The Red Sox Teach Us a Lot About Defeat

This is not a political post. I’m not here to discuss politics. However, the election made me think about surprise victories and harsh defeats. I then reflected on the Red Sox vast history of victories and defeats. So what can the Red Sox teach us about the two? In many cases, it comes down to luck.

The Red Sox Teach Us About Humility

Let’s start with Ted Williams. In 1946 the Red Sox clinched the pennant and faced the St.Red Sox Teach Louis Cardinals in the World Series. A cocky Ted Williams looked forward to adding a championship title to his list of accolades. Williams, along with the rest of the Red Sox, did not consider what the Cardinals had up their sleeve. The Cardinals instituted The Williams Shift where most of their infield shifted to the right of second base making it awfully difficult for Williams to hit a ball to right field. It worked. Hitting only .200 for the series, Williams called it “the most disappointing thing that ever happened to me.” After the Sox lost, Williams locked himself in his train compartment headed back to Boston. “I just broke down and started crying, and I looked up and there was a whole crowd of people watching me through the window.”

The Red Sox Teach Us That Defeat Can Be Snatched From Victory

The 1946 World Series loss marked the beginning of a string of bad luck for the Red Sox. Favored to win again in 1967, the Red Sox didn’t count on the phenomenal pitching of Bob Gibson, who recorded a 1.12 ERA the following season. The Red Sox gave it their all in 1975 but a victorious and memorable Game 6 left the team too worn to win Game 7. The 1986 World Series, however, is a different story.

Every Red Sox fan knows what happened in Game 6. The words “Behind the bag!” echo harshly in the ear drums of those who dare to remember. While Bill Buckner’s error didn’t exactly blow it for the Red Sox, it’s what everyone remembers. Fortunately, fans have since forgiven Buckner, but not before enduring one more boner before finally clinching victory in 2004.

The Red Sox Teach Us It’s Not Over Until It’s Over

Yankee Stadium. The 2003 American League Championship Series. After eight innings, a worn Pedro Martinez said he felt good. So despite manager Grady Little’s concerns, Martinez stayed in Game 7. Their 5-2 lead gave Little the confidence that the game was in the bag. Unfortunately, Martinez quickly went south and the Yankees won. Stunned Red Sox fans could only shake their heads and wait.

A year later, despite being down three games to the Yankees, the Red Sox won four straight to proceed to the World Series. This time they got revenge for the ghosts of 1946 by beating the St. Louis Cardinals. The Curse of the Bambino was finally dead.

When I look at all this history, there’s something Bill Buckner once said that is important to remember, “Baseball is a game of averages, but over a short period of time, to have a little luck going is not a bad thing.” Why is this quote important? Because it shows us that when we feel like we’re just average, there’s nothing keeping us from taking advantage of a little luck. Many of us are trying to move on from recent events, but if the Red Sox teach us one thing, it’s that no matter how dark things look, we’ll always have a chance to take advantage of a little luck when it presents itself.

Chicago Cubs Fans Truly Appreciate Series Win

When I saw the Chicago Cubs win the NLCS, I quickly looked up ticket and airline prices. My eyes almost fell out of my head when I saw that standing room only tickets started at $1500-2000. I kept looking though and eventually found a ticket I could afford. So on Saturday, October 29th, I flew to Chicago to see Game 4 of the 2016 World Series (albeit from a rooftop across the street from Wrigley). Although I’m not a Cubs fan, I had to be there. Only a Red Sox fan could appreciate the pain Chicago Cubs fans truly had endured for so long. Or so I thought.

Cubs fans stuffed the airplane to Chicago. Hats, jerseys, and t-shirts with the CubsChicago Cubs Fans truly emblem adorned fans. An airline attendant told me he could tell that most of them weren’t true fans because their apparel looked too new (Thank God I was wearing a well-worn Cubs hat). As I embarked into Chicago via the subway, I talked to hordes of Cubs fans from Arizona, North Carolina, and Louisiana. A man from South Carolina told me he was a diehard fan who flew in just for the day. “I’m not even going to the game,” he told me. “I’m just going to watch the game in a bar and fly out later tonight.” That’s true determination.

