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— Where Thinking Red Sox Fans Obsess about the Sox

Friday, October 22, 2021

What a Ride

Well that was a hell of a ride wasn’t it?  I guess it had to end at some point but my goodness you can’t ask for much more. Beyond that they are incredibly well situated for the future.  Chaim Bloom’s work to rebuild the system is proceeding apace and two years after trading one of the great players in franchise history, a move so many of us saw as a harbinger of disaster, that they’ve returned to the LCS should tell us that this team that has been so brilliant for the last two decades is going to be causing problems for the rest of MLB for quite some time.

But this season.  Man what a thrill ride.  92 regular season wins including an absolutely epic game on the final day of the season with everything on the line that was in many ways the exact opposite of the horrors of 2011.
Then it was onto the playoffs.  We were realistic, they would probably lose to the third place Yankees in the Wild Card game…except they didn’t.  Instead they punched the Yanks square in the nose in the first inning and were never headed.

Then they would probably lose to the Rays in the ALDS and after a game one where they simply got outplayed in every facet and fell behind early in game it looked that way.  Instead the exploded for a memorable rout then gave us two genuinely memorable walkoff victories the next two nights.  The ride finally ended in the LCS but not before some history and some drama there too.
The Boston Red Sox gave us a terrific and fun season and it is hard not to feel like the future is bright.   I’ll throw some stuff up this week sometime to start looking at the off-season and the future but for today, let’s just enjoy a bit of a look back at a fun year.
MVP – Rafael Devers – He may have “only” been fourth in WAR but he still had a great year and obviously he came through when it mattered most.  The great thing about Devers is his kind of Adrian Beltre-lite approach.  The smiling, the dancing in the box, those deep breaths that remind me of the ten year olds I coach, he’s a fun dude.
Cy Young – Nathan Eovaldi – What a year for Not That Nasty Nate.  Health has been a long term issue for him but this year he took the ball 32 times giving Alex Cora that stablizing starter he so desperately needed and then did Nate Eovaldi things in the playoffs as well right to the very end.
Biggest Surprise – In Season Acquisitions – Chaim Bloom took some heat for his perceived inaction at the deadline  but to his credit the Sox wound up benefitting greatly.  Kyle Schwahbah became a stud in the middle of the lineup and I think most Sox fans are hopeful for a return.  Austin Davis and Hansel Robles weren’t great but they had their moments and the cost for them was virtually nil.
On top of those guys were the much less heralded but equally important additions of Travis Shaw and Jose Iglesias.  The Sox don’t make the playoffs without them.
Biggest Disappointment – Matt Barnes - I think that an All Star is the biggest disappointment is a pretty good indicator of the type of season this was.  But after the great first half and the extension signed seeing him completely fall apart in the second half was fairly disheartening.  But really I spent more time than I care to admit here and it’s hard to think of someone or something that truly disappointed me on this team.
Much Ado About Nothing – The Suspension – I have to say I’m shocked at how little discussion or distraction was generated by Alex Cora’s return.  I thought it would be a bigger issue but it never really seemed to come up.  I suspect a lot of that is Cora owning his missteps.  There are fair criticisms of him but he never tried to blame others publicly.
Minor Leaguer of the Year – Nick Yorke –I think we can look at that 2020 draft as being a real smash hit for Chaim Bloom.  Yorke was a heavily criticized pick for reasons of both skill and finance but he has shown himself to be a legitimate prospect and while the Sox undoubtedly saved money signing him they used those funds to sign Blaze Jordan who also had an excellent year.
Regular Season Games of the Year;
April 6 – TB 5 at Boston 6 (12) – The Sox were six outs from 1-5 but a run in the 8th and a homer by Vazquez in the ninth tied it.  They traded runs in the 11th then in the 12th with two outs Martinez doubled to win it.
May 20 – Boston 8 at TOR 7 – A wild back and forth affair had the Sox down to their final out but JD Martinez took Rafael Dolis deep.  A strikeout there and the Sox do not have October baseball.
June 4 – Boston 5 at NYY 2 – The Sox threw down their marker in the first Yankee game of the season with a Devers 3 run homer in the first inning jumping the Sox in front.  Nathan Eovaldi was brilliant and Hiro Sawamura and Matt Barnes closed it out.
June 14 – TOR 1 at Boston 2 – One day after a humiliating 18-4 loss the Sox were one out from a 1-0 victory when Vladimir Guerrero took Matt Barnes deep.  The Sox didn’t mess around bouncing right back with a couple of singles and Devers winning it with a rocket off the wall.
July 2 – Boston 3 at OAK 2 (10) – Another of those games that would prove critical.  The Sox lost a 2-1 lead in the ninth when Elvis Andrus homered off Barnes.  Kiké singled for a 3-2 lead in the top of the 10th then in the bottom of the inning made a spectacular threw to gun down Seth Brown to save the day.
July 25 – NYY 4 at Boston 5 – 4-0, bottom of the 8th and domestic abuser Domingo German rolling with a no hitter.  20 minutes later it was 5-4 Sox and Matt Barnes closed it out for the stunning victory.
August 7 – Boston 2 at TOR 1 (8) – The Sox had hit their first real skid of the year and had already lost game one of the double dip.  Alex Verdugo homered off Jose Berrios in the fifth to tie it and Jonathan Arauz’ single gave the Sox the lead.  Adam Ottavino closed it out.
August 23 – TEX 4 at Boston 8 (11) – Another blown save game as the Rangers tied things up in the 9th and were one out from victory in the 10th when Devers doubled home Bogaerts.  After a scoreless top of the 11th the Sox loaded the bases with one out and Travis Shaw delivered his first hit of his return with a grand slam to walk the Sox off.
August 24 – MINN 9 at Boston 11 – This was a harbinger of what September would hold for the Sox.  Up big the Sox gassed bullpen let the Twins back in the game.  Up 11-8 in the ninth Barnes had nothing allowing a homer to Donaldson and back to back walks.  In came Robles and two strike outs and a soft liner later the Sox had a wild win.
August 27 – Boston 4 at CLE 3 – Down 3-1 in the 8th the Sox put their first two runners on.  Jonathan Arauz tried once, twice, to get a bunt down and failed.  So like all great sluggers he then rocketed a three run homer into the right field stands.  Sure, sure.
September 8 – TB 1 at Boston 2 – A pitchers’ duel went to the 8th scoreless.  A Nelson Cruz single put the Rays up 1-0 but Hunter Renfree was going to truck no nonsense.  He demolished a two run homer for a 2-1 lead.  With two outs in the ninth a Joey Wendle drive was aided by a misplay by Danny Santana and looked like a triple.  Did I mention Hunter Renfroe? Yeah, he unloaded the throw of the year and third baseman Bobby Dalbec put the tag on to end the game.
September 15 – Boston 9 at SEA 4 (10) – The last in our occasional series “a lot bigger than we thought.”  After some early runs had the score 3-3 the clubs went into pitching mode and the score stayed that way into the 10th.  The Sox bats erupted in the top of that frame for six runs and took the drama away quickly.
Three Days in Washington;
Boston 4 at WAS 2
Boston 5 at WAS 3
Boston 7 at WAS 5

