The season is over for the Boston Red Sox, much later than nearly everyone predicted. An unreal, improbable deep postseason run was bonus baseball in a year following an absolute dud of a season in 2020. There are a lot of things to reflect on at this moment: defensive woes, offensive bi-polar production, a play here or there in the ALCS, but the thing that hurts the worst? This team never had a chance, but made us all believe a championship was possible.
Coming into the season, everyone expected a rebound for the Red Sox who were coming off of a 24-36 shortened-season last place finish in the AL East season. The general consensus was a .500 season was likely, somewhere around the 80-82 win threshold, missing a spot in the postseason. After an absolutely torrid first half of the season, expectations began to shift, but then reality hit and the Red Sox came back to earth. They needed every bit of 162 games to sneak into the postseason and and win their 92nd regular season game.
The playoffs began with a huge win over the New York Yankees in the AL Wild Card at Fenway Park and it felt like that was a big accomplishment regardless of what came of the ALDS against the 100-win Tampa Bay Rays. After a tough first game offensively, the production began and the Red Sox won 3-straight games to send the Rays packing. Shockingly, the Red Sox were one of 4 teams still remaining in the postseason. Once again the Red Sox offense wasn’t good enough in a game one, but turned it on for games 2 and 3. Once the Red Sox won game 3, it felt like this team had a special quality and was peaking at the right time. The mentality was to win the next two at home and never have to return to Texas, but obviously that didn’t happen.
We all believed that despite the up-and-down season and the struggles offensively in the final week of the season when everything was hanging in the balance, in October this team could beat anyone. At times, they showed us that their offense was all-powerful and could hit anyone, at any time and then other times they made opposing pitchers look like Cy Young winners. We built ourselves up to believe that this team had an x-factor and was a runaway train barreling down the tracks with nothing that could stop the momentum. Just when we felt the magic and believed, this team showed us exactly what we saw down the stretch of the regular season: inconsistency and an inability to put anyone away. It was never gone, just took a short break.
This team was never good enough to win a championship, but I certainly believed they could and I know I’m not alone. The pitching staff was held together with glue and duct tape and Cora was able to squeeze every last ounce out of each person on the roster to even get to an ALCS game 6. This may be one of the greatest managerial performances of the last decade, but it will be overshadowed by not making the World Series. Alex Cora did what he could with the roster he had, and it wasn’t enough, but it was damn close.
The future is certainly bright in Boston. Several young players made significant contributions to this team and will only continue to improve next year and beyond. In 2022 the Red Sox will have one of their strongest rotations in a long time if everything shakes out as expected and the rookie arms continue to improve. The offense needs to fill a few holes and gain greater depth on the bench, but overall is pretty close to being great without much work. The defense needs to be a huge priority this offseason, because they handed opponents run after run this season with bad plays and errors.
There will be a lot of commentary this offseason on this team, some positive and some negative (and a lot of it from me), but despite feeling the hurt of a tough series loss, I wouldn’t trade this improbable run for anything. Just 114 days until pitchers and catchers report to Fort Myers.