I arrived at a very crowded Wrigley Field at 10am that morning. Lines for bars surrounding 1060 West Addison stretched around the block. Those waiting seemed unfazed by the $100-200 cover charge. After spending most of my budget on a ticket and airfare, I declined to stand in line for 2-3 hours. I eventually found a bar two blocks away charging $10 to get in. I didn’t want to pay anything, but my need for cold beer and a bathroom overwhelmed my self-protest.

Being a Red Sox Fan Doesn’t Mean You Understand Chicago Cubs Fans

While I sipped on a Molson Canadian and talked to a group of fans from Nebraska I pondered something. Although I’m a Red Sox fan who understands the pain of waiting 80+ years for a World Series win, I don’t think I can understand what this means for Chicago. I went there thinking that I’d easily relate to them. To a certain degree, I do. But in talking to fans from around the nation, I saw they were different from Red Sox fans. The Red Sox came close to victory more than once. The Cubs, however, hadn’t seen a World Series since 1945. Red Sox fans grimace when they think about Bill Buckner, but Chicago will always wince when they think about Steve Bartman. Red Sox pain lasted 86 years. But Chicago Cubs fans truly understand that pain because it lasted well over a century.

Or Maybe Chicago Cubs Fans Truly Relate to Red Sox Fans

Tony Rossi, a Boston native living in Chicago, can’t get enough of the Cubs and baseball. “What I love about the Cubs is that they offer a baseball experience very similar to that of the Red Sox,” Rossi told me. “You catch a game and it’s all about baseball. Wrigley and Fenway keep it about baseball.”

One thing’s for sure. Cubs and Red Sox fans get along with each other pretty well because of the drought both fan bases experienced. For Red Sox fans like Rossi living in Chicago, home is only a block away. “Being a Red Sox fan in Chicago, I miss being able to go to Fenway as much as I used to. Living up the street from Wrigley Field has helped.”

Despite ALDS Loss, Red Sox Had a Good Year

This is the point in the season where fans of eliminated teams start to complain about what went wrong. I’ll admit I’m one of those fans, but I also like to look at what went right. Let’s admit it, despite the ALDS loss, the Red Sox had a great year. They overcame inconsistent managing from John Farrell. They overcame Clay Buchholz’s shoddy pitching.  And they overcame setbacks from a flawed bullpen. Was it enough to advance to the ALCS? Unfortunately, no. This doesn’t mean, however, that the Red Sox won’t play well next season. If anything, I expect them to do even better in 2017.

I stood along those who called for John Farrell’s termination. His decisions to leaveALDS Loss certain pitchers in the game, insert questionable pinch hitters in clutch situations, and his general failure to take advantage of bases-loaded situations left me wondering what he was thinking half the time. But by September the team came together. The Red Sox won eleven in a row. Clay Buchholz evened out. But focusing on Farrell and Buchholz made a lot of fans overlook the improvements other Red Sox players made this season, notably Hanley Ramirez, Jackie Bradley Jr., and Rick Porcello.

Despite ALDS Loss, Many Red Sox Were Winners This Season

How many of us prayed the Red Sox would unload Ramirez before the start to the 2016 season? His dismal 2015 season included a .249 and only 53 RBIs. His performance in left field was like something out of a horror movie. So I wasn’t the only one who groaned when the Red Sox converted him to a first baseman. Much to everyone’s (and my) surprise, Ramirez had a fantastic year! A respectable .286 average, 30 home runs, and 111 RBIs significantly contributed to clinching the AL East. His .996 fielding percentage was even more astounding (he made only 4 errors at first base). It wouldn’t surprise me to see Ramirez snag a Gold Glove Award. Speaking of Gold Gloves…

Looking at Jackie Bradley Jr.’s fantastic center field performance is another way to forget about the ALDS loss. I loved seeing opposing base runners hesitate to advance when they saw Bradley Jr. snag the ball and wind up to fire it back into the infield. Most baserunners didn’t fear Mookie Betts or Brock Holt as much as they feared Jackie. His cannon arm will hopefully lead to his first Gold Glove Award.

