Sometimes you just have to know when to tip your cap and admit you were wrong.
I'm not sure any team has been doubted and questioned more throughout a dominant run more than the 2018 Boston Red Sox. Even a franchise-record 108 regular-season wins couldn't convince the skeptics that maybe, just maybe, this group led by its brilliant first-year manager had enough talent and heart to overcome its flaws.
- MORE RED SOX - Triumphant return to Puerto Rico for Cora
I was as guilty as anyone in this regard. I questioned Dave Dombrowski's decision to trade for Nathan Eovaldi instead of a proven bullpen arm in Zach Britton. I gave up on Jackie Bradley Jr.'s bat. I didn't think David Price had it in him to beat the Yankees, never mind go on to be a World Series hero. I was wrong. I failed to recognize that although the 2018 Red Sox were far from perfect, the other 29 teams would kill to have their flaws if it meant having that kind of talent.
That's what these World Series champions will be remembered for: Proving everyone wrong. As Price told the press after the series-clinching win, they "hold all the cards now." It's crazy that I'm sitting here writing about this team as if they were ever underdogs, but for whatever reason, that's how it felt. It's pretty silly looking back on it.
Nonetheless, this year's Red Sox team emerged as not only one of the best ever, but also one of the most beloved. I'd argue it's neck and neck with the 2004 champs. The postseason run put a spotlight on a cast of characters you can't help but feel ecstatic for. Here are a few in particular...
When Dombrowski dealt a minor leaguer and $1.5 million to the Blue Jays for Pearce, it didn't get much attention. Sure, maybe the Red Sox would get something out of him vs. left-handed pitching, but how much of an impact would that really make down the stretch?
Well...how's a World Series MVP impact sound? When the Red Sox offense went cold, it was Pearce who provided the spark. The 35-year-old journeyman went 4-for-12 in the World Series with three timely home runs, eight RBI, and four walks.
Pearce's story makes even sweeter. He was drafted 241st overall by the Pirates in 2005 and played in Pittsburgh until 2012. He also played for the Orioles, Astros, Yankees, Rays, and Blue Jays before becoming a part of the Red Sox family. Four months before becoming World Series MVP, Pearce was in the middle of a rehab stint with the Buffalo Bisons.
Miiiiight be time to get those M-V-P chants going.— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) October 29, 2018
Steve Pearce goes yard AGAIN! pic.twitter.com/g4p96eK2ED
Oh boy. Where do we begin with Price?
We can start by saying no one was on the receiving end of more criticism and downright hatred from Boston fans more than the 33-year-old left-hander. Sometimes, it was warranted. Other times, it was a bit over the top. Price certainly didn't do himself any favors with the way he treated the media on occasion, or with how he performed in the postseason prior to the ALCS.
All Red Sox fans really wanted was a postseason redemption story, and man, did Price deliver. He's this Red Sox team's John Lackey. He came up huge in the ALCS, earning the pennant-clinching win over the Astros and it was a total toss-up between him and Pearce for MVP. Personally, I'd have gone with Price for the award.
Another reason I'm happy for Price: He's clearly an amazing teammate.
I liked the move back in July when Dave Dombrowski traded away Jalen Beeks for the flame-throwing right-hander Nathan Eovaldi. I didn't think it was a game-changer, but it certainly didn't hurt to add a veteran arm. I just thought an eighth-inning arm such as Britton might make more sense.
All I can say now is thank God I'm not the Red Sox general manager. Eovaldi became a Sox legend in Game 3 of the World Series despite the final score. I'll never forget his performance, and neither will his teammates.
Chris Sale on Nathan Eovaldi performance: ‘It was nothing short of incredible. I’ll never forget what he did.’— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) October 27, 2018
Eovaldi wasn't just a World Series hero, either. He came up big time and time again throughout the postseason. He may have been the most reliable arm the Sox had. And that's coming off two Tommy John surgeries. The guy was throwing 101 mph after throwing 100 pitches on no days rest. I'm still in awe just thinking about it.
