It’s not every year that the best team in baseball enters postseason play with as many glaring questions as this year’s 108-54 Boston Red Sox did.
The bullpen. Depth at the bottom of the batting order. Starting pitching behind Chris Sale. What about Sale’s health?
Granted, you don’t sit at the top of Major League Baseball all season is you aren’t doing a lot of things right. That’s not the argument I’m making.
The reasons why the Boston Red Sox are 2018 World Series Champions are because every single man stepped up and contributed.
Take a look at the ALCS Most Valuable Player, for example. Jackie Bradley Jr. does a lot of things exceptionally well for Boston and I don’t need to state my case for him earning the American League Gold Glove in center field this year. But if you asked me to name a player who I felt confident in getting a game-changing hit on the biggest stage of this record-setting season, Jackie’s name would not have been the first out of my mouth four weeks ago. It would have been among the last.
Apart from making the difficult look routine in the best defensive outfield in baseball, Bradley Jr. won ALCS MVP because his three cumulative hits in Game 2, Game 3, and Game 4 (two of which were go-ahead home runs) drove in nine runs. I never thought I would say that Jackie Bradley Jr. would be a bigger difference-maker at the plate than the soon-to-be American League MVP, Mookie Betts. But he was, and it wasn’t close.
I can’t talk about Bradley Jr. without talking about Steve Pearce and the performance he had in the World Series where he was rightfully crowned MVP. Yes, I’m talking about Steve Pearce, the career .257 slugger with 90 homeruns in his illustrious 12-year career where he seemingly played more teams than he hasn’t. It was that guy that shined on the biggest stage in baseball, batting .333 five games with four extra-base hits (including three no-doubter home runs) and eight runs batted in. Nobody batted an eye when Dave Dombrowski, the President of Baseball Operations for the Red Sox, brought in the 35 year-old journeyman before the trade deadline at the end of July and here we are now.
Now to the bullpen. They have taken heat all season long entering the playoffs. It was the number one reason why the best Red Sox team of all time was going to come up short once the bright lights of the postseason came around. And the criticism was absolutely warranted. Every bit of it. That was, of course, before rookie Manager, Alex Cora pulled all of the right strings all postseason en route to an absolutely dominant postseason display of excellence from the Boston bullpen. They were the unsung heroes in Boston’s 11-3 stretch against three of the most dominant lineups in baseball to capture the franchise’s ninth title.
I will end by saying that David Price can in fact pitch in the playoffs, and he can do it really well. I also need to extend thanks to Cora for pulling the plug on Kimbrel and his heart attack-inducing ninth innings. I’m not going to say we need Sale to start and close next year, but he looked pretty good in the bottom of the ninth in Game 5.
Thank you, Red Sox.