400 with three home runs in the World Series to almost lead the Red Sox to victory. Will Betts carry on his season to the postseason?
The unknown factor surfaces in the playoffs when someone who is not a star has a huge impact be it just one play or more. The immediate one play is Dave Roberts and possibly the most recognizable stolen base in playoff history. Maybe a Bernie Carbo and a dramatic home run to be followed later in the game by a more dramatic one from Carlton Fisk?
Then there is superstar failure. Ted Williams did it all in the 1946 regular season and won the Most Valuable Player Award. Then against the Cardinals, Teddy Ballgame was stymied, hitting just .200 with a lone RBI. Even the clutch David Ortiz had moments in the playoffs where he was neutered.
So much in baseball revolves around that strange little bump in the middle of the diamond and pitching tends to dominate, but also can be a death knell. Will someone suddenly morph into Curt Schilling or Josh Beckett? Maybe even Jim Lonborg and his incredible Game 7 effort on limited rest? Can David Price or Chris Sale end their postseason question marks?
There are the little things and in my long list of historic little things are the names Koji Uehara and Kolten Wong in Game 4 of the 2013 World Series against the Cardinals. A pick-off walk-off is certainly unique and that was Wong as Koji ended the fourth game and forever cemented Wong in the annals of baseball history as Boston tied the series. Boston went on to finish the job in six games. Was this a makeup for Johnny Pesky holding the ball too long in 1946? Gotta love baseball karma.
Umpires as significant factors have been somewhat diminished thanks to the advent of replay, but baseball has had their share of questionable calls. Sometimes they get it right and you know where I am going as in Bronson Arroyo and Alex Rodriguez. Rodriguez simply slapped the ball away from Arroyo’s glove and the umpires consulted and that was that. Thanks, “Slappy.”