Previous Red Sox season rocked
Oct. 28 2018—
John Henry, principal owner of the Boston Red Sox, stands triumphantly with his fists pumped in the air, Chairman of the Red Sox Tom Werner at his side, as dejected Los Angeleans groan and stare in disbelief.
The image, shown on Fox’s broadcast of the game, epitomized Red Sox Nation in that moment. Chris Sale, the most dominant starting pitcher Boston has been able to claim as one of their own since the days of Pedro Martinez, had just closed out the final game of the 2018 World Series, putting the metaphorical cap on what was — at 119 wins — the most dominant Red Sox team in the franchise’s illustrious history, and the season that many fans and insiders were placing in the conversation of the greatest single season of all time. Not only had they just won the World Series, but as if the script wasn’t already complete it was fitting for the team that had played with a chip on their collective shoulder throughout the entire season that Sale had struck out Manny Machado for the final out. Machado is infamous in Boston for countless spats with the Red Sox organization in the media and more notably for a controversial slide in 2017 that ended the season of the Sox’s second baseman, Dustin Pedroia and wound up putting Machado's entire career in jeopardy. Consequently, Machado has become a true sports villain in Boston, just as Alex Rodriguez was over a decade ago with the Yankees.
All was right in Boston. The Red Sox had won their fourth championship in 14 years. They had a dominant pitching staff led by Chris Sale, arguably the best pitcher in baseball, and David Price, who had finally overcome his inability to pitch in the playoffs with numerous clutch performances including in the clinching game. The Red Sox also had some of the best young talent in baseball: Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, Rafael Devers and Andrew Benintendi. And they had ownership in Henry and Werner, who were clearly passionate about the club. The Red Sox had done it again, and all signs suggested that they would continue to be formidable contenders for years to come.
Unfortunately, what has transpired this year has been anything but inspiring for a fanbase that consistently expects excellence. Though nobody could have conceivably expected anything like the 119 wins the 2018 team provided, expectations were still sky high. However, questions began to surface even before the season started. The front office was unable to come to an agreement on a contract extension with American League MVP Mookie Betts for the second consecutive winter. The club decided not to re-sign future Hall of Famer and All-Star closer Craig Kimbrel balking at his asking price, and did not replace him with another backend reliever. Sale had struggled in the playoffs and had lingering injury issues with his pitching shoulder. Despite these question marks, most still expected great things out of what was almost the same team in 2019 as it was in 2018.
The team started out 2–8 in its first 10 games, and panic started to set in among Red Sox Nation. While the team was able to bounce back and get over .500, the whole season has felt like two steps forward and one step back. Every time it seems the squad has turned a corner, crossed a bridge or gotten over the hump, they then take a step or two backwards. Last year’s sustained momentum and mentality of taking each series one at a time, winning the series and moving onto the next one, has been nowhere to be found.
Now, with 22 games left in the season, it’s going to take a miracle for the Red Sox to find their way into the 2019 playoffs. 6.5 games out of the second wildcard, Sale out for the rest of the season and David Price struggling with injuries, the odds of earning a playoff berth are slim, and the odds of repeating as world champions is even slimmer.
Oct. 28, 2018 feels like it was forever ago. The image of John Henry and Tom Werner united with the team in celebration and joy is in the distant past in the minds of Red Sox Nation. Now, instead of asking who they’ll play in the American League Division Series as fans expect to ask at the start of September, the concerns of the fans relate to Mookie Betts’ potential availability on the trading block, Chris Sale’s elbow and President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski’s job security. There’s been a drastic shift in morale among Red Sox Nation in the past 11 months. It’s yet another example of how past successes won’t ever quench the thirst of such a passionate fanbase. And that, at the end of the day, is the reality of professional sports in Boston.