One For The Ages
Where did October go? Three and a half weeks were consumed by the Red Sox who rocked the month away. Unlike the previous two Octobers when the Sox were bounced in the first round, this "Rocktober" took us through Halloween and beyond with the Duck Boat Tour that even made a trek down Route One and rolled onto Gillette Stadium prior to the Patriots - Packers game. What was so special about this team that stampeded to a club record 119 wins? What separated them from their peers and Sox teams of the past? Let’s begin with JD Martinez.
After the retirement of David Ortiz, the Sox slipped to the bottom of the pack in most offensive categories. There wasn't a bat in the lineup that opposing pitchers feared for instant damage. Martinez changed all of that. Getting right to the point, in addition to challenging for the Triple Crown for most of the season, Martinez was directly responsible for the turnaround in offensive production. The Sox finished first in the American League in runs, hits, doubles, runs batted in, batting average, on base percentage and slugging percentage. They also hit over 200 home runs - 43 of them by Martinez.
Manager Alex Cora plays a starring role in this championship run. From day one in Spring Training there was a different feel to this team. Cora isn't big on team meetings but he called one after the 18 inning loss in Game 3 of the World Series in Los Angeles. While most felt the loss could have crippled them and potentially turn the Series around, Cora told his team how proud he was of them and as one player remarked to me later, "we came out of that meeting and forgot we actually lost. Alex made us feel like we won that game. So when we trailed 4-0 in Game 4 there was never a doubt we were going to win the whole thing and win it right here in LA.!" Chris Sale, David Price and Rick Porcello marched into Cora's office and all volunteered to pitch Game 4 with little rest for their arms and lack of sleep.
Cora told his pitching staff there would be a new role for all in the post season - "Rovers." Traditionally in baseball there are starters and relievers and now Cora had created the "rover" role. Starters Sale, Price, Porcello and Nathan Eovaldi all came out of the bullpen as "rovers" and not one of them complained or pouted that it might bounce them from their next scheduled start. The guy who threw the first pitch of the Yankees, Astros and Dodgers series threw the last pitch of the World Series - Chris Sale. Jackie Bradley Junior was the MVP of the American League Championship Series yet when the World Series moved to a National League Park he was told he was out of the lineup in Games 4 and 5 to make room for JD Martinez since there was no designated hitter.
Andrew Benintendi (4-5 in Game One - run saving leaping catch in Game 2) was told he was sitting out Game 3. No whining, no complaining. It was always about "we" vs "me" with the 2018 Red Sox. They were a likeable team, they were an unselfish team and if you dissect any championship team at any level you will find the same ingredients that made up the fabric of the 2018 Boston Red Sox. Use them and all that made them a champion as an example to help make yourself and your team a champion as well!