While this lockout continues to drag along, even with some incremental progress taking place this past week it still seems as though we are going to be delayed in the start of the season. Assuming MLB is ready to stand firm with their hard deadline of February 28, the two sides now have three more days of negotiations, including today, to get something done before missing games. In the meantime, we are left here to just twiddle our thumbs, and occasionally look back at some memories from Red Sox past. For today’s roundtable, we looked at our the Red Sox teams who did not win a World Series which we look back at most fondly.
The 2008 Red Sox was my favorite team to not win a championship. There were so many players I loved on that team. Dustin Pedroia won the MVP that year, I named my dog after Jacoby Ellsbury that year, that team featured the core of David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez as well as the older Red Sox legends such as Jason Varitek, Mike Lowell, and Kevin Youkilis. I already showed my affinity for Jason Bay two roundtables ago. From a personality standpoint, the team had Sean Casey, Alex Cora, Kevin Cash, and David Ross. The only person missing was Kevin Millar.
From a pitching point of view, you had Josh Beckett and Jon Lester leading the charge, both of whom inspired me to become a one-time Little League All-Star. The pitching staff also featured Dice-K in his best season, Tim Wakefield, and Clay Buchholz when we all thought he would become a superstar. Bartolo Colon pitched 39 innings, Hideki Okajima and Jonathan Papelbon were unbelievable in the back of the bullpen. I personally had an unrealistically high expectation for Justin Masterson for some reason and he was extremely effective in 2008.
That roster was very good, entertaining, and loaded with players Red Sox fans will never forget.
Oddly enough, I very much so enjoyed the 2017 Red Sox. For me, it was fun to see Rafael Devers come up and be a star in his rookie year. I knew after the end of that season that he was going to be something special and an important addition to the team. Along with that, 2017 just felt like the brewing of something special. You could tell that there was something missing that year, but I also knew that the future was bright, and we were just a couple of missing pieces away from a championship-caliber team. Once Boston signed J.D Martinez in the offseason of 2017, I knew the team would automatically make a deep run into the playoffs that year.
Also, 2017 left us with some memorable moments. My favorite moment from that year was Rafael Devers’ inside-the-park home run that kept the Red Sox alive in the ninth inning of an elimination game. He was the first batter in the ninth with the Sox down 5-3. I remember rushing home from school so that I could watch the game and then sitting down on the couch just as Devers came up. Even in Colorado, some 2,000 miles away from the action, the atmosphere was electric, and even though they did not win the game, it showed the determination of the Sox and I think it conveyed a positive indication of what they were capable of the following year.
Looking back nineteen years later - despite Grady Little and Aaron Boone - the non-Championship team I look at most fondly is 2003. It was the start of the new Red Sox. The core of that team would go on to win in 2004 and then follow it up with 2007, 2013, and 2018. Sure the path was rocky and the pain after Game Seven was deep (drunk Yankees fans singing ‘New York, New York’ outside my dorm literally all night) but the 2003 team showed us all how close the World Series was for even something of a rag-tag team based on the reputation entering that year.
I’m sure a lot of people will respond with 2003 or 2008, so I’ll say the late-season 2015 and 2016 Red Sox are the non-championship teams I look back at most fondly. From the time Dave Dombrowski was named president of baseball operations in August 2015, the Red Sox sort of had a different feel to them. Guys were auditioning for the following season, and I remember that team being really fun to watch that September.
Dombrowski’s first off-season with the Red Sox made the 2016 season that much better. With the additions of David Price and Craig Kimbrel, there was a lot of buzz surrounding that team in the spring. On top of that, you had David Ortiz having one of the greatest farewell seasons of all time, Mookie Betts doing Mookie Betts things, Jackie Bradley Jr. putting together a 29-game hitting streak, Andrew Benintendi debuting, and Rick Porcello shockingly winning the AL Cy Young Award.
The Red Sox went on to win their division for the first time in three years in 2016. And while getting swept in the ALDS certainly wasn’t memorable, I think it’s fair to say the 2015-2016 Red Sox set the team up for success in 2018.
Baseball never felt like it mattered more, both in my house and in Boston, than it did in 2003 and 2004. As a result, I can’t pick any year other than 2003 even though there are plenty of good choices. The regular season batting stats were ridiculous, one through nine in the order. Bill Mueller led the league in batting average at .326 while usually hitting 7th or 8th in the order, and Manny Ramirez finished second at .325. Nomar Garciaparra scored 120 runs and Ramirez scored 117. Eight (!) hitters in the lineup knocked in 85 runs or more. Pedro Martinez led the American League in ERA for the fourth time in five years at 2.22. The two-games-to-zero deficit against the A’s, complete with a Trot Nixon walk-off home run to end game three and a Derek Lowe two-seamer to end the series, was my favorite Sox comeback, well, until the following October. Perhaps someday I’ll go back and watch highlights of the ALCS but I’m not ready yet.
I actually do think that last season will be a team that stands up to the rest in this sort of discussion, though it’s too recent to make that my answer. So instead I’ll go a bit further back than the others here and give a shoutout to 1999. Part of this is personal sentiments, as this was the first year I really followed the Red Sox. But it was Pedro Martinez and Nomar Garciaparra both at their absolute peaks, a legendary postseason performance from Martinez out of the bullpen, plus the All-Star Game. It was a little bit before this era of Red Sox baseball that would start a couple years later, but it made me a baseball fan, and many others of my generation too.