Other than Price and maybe the bullpen, no one shut critics up more than Jackie Bradley Jr. The ALCS MVP only had three hits in that series, but they were the biggest ones. Bradley hit a three-run double with Boston down by two, a grand slam in a two-run game, and then a tying two-run homer. In the World Series, he hit a tying solo HR with two outs in the eighth inning of Game 3.
I've always said if JBJ could hit .250 every season with his defensive ability, I'll shut up about him. Well, I'll gladly change that to "he came up big in the postseason, so I'll shut up about him." He more than made up for not being able to hit a beach ball throughout the regular season.
I couldn't be happier for Craig Kimbrel. Not because he was great in the postseason, he was far from it, but because he overcame so much to get to this point.
Last year, Kimbrel's daughter had a heart issue that required multiple heart surgeries. There's no doubt this had a tremendous impact on him to start the season and probably the entire 2018 campaign.
Craig Kimbrel’s daughter was born in November with a heart issue that’s required surgery already and another is upcoming. He said she's doing well. Difficult to focus sometimes, but he also knows all his work/pitching is for her. Kimbrel has spent winter in Boston bc of hospitals— Evan Drellich (@EvanDrellich) January 20, 2018
Following his disastrous ALDS and ALCS appearances, Kimbrel figured things out in the World Series. He was as emotional as anyone after the Red Sox finished the job.
There are two versions of Joe Kelly: The unhittable one, and the one you hold your breath whenever you see him trotting out to the mound. The unhittable one showed up this postseason.
Kelly's stuff was straight-up filthy. In five World Series appearances, he pitched six scoreless innings with no walks and 10 strikeouts. You literally cannot do better than that.
Kelly is now a free agent and if you're a Red Sox fan, you should want him back regardless of the rollercoaster ride he tends to be. After that unbelievable postseason showing, you'll gladly take the bad with the good.
The "please don't sign J.D." takes from last winter will never get old (mainly the Tony Massarotti ones, but I know there were plenty of other anti-J.D. folks out there)...
Should JD Martinez really be considered "elite"? My advice to Sox on this guy: run. And keep running. You already blew it. Don't make it worse. https://t.co/anTFSgjlur— Tony Massarotti (@TonyMassarotti) January 3, 2018
Good. Can they withdraw?— Tony Massarotti (@TonyMassarotti) January 27, 2018
Report: Red Sox won't budge on 5-year offer to Martinezhttps://t.co/bZdWUoeQho
Martinez wasn't "amazing" by any means in the postseason, but he absolutely blew away expectations this season. It wasn't just what he did at the plate, it's how he made all of his teammates so much better. His obsession with improving himself was contagious. Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, and the rest of the Sox offense will tell you Martinez is like a second hitting coach.
There certainly was skepticism surrounding his signing as big-money free agents have a history of not working out with the Red Sox. Still, make no mistake, this guy is a gamer. He was in Detroit, he was in Arizona, and he is now in Boston.
I tried telling you people this would be the case.
It's fitting to end this list with the man who finished off the World Series-clincher, Chris Sale. We don't need to go too in-depth here, as we all know this Red Sox team doesn't get here without their ace, but his borderline psychotic competitive spirit put him on this list. He clearly wasn't healthy throughout the postseason but he battled through it to deliver when needed most. That alone will make you a beloved figure in Boston.
Chris Sale giving us all the feels. ❤️ pic.twitter.com/iAA2XOzciU— Boston Red Sox (@RedSox) October 29, 2018
I'm not going to name the whole team - just a few in particular that resonated with me as I reflect on the Red Sox' fourth World Series title in the past 15 seasons - but the entire group was a pleasure to watch from start to finish. Mookie Betts is by all indicators the A.L. MVP. Xander Bogaerts had an under-the-radar sensational season. Rafael Devers, who just turned 22, was one of team's most clutch postseason hitters. Alex Cora is a genius and a true leader of men. The list goes on.
- MORE SOX - It won't be easy keeping the band together
Who knows what 2019 will bring? The talent will still be here, but baseball is a funny game. There's a chance they could pull a '14 Red Sox and go from first to worst. That's why what this '18 team accomplished should be appreciated and reflected on fondly before it's time to focus on repeating.