This 2021 season is 100 percent a successful season for the Red Sox. Let’s start there. We know the season is not over, and we’re certainly not ready to write an obituary for this team with every expectation they can win on Tuesday, but in terms of the binary determination as to whether or not this season was successful? That’s been answered. The team came into the season with most, including yours truly, expecting a middling club that would be better than 2020 but still outside the playoff picture. They’ve left the regular season with their campaign still going, and that alone puts them easily on the right side of the bar in the success question.
Realistically speaking, it was still probably a positive even if they hadn’t pulled out that game on Sunday, and even if they had squandered their position and missed out on the postseason, this season likely could have been described as successful. I think it would have been more complicated than that, but at the very least it would have been a step in the right direction, with individual mileage varying on the definition of successful.
But none of that matters. We don’t have to think about that. They didn’t squander their position, and the season was definitively successful. It’s far from a perfect team, and they spent a whole lot of this season making it look the exact opposite of pretty. But they have a real chance to win a title, which is something very few people could have envisioned. I certainly wouldn’t bet money on that being the outcome, but there’s a path that exists on a plane we can fathom. That’s a success.
And it’s worth talking about how crazy things got and how they were even able to get to this expectation-defying place. First and foremost, in my eyes, you have to start with the rotation health. Coming into the season, it wasn’t that ridiculous to think the team could get into the wildcard mix if their rotation stayed healthy. But it was ridiculous to expect the rotation to stay healthy. Except they all did. Their whole rotation managed to stay off the (non-COVID) injured list through 162 games, and I don’t know how much of that is luck, how much is on the pitchers, how much is on the coaches, and how much of that is on the training and conditioning staffs. I certainly think all of those factor contributed, though, and to me it is the single biggest reason this season defied expectations and turned out to be so successful.
But that wasn’t the only reason this season already goes down the way it does. There was an aura around this team, and it starts with the clubhouse. I have my issues with Alex Cora, both for his past transgressions as well as some of his managing tendencies, but his ability to create a clubhouse culture is huge. It’s the reason this team could score so many runs despite the constantly wacky lineups, because he sets expectations for what his players can expect and consistently meets them. And it’s the reason he can make what seems like a non-sensical decision with the bullpen and it works, i.e. using Martín Pérez on Sunday.
There’s still more of this season to unfold, and the story of this team is not complete, so we don’t have to do too much reflection just yet. Keep the eyes and ears forward for now. But it’s also worth just taking a moment and reflecting back on a season that so few of us saw coming. We don’t want it to end now, and we will go into tomorrow expecting a win, but whatever does happen, 2021 was a success, and we can be happy celebrating that fact today.