Thursday night was awesome. Yes, we already knew the division was going to be clinched at some point, barring a truly historic and improbable collapse, the chances of which were essentially zero. Yes, the first two games of the series were not fun. Yes, there are real flaws for this roster that need to be reconciled with before the postseason begins. There are ways to damper the excitement of this, but it’s not necessary. The Red Sox just won their third consecutive American League East title, and although the real work is to be done next month, this is nothing to sneeze at. This is a division that is regularly among the top divisions in the game, if not the top division in the game. Winning it three times in a row is amazing, and should be treated as such.
Every year, there are arguments made that the celebrations for winning divisions are over-the-top and unnecessary because of the fact that there is indeed still work left to do. It’s the same idea that leads some (most? all? I really have no idea) hockey players to not touch the trophy from the conference championship, because the goal is the Stanley Cup. I get it, but in this baseball context it’s nonsense. The Red Sox partook in a 162-game, near-daily grind and coming out on top of the division is certainly a feat worth celebrating.
There is, as I say, still work to be done, but that work won’t get started on Friday. No, Friday is going to represent one of the greatest days of the season. It is the Hangover Lineup day. The team spent last night celebrating like crazy in New York and then flying into Cleveland to start their upcoming series against the Indians. It’ll be interesting to see how Alex Cora treats the last three series of the year in terms of rest, but one thing is for certain. As many of the regulars are going to get Friday off as possible. It is the beauty of a Hangover Lineup, in which we will see the strangest combination of position players on the field that we’ll see all season. So, before the lineups come out, let’s try and take a guess as to what it will look like. Here’s what I got.
C: Christian Vazquez
1B: Steve Pearce
2B: Brandon Phillips
3B: Rafael Devers
SS: Brock Holt
LF: Sam Travis
CF: Tzu-Wei Lin
RF: Blake Swihart
DH: Brian Johnson
So, most of this is pretty straight forward. The Red Sox don’t have enough of a bench to give everyone the day off, so some guys will play. Eduardo Núñez is nursing a hamstring injury, so Devers kind of has to slot in at third. Christian Vazquez did play on Thursday, but Blake Swihart will be needed elsewhere and Sandy León is the closest thing to a regular. He gets the day off. Phillips has to play second, it’s almost a given unless they finagle a way to get him at third. Holt is at shortstop so Lin can get into center field, where he’s started to play in the minors and got some time earlier in the week. Sam Travis hurt himself slamming into a wall the other night so I’m not entirely sure he’s healthy enough to play right now, but if he is he’ll be in there.
The only one I’m really joking about here is Johnson, but I really, really want this to happen. I figure if I wish hard enough it’s got to be possible, right? RIGHT?! Johnson was, of course, a two-way player in college and says how much he loves to hit. Give the man a chance. It’s not going to happen, but I want it. I suppose my real guess will be Ian Kinsler at DH. Why not?
So, what’s your guess? Whoever gets the closest wins absolutely nothing.