In 1903, the Boston Americans, who would become the Boston Red Sox in 1908, won the first World Series ever played, beating the Pittsburgh Pirates five games to three. The first Series, unlike those to follow, was a best of nine Series. After a year with no Series in 1904, future Series would be in a best of seven format.
From 1904 until 1908, when they became the Red Sox, the team did not win a World Series. After becoming the Red Sox, in 1904, the Sox won the Series four times, in the next ten years, the last time in 1918.
As every Red Sox fan knows, the Sox did not win another Series until 2004. They then won four World Series, the last time in 2018, exactly one hundred years after winning their only other four in the period ending in 1918.
Of course, as we all know, the 2019 Red Sox were a huge disappointment and there were only two reasons they did not finish in last place in the American League East, the Toronto Blue Jays and the Baltimore Orioles were even worse.
Can it be that the Sox will have to wait another 100 years before winning another and then win four in the period from 2104 to 2108? Karl Marx once said that ‘History repeats itself’ and that appears to be true as far as The Red Sox and the World Series are concerned.
Why does a franchise have so much success in the first 18 years of the two centuries in its history and so much failure in the rest of those centuries? Will the Red Sox fans have to wait until the first 18 years of the twenty-second century before they see another World’s Championship?
Before you reject this possibility out of hand, consider this additional information. From 1912 to 1918, when the Sox won their first four World Championships, they had four different Managers. Three of the four, Bill Carrigan, who won two, Jake Stahl and Ed Barrow, who won one each, had World Championship teams. Jack Berry, the fourth, did not win a Series in his full one year at the helm, 1917.
Two of the three Managers who led their teams to a Series win, from 1912 to 1918, did so in their first year as Manager. In 1912, Stahl took over from Patsy Donovan, who had led the Sox to fourth and fifth place finishes in 1910 and 1911 and won the Series in his first year. In 1918 Ed Barrow took over from Berry, who finished second in his one year as Boss, and won the Series in his first year.
In between, when the Sox went 39-41 to start the 2013 season under Stahl, after winning the Series the year before, Carrigan took over from Stahl and led the Sox to fourth place and second place finishes in 1913 and 1914 before winning the Series in 1915 and 1916. The win in 1915 would make him the only Red Sox Manager in history ever to win a World Series without winning one in his first year.
Fast forward eighty-six years to 2004 when Terry Francona replaced Grady Little and took the Sox to their first World Series win in 86 years in his first year as Manager of the team. He would win again in 2007.
In 2012, after Francona was replaced by Bobby Valentine, who was merely a one-year fill-in, while the Sox waited for John Farrell to be available to take over in 2013, the Sox finished a sad last.
What did John Farrell do, in his first year as Manager? Naturally, he took his team to the World Series Championship, becoming the fourth Red Sox Manager of five who had won the Series to do so in his first year as Manager.
I am sure that I don’t have to remind you that Farrell’s successor, Alex Cora, who took over in 2018, took the Sox to the Championship in his first year as Manager, becoming the fifth Red Sox Manager of only six who have led the team to a Series win to do so in his first year as Skipper.
So, if history does repeat itself, as Marx said long ago, do the Red Sox have to wait until sometime after 2104 for a new Manager to come riding in on a white horse to give them another pennant? Or, on the other hand, should they replace Cora with a new Manager in hopes that history will repeat itself?
I have one bit of advice for the Sox ownership, if they are thinking of replacing Cora. Don’t replace him with a former star player.
While the Sox have been managed by such former greats as Joe Cronin, who hit .301 in his career, Cy Young, who won 511 games as a pitcher, Johnny Pesky a .307 career hitter and Lou Boudreau, who hit .295 in a 15 year career, none of them won the World Series. Looking back, none of the Red Sox Managers who have won pennants have been exactly Super Stars.
Stahl, the first winner in the 1900’s, was a first baseman/outfielder, who, in a nine year career hit .261 and Francona, the first winner in the 2000’s, coincidentally, was also a first baseman/outfielder who, in a ten year career, hit just .274.
Carrigan, the second winner in the 1900’s was a catcher who, in 10 years, hit just .257 and Farrell, the second winner in the 2000’s was a pitcher who won 36 and lost 46 in eight years. The last Manager to win the World Series for the Sox in the 1900’s, Ed Barrow, never played a game of professional baseball in his life and Cora, (perhaps the last Manager to win one for the Sox in the 2000’s?) was an infielder with a career batting average of just .243.
Does history repeat itself? It would appear that, for the Red Sox, it has for the past 100 years. Will it continue to repeat itself for the Sox?
If the new General Manager for Baseball Operations Chaim Boom, can hold this team’s nucleus together and bring in some pitching, they should be able to keep history from repeating itself and perhaps the year 2020 can end with their fifth World Series win of the century.
If so, when the 2021 season starts, Red Sox fans can take hope from something another famous philosopher, Joan Rivers, once said, “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is God’s gift. That is why we call it the present.”