A repeat performance, and repeat disappointment, for Red Sox
The key thing that happened in 2017: Too much of the same, no closer to a World Series. It remains, on some level, unfair to speak too poorly of a team that wins 93 games in back-to-back seasons. That’s a difficult task to pull off in consecutive seasons, from the front office on down. But through all that happened in a rather nutty 2017, a second straight knockout in the American League Division Series is the bottom line. The discord that cropped up, the lack of home runs — if the Sox go on an October tear, we’re not talking about those matters as much. The team simply wasn’t good enough. Watching the playoffs reinforced that. The Dodgers would have eaten the Sox alive if they somehow made the World Series. The Sox need to go farther. John Farrell felt the repercussions. (Sorry, we don’t buy the suggestion put forth by Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski that Farrell would have been fired no matter what would have happened.)
APRIL 5-MAY 2: SALE STARTS WITH A BANG
All the talk going into the year was about A) Chris Sale’s prior greatness and B) a question of how it would translate in his first year. Boston’s a big scary place to play, you may have heard. Not for everyone. In his first start, the lefty he threw seven shutout innings, gave up three hits and fanned seven. He had a 1.38 ERA after his first six starts. He brought a buzz unseen at Fenway Park since Pedro Martinez en route to a second consecutive start in the All-Star Game.
APRIL 22-MAY 3: THE FEUD
They were throwing at each other long enough that the commissioner felt the need to get both Red Sox manager John Farrell and Orioles manager Buck Showalter on the line and end things. There were some positive and negatives exposed as the Sox and Birds threw at each other, but mostly negative. The incident that started it at all was a slide from Manny Machado into Dustin Pedroia’s right knee. The knee bothered him all year, but there was more going on than just the slide’s effects. Pedroia was very forgiving, but others with the Red Sox were not. When Matt Barnes threw near Machado’s head, Pedroia saying “It’s not me, it’s them,” deflecting blame for the choice to throw at Machado to some unknown parties showed a surprising lack of unity. But Sale throwing behind Machado the next time the teams met seemed to galvanize the Sox, and Showalter looked pretty silly as he tried to rile the Sox up with his own media games.
JULY 24-25: NUNEZ AND DEVERS ARRIVE
The Red Sox offense by midseason was clearly hurting without David Ortiz. Thoughts of, “They’ll get hot,” turned into a reality of, “this is who they are this year.” The Yankees went out and got Todd Frazier, and the Sox went after a high-contact, relatively low-power guy named Eduardo Nunez. They also promoted third baseman Rafael Devers, who was at Triple-A for about 15 seconds. Both moves turned out to be the juice the Sox needed to get to a division title, although not beyond. Nunez turned into a little Barry Bonds, with eight home runs in his 38 games with the Red Sox: that’s double the number of home runs he hit (four) in half as many games (76) with the Giants.
OCTOBER 5-9: PRICE SHINES, SOX DON'T
The bullpen was great for the Red Sox all season, even as it changed looks. The names were varied, the performance consistent. A 3.07 ERA in the regular season was the second best mark for a relief corps in the majors, behind only the Indians. Come October, there was a new addition: David Price. The injured starter was deemed healthy enough to pitch in relief (and arguably, should have been tested out as a starter instead) and was exactly the force the Red Sox needed in the Division Series against the Astros. He threw 6 2/3 innings with no earned runs and six strikeouts. But the Astros, the eventual world champions, were too much. Alex Bregman’s home run off Chris Sale tied it in the eighth inning and the Astros took the lead for good when Craig Kimbrel came on later in the inning.
OCTOBER 11: GOODBYE, JOHN
The vibe was off, the young players were underperforming. David Price seemed to have more respect in the Red Sox clubhouse than the manager. John Farrell had just one year remaining on his contract after 2018, so at the end of the season it was time to move on or extend him. Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski elected to bring in his own guy, Alex Cora. Farrell won a World Series in his time with the Red Sox and did a lot of good, but he lost the confidence of some of his players and his boss, ushering in the Alex Cora era.