Yeesh.  They didn’t make it easy did they?  It was a wild weekend with the Nationals giving the Sox everything and then some.  Red Sox pitchers did a masterful job with Juan Soto (0 for 8 with 5BB) and the bats did juuuuuust enough.  The offense got contributions from odd places with Christian Vazquez’ big double the blow on Saturday and Jose Iglesias’ single leading to a key run (thanks to Verdugo hustling into second an infield grounder).
But the hero was of course that man Devers with his solo homer, an RBI single and then the biggest hit of the season his towering homer to center in the ninth.

Then it was onto the playoffs.  All the fun, all the drama, eventually they lost to a better team but hot damn it was a great ride.

Jose Has Absurd Goosebump Arms Posted: October 22, 2021 at 11:27 PM | 20 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. Jose Has Absurd Goosebump Arms Posted: October 22, 2021 at 11:52 PM (#6048508)
Just a little thing, I’ll do something more forward looking next week once I’ve had some time to process and we can think about that then. For now, I just want to enjoy this ride for a few more days.
   2. MuttsIdolCochrane Posted: October 23, 2021 at 05:22 AM (#6048517)
Great ALCS. Cheaters vs Cheaters.
   3. John DiFool2 Posted: October 23, 2021 at 10:07 AM (#6048521)
Momentum means nada (I mean we already knew that), not after setting 2 postseason records, the 3 grand slams one, and the one for most consecutive postseason games w/ 10 hits...

Only to get exactly 10 hits over the last 3 games, 3 runs. How tf do you score FOUR runs with one swing three times, but then only get 3 runs in 27 innings?

