Even singing “New York, New York” amid the spraying champagne.
Got to hand it to these Red Sox. Not only are they supremely talented, with a deep, flexible roster and the sport’s highest payroll at $238 million, but this group of Boston strongmen is overflowing with something else every bit as important.
Call it whatever you like: character, tenacity, courage, defiance or guts. The Red Sox didn’t lose very often this season, and they don’t forget (cheers, Aaron Judge). Take a swipe at them, they’ll smack you back twice as hard, rip out your heart and look for who’s next.
With Sunday night’s Game 5 clincher over the Dodgers, a 5-1 victory at Dodger Stadium that looked too easy, the Red Sox earned their fourth World Series title in 15 seasons. They also notched win No. 119 for 2018, second only to the Yankees’ record 125 in 1998.
Those are numbers reserved for the truly special teams, the history-makers, the legends. And now the Red Sox live in that rarefied air, with no plans on coming down anytime soon.
The Red Sox ended The Curse of the Bambino by winning the 2004 World Series — their first championship since 1918 — and the franchise that used to exist as the Yankees’ little brother now has outgrown that role. It’s a reversal that could haunt the Bronx for a while.
“Boston, we’re bringing the trophy back home!” said a jubilant J.D. Martinez, the crown jewel of last winter’s free-agent signings, who homered Sunday in the seventh inning. “That was the plan from the beginning.”
Only those ’98 Yankees followed a blueprint so brilliantly, from start to finish. General manager Dave Dombrowski had no shortage of cash to spend, but he also was smart enough to trade for Steve Pearce and Nathan Eovaldi, two midseason pickups who were essential to this Red October. All Pearce did was earn World Series MVP honors after homering twice in Game 5. Eovaldi, after his iron man effort in Game 3, is going to have a whole new generation of Sox fans named Nathan in his honor.
Top to bottom, everybody stepped up in a big way,” said reliever Joe Kelly, who had a 0.79 ERA in nine appearances. “That’s a complete team right there. We understood that this was going to be our year no matter what.”
At the very top was rookie manager Alex Cora, the former Astros bench coach who won last year’s ring on the same Dodger Stadium turf. His return to Chavez Ravine wound up having a true Hollywood ending, as Cora could do no wrong this October, carrying himself as if he were born for this role.
As soon as he arrived in Boston, maybe his fate was predetermined. Three of the past four titles have been won by managers in their first year with the Sox, the others being Terry Francona (’04) and John Farrell (’13).
“First of all, they gave me a chance,” Cora said. “They saw me as a capable manager and gave me a chance. It wasn’t as easy as what people think. But it starts with talent and it starts with ownership.”
In the eyes of his players, however, Cora deserves more credit than he was willing to give himself. As the Boston manager was handed the trophy on a stage set up on the pitcher’s mound, thousands of Red Sox fans began chanting, “Co-ra! Co-ra!”
Down on the field, the lovefest for him continued.
“No one has ever second-guessed Alex, from the first month,” Kelly said. “He’s just an unbelievable human being in general.”
And for those who enjoy redemption stories, there was David Price’s amazing October revival and even a memorable Game 5 cameo for enigmatic ace Chris Sale.
Price began this month as a playoff pariah, winless (0-9) in 11 starts, before clinching the ALCS in Houston and then winning two World Series starts. He deserved at least a share of the MVP with Pearce, but he didn’t seem to mind. His performance was its own reward, as was the trophy Price talked so much about holding one day.
“For all the haters, it’s time to be quiet,” Martinez said. “The real David Price showed up tonight.”
Bringing in Sale to close was another nice touch by Cora after he had to bump the injured ace yet again. Sale responded by striking out the side in the ninth, and the final victim was Manny Machado, whose flailing swing at a wicked slider ended the game with him on his knees.
For those already fitting Machado for pinstripes this winter, that was a memorable image. The Red Sox accomplished their mission this season. But the scary thing is, they’re far from finished.