Who saw Rick Porcello becoming a 20-game winner this season? I certainly didn’t. Everyone expected David Price to run away with 20 wins and a Cy Young Award. His rough start to the season and inclination to give up home runs at the worse times put him in Porcello’s shadow though. Now that we know what he’s capable of, Porcello will likely become the Red Sox new ace.

There’s Always Next Season

Don’t worry. An ALDS loss doesn’t mean the Red Sox won’t bounce back next season. If anything, now that we know what their players are capable of doing, I’m expecting to see players like Porcello, Bradley Jr., and Ramirez to play even better next season.

Indians Closely Studied Red Sox Pitching

Like many Boston fans, I thought the Red Sox would steam roll over the Indians in Cleveland before coming back Boston to clinch the ALDS. Rick Porcello and David Price gave us little reason to think otherwise. Unfortunately, that plan fell through. Porcello gave up three home runs in the third inning of Game One for a 5-4 Tribe win. After allowing the Indians to blank the Sox 6-0, Price reinforced the “Can’t pitch in the postseason” stereotype in Game 2. Its clear the Indians studied Red Sox pitching very closely before the ALDS began.

Some people are surprised the Red Sox lost the first two games. I am too, but not for theStudied Red Sox Pitching same reasons. David Price doesn’t have a great post season record. He has a 2-8 record with a 5.54 ERA in the post season. Rick Porcello is 0-3 with a 5.66 ERA in post season play. So it’s no wonder they struggled, especially with a combined 2-11 post season record. That leaves few other options in the rotation though. Steven Wright isn’t available for the ALDS, but he is for the ALCS. Clay Buchholz has a 0-0 record with a 4.21 ERA in post season play. So how did the Indians learn so much about the Red Sox pitching staff? That’s easy. Terry Francona.

Francona managed the Red Sox from 2004 to 201, leading them to two World Series Championships. He managed David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, and Clay Buchholz. He knows their strengths and weaknesses. Unfortunately for the Red Sox, it’s that knowledge that might very well guide the Cleveland Indians to victory. This situation is just one more reason why the Red Sox shouldn’t have let him go in 2011.

Indians Studied Red Sox Pitching, But That’s Not All They Studied

In addition to the pitching, many thought the entire team wasn’t ready for post season play. The team is enthusiastic but young. The stress and excitement is straining them. Some of they players couldn’t even legally drink a year ago. So of course they’re going to have a hard time in the playoffs. That’s not an excuse, it’s just reality.

Like the Chicago Cubs of last year, Red Sox are seeing a glimpse of that potential that makes them a fun team to watch. Also like the Cubs of last year, the Red Sox are struggling in the post season. If the Red Sox manage to beat back the Tribe this year and advance to the ALCS, then all the more power to them. I’ll be in the stands cheering my head off with everyone else. Regardless of this season, I honestly think that next year’s Red Sox team will play much better next year given all they’ve learned this year. They’ll have more experience, their pitchers will pitch better, and their hitters will know how to hit opposing pitchers better.

So even though the Indians studied Red Sox pitching well enough to gain an advantage over them this season, they’ll end this season with new knowledge that will make them a better team next year.

Pedroia, Not Ortiz, is the Red Sox Backbone

David Ortiz received a tremendous amount of attention this season due to his retirement. A bridge bears his name, he’s a member of the 500 HR Club, and he’s a true humanitarian. Ortiz, however, has certainly overshadowed his teammates, specifically Dustin Pedroia. As the Red Sox Backbone, Pedroia, not Ortiz, is the team’s true leader.

Players like Pedroia are a rarity in baseball today. He’s a man who comes to the ballparkred sox backbone ready to play no matter what. He doesn’t hesitate to admonish other players. He plays with an intensity hardly seen in other ballplayers. That’s not to say other ballplayers don’t work hard or care about the game. The difference though is that Pedroia is ALWAYS in this frame of mind. Whether you see him on or off the field, or before or after a game, the man constantly focuses on winning.