When someone manages to figure this sport out, please let me know.
   4. Jose Has Absurd Goosebump Arms Posted: October 23, 2021 at 10:41 AM (#6048529)
Crazy isn't it? The bats just got real quiet all of a sudden. Alvarez obviously was the right choice as MVP but the job Javier did in relief in game four can't be overstated. Not sure what clicked there but he really put the brakes on. Funny thing is up until Tucker's homer in the 8th I thought the Sox were coming back. All year every time they had a dip they bounced back. Unfortunately they just ran out of time. In a game or two they'd have been back scoring 8-9 runs.
   5. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: October 23, 2021 at 11:49 AM (#6048538)
I was rooting for the Astros more than I was rooting against the Red Sox. The Sox had a hell of a run, and Tessie would be proud of them. And I'll bet the Yankees and the Rays wish they hadn't given up on Eovaldi.

Great ALCS. Cheaters vs Cheaters.

"Houston was not the only team doing stuff.."

Oakland pitcher Chris Bassitt opened up about sign-stealing in the league and said it was league wide.

He also said Houston was the "guinea pig" to clean the whole league up.
   6. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: October 23, 2021 at 11:55 AM (#6048540)
When someone manages to figure this sport out, please let me know.

I'll figure it out after I've figured out this.
   7. Rough Carrigan Posted: October 23, 2021 at 12:39 PM (#6048542)
Thank you, Jose.
   8. The Mighty Quintana Posted: October 23, 2021 at 12:40 PM (#6048543)
I have terrific faith in the direction of franchise under Bloom, was not the case under Dombroski. Getting guys like Arroyo and Pivetta on the cheap are they type of moves other teams (TB,Oak) always seemed to make. I still like Verdugo, but a lot less than last year. His mobility seemed to diminish, hopefully there is a power jump with the added weight next year. Had high hopes for Duran, but maybe he just needed some adversity to kick start his career. I liken him to Tyler Naquin, things came really easy in minors for them. But once humbled in majors, Naquin has become a valuable outfielder.
   9. The Yankee Clapper Posted: October 23, 2021 at 02:13 PM (#6048551)
Kyle Schwahbah became a stud in the middle of the lineup and I think most Sox fans are hopeful for a return.
If you pay him, he will stay. Probably. Won’t be cheap, and he’d overlap with J. D. Martinez’s similar skill set for a season, but lots of teams should see him as their best DH option, who can play some LF, too. The 1st base experiment doesn’t seem like a long term option.
   10. Jay Seaver Posted: October 24, 2021 at 12:44 AM (#6048685)
he’d overlap with J. D. Martinez’s similar skill set for a season, but lots of teams should see him as their best DH option, who can play some LF, too

I'm trying to convince myself that Bloom would basically see him as a replacement for Renfroe next year (moving Verdugo from LF to RF) before he takes over for J.D. It maybe gets crowded if Jarren Duran is really ready next year, but I don't know how likely that is.
   11. pikepredator Posted: October 24, 2021 at 07:47 PM (#6048748)
Nice write-up, Jose. It was a fun season from start to finish, truly a roller coaster. It ended in the ALCS and that is what really matters, not how the ALCS ended. I am satisfied and thoroughly enjoyed the ride.
   12. Phil Coorey. Posted: October 24, 2021 at 09:57 PM (#6048772)
Great write up, Jose. Hoping all are well. What a ride that was
   13. villageidiom Posted: October 25, 2021 at 08:40 AM (#6048801)
Phil! It's always good when Phil's around.
   14. Jose Has Absurd Goosebump Arms Posted: October 25, 2021 at 08:43 AM (#6048802)
Indeed! Hope you and yours are well.
   15. Nasty Nate Posted: October 25, 2021 at 08:55 AM (#6048804)
Thanks for all the Sox Therapy writing this year, Jose!
   16. Nasty Nate Posted: October 25, 2021 at 09:01 AM (#6048805)
The Sox ended last year 5th in the AL East. They end this year having beaten Baltimore and Toronto in the regular season, and equaled New York. And then they beat New York and Tampa in the playoffs to stake a claim at the top of the division.
   17. Steve Balboni's Personal Trainer Posted: October 25, 2021 at 09:08 AM (#6048807)
First, thanks to all of you (and especially Jose!) for helping make a really fun year of baseball even better. For a variety of reasons, I followed the Red Sox more closely on a day-to-day basis than I have since at least the mid-2000s, probably. I have heard others (including noted Red Sox fan Bill Simmons) say the exact same thing lately, and was wondering why. I think there are a few factors (in no particular order), and I'm wondering if any of you experienced something similar:

1) The team was really easy to like. Expectations were pretty low, but they came out of the gate quickly in April, with a bunch of guys who were generally very likable. Then, the team was so strong through about 90 games that it virtually insured that they would be in the playoff conversation to the final days, which is inherently pretty fun.

