Bradford: Have we undersold how good this Red Sox team is?

Rob Bradford
October 25, 2018 - 2:49 am

USA Today Sports

We rolled our eyes at those "First to 100 wins" t-shirts. The 108 regular season victories? Nice, but piled up against the weakest American League field in some time. That Yankees team was impressive but still flawed. Houston simply wasn't as good as most thought. And now it's the Dodgers.

What did you expect? Los Angeles is a National League team playing in a climate it clearly wasn't built for. Of course, the Red Sox were going to take both games at Fenway Park before heading to Dodger Stadium.

Sorry, but we have to start looking at these Red Sox in a different light. And maybe they should also take a few moments to look in the mirror as to what this club has evolved into.

This is a team on the cusp of defining itself as historically good. That punctuation will come with two more wins. But with 117 wins under their belts (nine of them coming in 11 postseason chances so far), the Red Sox deserve to have the conversation surfaced.

"It’s one of those things where we’re still in the fight," said the Red Sox' Game 3 starter Rick Porcello after his team's 4-2 Game 2 win over the Dodgers. "There is no opportunity to sit back, look at our team and think about how good we are. If we get two more wins we can start thinking about that sort of things. You let those thoughts creep in you lose track of the task at hand. We have a very high confidence and belief in the talent in this room but there is also an understanding we haven’t done (expletive) until we win two more games. That leaves you in a spot where it’s still a business-like approach until you get that final out and hoist that trophy. None of us are sitting here talking about ourselves until we get it done."

"It is. David (Ortiz) also mentioned that today," said Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts regarding the difficulty of taking stock in how good his team might be. "We have no idea because we’re playing. Guys see it from the outside. We have no idea what we’re doing at this level. But it’s been amazing."

Sure the payroll is huge. And there are stars aplenty, including two position players who figure to land in at least the Top 3 in American League MVP balloting. But even with those items and all the wins, there has always been a hesitancy to suggest Alex Cora's club is something more than a nice story along the lines of what we saw in 2013.

Your No. 3 hitter, Steve Pearce, is a journeyman.

The third baseman, Rafael Devers, would have run away with the Major League lead in errors if not for his hamstring injuries. And his platoon partner, Eduardo Nunez, is viewed by some as a somewhat broken down utility infielder.

They have a starting catcher, Sandy Leon, who is one of the worst offensive performers in baseball this season, with two other backstops -- Christian Vazquez and Blake Swihart -- who show promise but not consistent production.

The postseason run has been lacking the "get on my back boys" starting pitching presence offered in previous World Series runs by guys like Curt Schilling, Josh Beckett and Jon Lester. David Price might be getting there, but when your first two playoff starts go for 1 2/3 innings and 4 2/3 innings that isn't really the blueprint most are looking for.

And then there is the bullpen, considered the most unreliable collection of relievers in the entire postseason field when October rolled around. 

All of it shouldn't add up to what we want to talk about, but it has. 

"For sure, 100 percent," said Nunez when asked if this was one of the best teams he had ever seen, citing the 2010 Yankees as the only one that might be able to match up with the Red Sox. "We can beat you with homers, defense, pitching, base hits, stolen bases. I think we have it all."

"What’s different here? It’s just never give up, man," said Red Sox second baseman Ian Kinsler. "Never-give-up attitude regardless of who scores first, who scores second, how many runs you’re down, how many outs there are, whatever the case may be, who’s on the mound, we understand that the game isn’t over until 27 outs are gotten on one side of the other. And I think that’s a universal understanding in here."

Maybe why the proper credit hasn't come the Red Sox way is because of this is a team that is simply hard to define. Sure, they might open the door for concern and criticism one night, only to shut it right back in your face the next.

Perhaps what the Red Sox represent is simply the team that has figured out how to do what they need to do at the exact times they need to do it. (Doesn't really fit on the bumper stickers, does it?)

When Dodgers' manager Dave Roberts gets up at the podium late Wednesday night to bemoan the fact his team was neck-and-neck with the Red Sox, but just fell short because Cora's team managed to produce at the most important moments it's pretty telling. That's the deal, Dave. You win because you do things like carry the best batting average in postseason history with runners in scoring position and two outs.

So be it. Perhaps the Red Sox will get their just due before heading home from Los Angeles. But until then, let's take a minute to really reflect on what we've been dealing with (even if the team can't ... and won't ... yet).

"I don’t think we are better than what we thought we could be. Baseball in general, especially nowadays, is a pretty inexact science," Porcello pointed out. "It’s hard to predict what’s going to happen. You always have that in the back of your mind no matter how juicy the matchup looks and if it’s in your favor, it still has to play out on the field. Until that happens there’s no resting easy. It’s hard to answer those questions right now, especially until we do what we need to do. All I can say is there is a lot of confidence in here. There has been a lot of confidence the last couple of years and now it’s bearing fruit. We just need two more wins."

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