The Boston Red Sox will now face their biggest challenge of the season with the defending champion Astros. A hero is needed to step up and take charge, but who?
The Boston Red Sox will need a hero in the ALCS if they wish to move forward to the World Series. A player to step up and lead the way. The player may be a relative unknown or maybe a star since the Red Sox have plenty in the star department.
My first hero experience was in 1954 when the New York Giants swept a heavily favored Cleveland Indians team. The iconic moment was Willie Mays‘ famous catch of a Vic Wertz fly ball, but there was a Giants bat off the bench in left-hand hitting reserve outfielder Dusty Rhodes.
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Rhodes was used sparingly by Giants manager Leo Durocher but had remarkable success that season as a pinch-hitter by getting 15 hits and batting .341 with a pair of home runs. That output continued in the World Series, including a walk-off home run in game one. Rhodes finished the four games with four hits and a pair of home runs – a nice .667 average.
The Red Sox hero list has the usual suspects since talent does have a way of surfacing. The Most Valuable Player list for the three championship teams shows no surprises. In 2004 it was David Ortiz and that series is forever seared into Red Sox lore. Josh Beckett followed that in 2007 with two victories against the Indians. And then came Koji Uehara and his three saves against the Tigers.
There is no MVP for the ALDS, but that would have been an interesting selection if there was one. Would it be Brock Holt and his hit for the cycle? Chris Sale for his start and one inning of relief? Maybe a trophy to the entire offense for the 16-1 demolition of the Yankees in the third game? Or J.D. Martinez and his .357 average?
When you look at the list of MVP’s in both leagues the names jump out as most are recognizable to even the average fan, but that does not preclude the possibility of a Rhodes surfacing for Boston. However, the star quality certainly rules the day and if Bets where being wagered I would follow through on that with Mookie Betts.
Betts did nothing of merit offensively in the ALDS and has done little in the playoffs of 2016-17. I would say that Betts is certainly due to punish someone since his talent cannot be suppressed forever. And quite naturally would be another slugger of note – Martinez who was consistent throughout the ALDS and expect to continue on that track.
You could see a young player step up as Jacoby Ellsbury did in the 2007 World Series (.438) and that likely candidate would be Rafael Devers. Or Andrew Benintendi hitting .333 against Cleveland as a 21-year-old. Maybe either could get that MVP?
Pitching has a tendency to dominate and that certainly means Sale or maybe even David Price will finally earn his keep. Craig Kimbrel could match Uehara, but after that New York game, I have my doubts.
There is no real Rhodes bat off the bench threat with the Red Sox except for Holt. Hopefully, his bat will not be needed off the bench, but if I was looking for a long-shot MVP I would take Eduardo Nunez or Jackie Bradley. Bradley could win the highlight reel defensively and if he gets hot with the bat?
I will push aside Xander Bogaerts, Rick Porcello, and just about all the rest and take a chance that this will be a real coming of age moment for Betts. We have seen it during the season and have not seen it in the playoffs. If the Betts we know makes an appearance this will be an on to the World Series for the Red Sox.