2) COVID. Like everything, COVID impacted baseball viewing in ways I could have anticipated. First, it turned out not watching any baseball in 2020 helped create some new longing for the sport in 2021. Second, even though my family is vaccinated, and we live in a part of the country that has been less pounded by the virus than many other places, our behavior has changed in ways for the long-term. We work from home most of the time now; there is no commute (and it is a game changer, in terms of quality of life). Life feels a little bit slower, as a consequence. I used to go the gym most days - now, because we bought some of the equipment during the pandemic, I am home to exercise. That saved close to 30 minutes, round trip, to get to the gym and back, change into gym clothes, etc. It means by 7:30pm a lot of nights, we are home, done for the day, and it feels less rushed. It is an amazing combination of "small" changes that equal an overall improvement in quality of life - and some of that time went into being able to watch some baseball. (Now, if only the games could be done in 2:40 or less most nights!)

3) There's a narrative that locks you in, as a fan. Chaim Bloom and the team have developed a clear plan of action, which appears to be ahead of schedule: Rebuild the team for sustained long-term success, basically with a Rays-type model of evaluating talent, but with a lot of money, deep history, and a rabid fan base. Watching a smart, well-articulated plan come into shape is interesting to watch, even if the team had won only 80 games this year. It made following the minor league system a lot of fun - good reading material, good video on Twitter, good conversations on is a lot of good content about players that are helping us build a relationship with these future Red Sox even before they get to Boston. I mean, I feel like I know a lot of Casas and Yorke; I am very excited to follow Mayer's progress the next few years. Did Jay Groome figure it out? Are Josh Winckowski or Connor Seabold guys who can help out in the next few years? Even stuff like, "Who is Bloom looking at in the Rule V draft *this* off-season?" is kind of interesting now, because of the success he had with Whitlock this year.

4) The Patriots coming back to Earth. I am optimistic that New England has found a QB, and is developing a good team around Mac Jones - and I think they may be a playoff team this year, after all. That said, the fact the team was not terribly successful last year, and was clearly at the beginning of a rebuild, meant that a) the season ended a lot earlier than it has for 20 years; b) the media attention dispersed a little bit to the other teams; and c) I just invested less energy in the Pats than I had since 2000. The Celtics taking a step back last year had a smaller, but similar, effect. I love the Bruins, but that is less of a year-round passion.

5) The stress of life. This is sort of a COVID thing, I guess, but my wife noticed that the only time I pull out my baseball cards from the 70s and early 80s to maybe complete a few old sets or something is when I am looking for comfort - a return to some of my best memories of childhood. In the last few years, between tumult and uncertainty caused by COVID, national politics, the loss of family, economic uncertainty, my oldest daughter leaving for college and missing her, and other factors, watching the Red Sox in a renewed, passionate, day-to-day way has acted as a comfortable place, much like the baseball cards did. I thought that, as I got older, I would care less about the Red Sox, and while my kids were younger and life was so busy, they did take a reduced role during much of the 2010s. But as we get to the other side of that part of life, and with COVID dramatically reshuffling the deck, I'm finding myself coming back to the Red Sox as a source of comfort, relaxation, intellectual stimulation, and even camaraderie with fellow fans.

I genuinely didn't see this coming, but I am grateful for it - and grateful to the team for their efforts in 2021. Here's to something we can all look forward to in 2022, as well!
   18. Darren Posted: October 25, 2021 at 01:57 PM (#6048912)
MVP – Rafael Devers – He may have “only” been fourth in WAR but he still had a great year and obviously he came through when it mattered most. The great thing about Devers is his kind of Adrian Beltre-lite approach. The smiling, the dancing in the box, those deep breaths that remind me of the ten year olds I coach, he’s a fun dude.

Fun dude? FUN DUDE??? We're here to be thinking fans, not have fun. :)

If we want to go beyond the raw numbers for MVP, I'd go with Hernandez. 4.9 WAR is impressive in its own right, but his ability to play both CF and 2B gave the Red Sox the flexibility maximize matchups and cover up for injuries. Oh, and he's fun!
   19. Phil Coorey. Posted: October 25, 2021 at 09:30 PM (#6049021)
Phil! It's always good when Phil's around.

Miss you all! Hopefully moving forward some more commenting here, it's not right not being here.
   20. villageidiom Posted: October 25, 2021 at 09:37 PM (#6049025)
To be fair, anyone who's here isn't entirely right.

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