Pedroia a beast. He won the 2007 AL Rookie of the Year and a World Series title. He won the AL MVP Award the following season and took home a Silver Slugger, and Gold Glove Award. The four-time All-Star, and four-time Gold Glove winner collected 201 hits this season. At the age of 33, when many players are seeing their abilities deteriorate, Pedroia’s are holding steady. It’s not just his accolades and numbers that make him such a good player though. It’s his ability to motivate his teammates that makes him the Red Sox backbone.

David Ortiz is a Red Sox Legend, But Pedroia is the Red Sox Backbone

Regardless of whether the Red Sox win the World Series this year, Pedroia is clearly on his way to achieving legendary status. While largely responsible for the Red Sox success, Pedroia contributes to the success of others, too. Red Sox rookie Andrew Benintendi currently lives with Pedroia, who couldn’t be a more perfect mentor. Pedroia is not afraid to have “Come to Jesus” meetings on the mound with Eduardo Rodriguez. When it comes to breaking records, it’s clear that Pedroia cares more about success than personal gain.

Pedroia Doesn’t Care About Records

When Pedroia came within a hair’s breath of tying MLB’s consecutive hits record this season (which is 12), the second baseman didn’t give it much attention. “I heard something, but I didn’t know what it was,” Pedroia told CBS Sports. “I was going to the bathroom, and I heard them say it on TV. I didn’t really catch what they were saying.” In fact, Pedroia doesn’t have much tolerance for trivial matters. When told that he had a 16-game hitting streak going, Pedroia didn’t care. “I don’t give a $#!t,” he told Boston Herald’s Jason Mastrodonato. “I’m just playing the game. That’s my job, to go out there and play and help us win games.”

Like Bobby Doerr before him, Pedroia brings a quiet but forceful intensity to the game. And like Doerr, there’s no doubt that Pedroia will one day get inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame where he will join other Red Sox legends, including David Ortiz.

Discipline Key To Red Sox World Series Title

The Boston Red Sox overcame poor press and play over the last two seasons to break into the playoffs. This 2016 season saw many ups and downs. We saw strong pitching from Rick Porcello, and weak pitching from Clay Buchholz. We saw strong hitting from Hanley Ramirez, and weak hitting from Aaron Hill. And we saw strong fielding from Dustin Pedrioa, and weak fielding from Travis Shaw. The weaknesses didn’t come anywhere near overshadowing the successes the Red Sox had this season though. Ramirez redeemed his weak 2015 performance as a clutch hitter. Porcello emerged as a Cy Young favorite. And last, but not least, David Ortiz is retiring after perhaps the best season of his career. In order to gain another Red Sox World Series Title though, the team will have to focus on strengthening its discipline.

The Boston Red Sox led the American League with 878 runs this season. The team alsoRed Sox World Series Title led the league with a .282 batting average and a .348 on-base percentage. Despite these remarkable numbers, the Red Sox also led the American League in leaving runners in scoring position per game (3.63) and runners left on base per game (7.17). Despite their strong offensive numbers, these last two stats aren’t anything to be proud of. One of the most frustrating things about this season was how the Red Sox blew multiple opportunities to bring runners home. More than once the Red Sox loaded the bases with no outs only to rack up three outs without driving anyone home. Instead of cheers, Red Sox Nation responded with boos and grunts as they left Fenway Park in frustration.

A Red Sox World Series Title Depends On Plate Discipline

The Red Sox are more than capable of driving in runs, and rallying from behind. Hanley Ramirez proved that he’s a valuable clutch hitter. David Ortiz, going into his final days as a player, tied for the most RBIs this season, and should have plenty of experience and ability to rack up a few more runs. The problem will be with players who don’t have a lot of post season experience. The stakes are high (as they always are in a playoff series) but that has to be taken more seriously than ever. Players like Sandy Leon, Aaron Hill, Travis Shaw, and even Xander Bogaerts have to learn how to stay patient at the plate and wait for the right pitch. That’s an easy thing for me to say though because it’s not me up there hitting. Regardless, these small moments will make or break the Red Sox.

Getting guys on base is what the Red Sox do well. Bringing them home is another story. If we want to see another Red Sox World Series Title, the players have to buckle down on plate discipline, and stay patient. That’s how Boston will get to see another victory parade.