Well, they’ve done it. There’s nothing else to conquer for this Red Sox team that conquered every challenge put in front of them. Your 2018 Boston Red Sox are champions of the world and celebrating in Los Angeles with the ultimate prize. It goes without saying that a championship is satisfying regardless of circumstances, but it feels that much better this year after the Red Sox had such quick and disappointing endings after two otherwise good seasons before this. This was a magical team and a magical run that lasted from the second game of the season -- remember the feeling of dread after Opening Day? -- and ran all the way through last night. Now, with a banner being added at Fenway, this isn’t just one of (probably the) best Red Sox teams of all time. This is one of the greatest baseball teams ever assembled, and that’s a title that cannot be taken away from them.
It’s really amazing that things really got to this, even if in hindsight it shouldn’t be that surprising. As I’m sure many who are reading this know and remember, so much of this summer was spent picking apart this historically great team. For one reason or another, this team was just never as good as their record indicated. Their bullpen was hanging by a thread and due to implode. They were built too much on stars but didn’t have the depth required to be a truly great squad. They were being boosted by a weak schedule and things were eventually going to even out. They weren’t dominant enough against the best teams in the league. They had failed too often in the postseason prior to this year to truly believe they were going to have an ability to succeed in October this time around. Ultimately, all of these were just looking for reasons to doubt what we were seeing with our eyeballs.
To be fair, this is not so much a criticism of the criticism (yo dawg, I hear you like criticism and also ten-year-old memes) as much as it’s just an acknowledgement that this is what happens in the moment. While something historic like this season is happening, you just need to use every opportunity to convince yourself this isn’t actually happening. It’s only natural to hedge rather than going all-in on what your watching unfold. As a fan, you want to save yourself from what seems like probable and almost unavoidable disappointment. Only one team is going to win it all, ya know? As an analyst, you don’t want to be the guy who went all-in on the team that fails. Again, chances are better than not that any given team will fall short. Now, there are certainly some analysts (I won’t name names) who looked for negativity just for the sake of bringing negativity to the table, but most of this happened with no ill-intentions.
Whatever reason these criticisms were made, however, the Red Sox answered any and all questions that were placed in front of them throughout the year. Now, with everything wrapped up and the magical 2018 season officially in the books, we have to include them in any conversation about the greatest teams of all time. This squad had an elite offense, starting pitching that could carry the team all year, a bullpen that was much better than it got credit for basically all season, and a manager that represented the attitude of the team and managed the roster and personalities perfectly.
I don’t really want to focus too much on the arguments for why this team wasn’t as good as it seemed. Like I said, they were mostly just hedges against what we were watching. I do want to look more closely at the quality of competition argument, as that one hung over the head of the Red Sox all year long. Now, with the year over, there are two ways to look at the idea that they simply fed on the bottom of the league. It is true that there were seemingly more bottomed-out teams in baseball this year, particularly in the American League. That fact means one of two things are true, though.
One possibility is that there is just less talent than ever around the league. I would argue vehemently against that assertion if anyone has made it. If that’s not the case, it just means talent is disproportionately skewed towards the top of the league. This seems to be the right answer, and it only makes what Boston did in October that much more impressive. Going up against these supposed super teams, the Red Sox went 11-3, earned a trio of gentlemen’s sweeps and lost just one game away from Fenway. That is bonkers, and the best argument in favor of this being an all-time great team.
At the end of the day, is this the greatest team of all time? Is it clearly better than squads like the ‘27 Yankees, the ‘98 Yankees, the ‘06 Cubs or the ‘76 Reds (or any other team that should be included here that I forgot)? I have no idea. There’s probably some analysis that can be done to say yes or no, and I will probably attempt it later this winter. Right now, I don’t really care. The Red Sox came into the year with most predicting them to finish with a wildcard berth, and now they are undeniably in a conversation with the teams listed above. For the moment, that’s more than enough for me.