Sunday marked the end of the most successful regular season in Boston Red Sox history. They won their final game against the New York Yankees at Fenway Park. Several weeks ago, when it looked like the Yankees were going to make a pennant race of it to the end, I surprised my Red Sox fan wife with two tickets to the game that I was amazed to be able to obtain.
I was in Fenway in 1967 when the Impossible Dream ended with a pennant and a trip to the World Series. The possibility of seeing a rerun of that finish, 51 years later, against the Yankees of all teams, was too good to pass up.
As we all know, and as I predicted from the beginning of the season, the Red Sox walked away from the Yankees and the pennant race is long over. My youngest son Steve and my 10 year old Grandson Nick enjoyed the game in my seats.
The Sox go into the Playoffs with the best record in baseball. You would think, as most Red Sox fans do, after such an amazing season, that they would probably win it all easily.
Before you begin the celebration in anticipation of the World Series victory, let’s look at some sobering facts.
Since 2000, a period of 18 years, the team that had, or was tied for, the best record in baseball at the end of the regular season has won the World Series just four times. Four other times in those 18 years, the team with the best regular season in baseball has gotten to but lost the World Series.
Five times the team with the best record in the regular season has made it to but been eliminated in the League Championship Series, the last step before the World Series. If those facts are not sobering enough, on 10 occasions, the team with the best record in all of baseball in the regular season has not even gotten through the first round of the Playoffs, the Division Series. ( In that period, five times two teams tied for the most wins in all of baseball, making 23 teams, with the best record, that made it to the Playoffs in 18 years. )
In 2014, just four years ago the San Francisco Giants beat the Kansas City Royals in the World Series. The Giants had a regular season record of 88-74 and the Royals were 89-73 and both made it to the Playoffs as a Wild Card. After winning the Wild Card game to get into the Division Series they had the worst records of all the teams in the Playoffs yet both made it to the Big Dance.
While it appears that there is no correlation between having the best regular season record and winning the World Series, there are a few historical facts that may indicate that the 2018 Boston Red Sox might have a better chance of going all the way than others teams with the best regular season record have had.
Of the four teams with the best records that went on to win the World Series, two of the four, the 2007 and 2013 winners were the Red Sox. The others to beat what you might call the ‘ Best Record Curse ‘ were the 2009 Yankees and the 2016 Chicago Cubs.
The Red Sox, of course, have won the World Series three times in this 18 year period, two of those times, in 2004 and 2013, they were managed by Managers in their first year at the helm of the team, Terry Francona in 2004 and John Farrell in 2013. This year’s version, with the most wins in the regular season, is managed by another first year Manager Alex Cora.
( If you don’t count the Stamford, Connecticut, dancer who posed as the Red Sox Manager in 2012, Bobby, Look At Me, Valentine, the last three real Red Sox Managers have won the pennant in their first season at the helm and Cora has a chance to be the third in succession. )
The Red Sox won the first four World Series they played in in the 20th century as the Red Sox going all the way in 1912, 1915, 1916 and 1918 in succession. ( The Boston Americans, the original version of the Red Sox won the first World Series ever played in 1903 but didn’t become the Red Sox until 1908. )
They have been in three World Series since the start of the 21st century and have won three straight. Perhaps history will repeat itself and they will have their fourth World Series win of this century, 100 years after winning their fourth of the previous century.
There is almost no correlation between winning the regular season championship and getting to and winning the World Series. For example, a team needs a deep starting pitching rotation to compete over the long season where a team can get by with three or four starters in the short series in the Playoffs. A hot streak can carry a weak team in the Playoffs, where the long season will tend to eliminate that weak team.
As we anxiously await the start of the Playoffs, it’s important to keep in mind that the old adage, ‘ The cream will come to the top ‘ may be true in the long regular season but, more often that not has not been true in the Playoffs.
But ‘ Hold on to your hats ‘ Red Sox fans, it’s going to be a wild ride and let’s hope the Sox can do it. They have certainly given us reason to believe in them but, as they also say “ Expect the Best and Prepare for the Worst ‘.