Some may consider this 115-win team an underdog. They did against the Yankees and they did before the ALCS against the Astros. You even heard rumblings among some bitter New York fans that sounded something along the lines of, “It’s fine that they beat us because there’s no way they beat the Astros.”
I’ll tell you one thing: Not many in Boston considered this team an underdog. You know, the ones who actually watched the Red Sox play all year, watched them set a franchise win record and clinch their third straight AL East title for the first time ever. Were there doubts when Craig Kimbrel got out there and gift wrapped a Game 4 win for the Astros that they just couldn’t unwrap? Yes, absolutely. But we’ve known since J.D. Martinez signed with Boston that this team was destined for something special. And even that great moment was marred by a week of radio silence and a mysterious physical that had me questioning whether Martinez was actually going to sign the damn contract.
You’ll notice one common theme among most championship-caliber teams in any sport, though. Those teams may not be underdogs as a whole, but they’ve all got an underdog or two on the roster. And when those guys can give an entire team that underdog mentality, this is what happens.
You saw the clubhouse after David Price’s ALCS-clinching performance that was so much more than a ticket to the World Series. Everyone was ecstatic for him. As mentioned earlier this week, that night belonged to Price. All the champagne, Bud Heavies (Ed. Note: And Sam 76’s) and pictures with the trophy happened because of the most embattled free-agency signing Boston has had since Carl Crawford. And then Jackie Bradley Jr. wins the ALCS MVP award. Talk about a rough night for the Red Sox Twitter trolls.
This postseason has put on display how the Red Sox handle trolling and Thursday night was another example of that. Those performances by Price and Bradley didn’t just help the Red Sox put Alex Bregman in his place for the Instagram story he posted prior to Game 3. They helped two of the most doubted and bashed athletes in all of Boston finally stick a middle finger to the haters in the most satisfying way. The biggest shame in all of this is that the Red Sox will have to wait five days to play their next game. You’d be hard-pressed to find a bigger motivator than being the underdog. And if this team can’t be the underdog, it can still rally behind it’s underdogs.
There’s clearly no shortage of love in Boston’s clubhouse — which explains the satisfaction they all felt when Price shut down the Astros Thursday night. The 33-year-old has displayed a bit of an insecure vibe at times in his Red Sox career. There’s probably not much that builds confidence better than snapping an 11-year postseason victory drought to lift your team over the defending champions and into the World Series. I feel sorry for the next team that has to play this team with Price on the mound. Even if he struggles in his next start, he still gave us Thursday night and that wouldn’t have happened without him.
As for Bradley, the reaction to his nine-RBI, series-MVP performance seemed a little less subdued. More than anything, that’s probably because the only people who ever lost faith in JBJ were the ones sitting at home watching the games, hiding behind radio microphones and Twitter accounts. No one on the Red Sox ever seemed to get tired of watching him do what he does in center field every night. They lived with the inconsistency at the plate because it had been decided that the glove was undoubtedly more valuable than the bat. And then they got to enjoy that moment with him.
Notice how you didn’t hear anything from Price or Bradley about the fans who doubted them. You didn’t see them reading off tweets sent by those who said they were trash and should be sent in a rocket ship to the moon — or at the very least traded away / forced to opt out of their long-term contract. And you won’t. We might think we all have the most valuable and correct opinion in the world, especially when it comes to social media, but these guys don’t care what we have to say about their batting average or playoff record. It was still just as satisfying to see them shut all of us up Thursday night and I hope they do it again next week.