By Dick Flavin
Boston Red Sox Poet Laureate
and New York Times Best Selling Author
SO FAR, SO GOOD
So far, so good.
There you have it, my unvarnished, tell-it-like-it-is opinion of the 2018 edition of the
Boston Red Sox. After almost eighty percent of the regular season has been completed,
the Red Sox are on track to win the American League East championship with the most
victories in team history. Mookie Betts is having an MVP season, unless, that is, he is
beaten out by J.D. Martinez, who is way better than anyone could have hoped. Chris Sale
is Chris Sale, in other words, the best pitcher in the league. Everyone else is pulling his
weight. Alex Cora has a firm hand on the tiller. What could go wrong?
Plenty could go wrong. Anyone remember 2011? The Red Sox went steaming into
September with a nine game lead, well on their way to a one hundred plus win season.
There was even talk in the media that the 2011 Sox might be the greatest team in baseball
history, eclipsing even the 1927 New York Yankees. Remember?
Then – it still brings a tear to the eye just thinking about it – they didn’t even make the
playoffs! The team went seven and twenty in September. There were stories about beer
and take-out chicken in the clubhouse during games. The wreckage cost the manager his
job. It sent the general manager scurrying to Chicago. The meltdown was encapsulated in
the final play of the season, when a line drive somehow eluded the grasp of the immortal
Carl Crawford, who used to torture the Red Sox while wearing a Tampa Bay uniform –
then tortured us even more while wearing a Red Sox uniform.
The lesson is this: it ain’t over til it’s over. And the 2018 season ain’t over by a longshot.
It’s not that anyone’s predicting a stink bomb like 2011, but there is still a way to go.
Besides, it’s fruitless to rate teams until the season, and especially the post-season, are
The 2004 Red Sox were a great team, one for the ages. But they didn’t even win the
American League East that year. Nobody would have rated them as great while the dog
days of August were playing out. They were the wild-card team, but what they did in the
post-season, particularly their comeback from an 0 and 3 deficit against the Yankees,
cemented their greatness.
The 2001 Seattle Mariners are another story. They had 116 wins versus only 46 losses, 70
games over .500. Imagine that! But they didn’t even make it to the World Series, having
been bumped off by the dreaded Yankees in 5 games in the ALCS. The 1906 Cubs also
had 116 victories and they lost only 36 times. They did make it to the series because there
were no playoffs in those days, but they lost to their cross-town rivals, the White Sox in 6
games. Great teams win championships. By that standard the 2001 Mariners and the 1906
Cubs, co-holders of the all-time record for most victories in a season, were not great.
The most talented teams are not always the great ones. No one ever accused the 2013 Red
Sox of being more talented than that year’s edition of the Detroit Tigers, who had both
Justin Verlander and Max Sherzer in the starting rotation and Miguel Cabrera and Prince
Fielder still at the top of their game, to say nothing of Torii Hunter in the outfield. But the
Red Sox had the better team and the hot hand. And they won.
So it’s still too early to tell what the final ranking of these Red Sox will be, but, as I so
bravely pointed out at the outset, so far, so good.
This edition of the Red Sox has been terrific - so far. They know how to play, they know
how to win, and they are great fun to watch. It was only last February that there was great
wringing of hands and gnashing of teeth when the Yankees landed Giancarlo Stanton
and his huge salary while the Red Sox had to wait until March before signing J.D.
Martinez. “There’s no comparison between the two,” the doomsayers were wailing. They
were right, but they bet on the wrong horse. Martinez has led the majors all season in
home runs and runs batted in and has been challenging for the lead in batting average.
Stanton has been good but nowhere near that good.
And, of course, there is Mookie. It’s a joy just to watch him play and to see the joy that
he gets from the game. He hits, he runs, he fields, he throws. My God, he’s good - check
that - he’s great.
Alex Cora hasn’t had any mayor crises to deal with, but isn’t that the sign of a good
manager, someone who can put fires out before they cause any damage? He’s the leader
of a happy team with everyone pulling in the same direction, and he deserves credit for
Whoever thought that the Sox would be in the position they are in without the services of
Dustin Pedroia? Not me, I’ll admit. The Red Sox have managed to procure an adequate
replacement in Ian Kinsler, but I worry about Pedroia, who has been such a warrior over
the years. He’s been able to play in only three games all season, he’s not going to play in
any more, and that’s not the worst of it. He underwent cartilage restoration surgery after
the 2017 season, the same type of surgery that Stephen Wright underwent back in May,
2017. It’s fifteen months since Wright’s procedure and he still suffers from knee
inflamation similar to that which plagues Pedroia. Fifteen months is a long time. It leads
one to wonder if either Pedroia or Wright will ever be the same again.
Other than that, enjoy the ride.
Note: The late Clark Booth was unique among television journalists in that he eschewed
the limelight. We all knew that he was a great reporter and that he wrote better than any
of us. We envied his talent and admired his work ethic, but we never resented him
because he never drew attention to himself. He let his work speak for itself, and how
eloquently it did. Requiescat in pace.