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Who deserves the most credit for these 100 wins?

Rob Bradford
September 13, 2018 - 7:39 am

Go back to the last time the Red Sox won 100 games and it's not that difficult to identify the key contributor. Starting pitchers Boo Ferriss and Tex Hughson certainly did their part, but it was Ted Williams who was the straw that stirred that 1946 drink.

Things aren't quite as simple these days.

Everything is more convoluted, especially in Boston.

After the Sox beat the Blue Jays, 1-0, Wednesday to secure the century mark the constant theme was looking ahead, not back. (For a complete recap of the Red Sox' win, click here.)

"Don't get me wrong; 100 is 100. But we've got bigger goals, obviously," Red Sox manager Alex Cora said. "Today we got closer to one of those goals."

"That's what we've done all year," said starting pitcher David Price after pitching seven shutout innings. "That's why we have 100 wins right now."

But if we are going to glance in the rearview mirror and reflect on how this happened, now would seem to be a good time. Who is most responsible for this thing that has seemed so impossible for so long? It's a good question because this isn't as simple as finding this year's version of Ted Williams calling it a day.

The Red Sox have 100 wins in 2018 with 16 games to go. Some pats on the back seem deserving. Here's who should get the majority of them (non-Rob Manfred/American League Teams Tanking Division) ...

1. Alex Cora

It used to be that a Major League Baseball manager was perceived as the least impactful of the professional sports main men. But with the life of a 162-plus-game season being what it is these days -- particularly in Boston -- this is more of an all-encompassing job than perhaps even the head guy in football. The in-game influence might not be the same, but Cora simply couldn't afford to take a Belichickian approach to the game outside the games in this environment. It's the all-things-to-all-people approach (hitters, pitchers, coaches, fans, media, front office) that the Red Sox manager has mastered, and that makes his existence at least slightly more important than anyone.

2. Dave Dombrowski

Before the words can get out of your mouth regarding how we are overstating Cora's importance, let's make this perfectly clear: The greatest manager in the world needs talent, which is what the Red Sox have. That's understood. It's what the 1946 team had. And while you can yell and scream about the Red Sox potentially coming up a reliever short, or how wafer-thin the farm system has gotten, credit has to go to Dombrowski for putting together the pieces of this big league club. He really hasn't had a lot of misses in terms of key acquisitions, which allows for this kind of pile of wins to happen.

3. Ben Cherington

Mookie Betts. Xander Bogaerts. Rafael Devers. Andrew Benintendi. Eduardo Rodriguez. Jackie Bradley Jr. Brock Holt. Blake Swihart. You get the picture.

4. John Henry

He might be all over the place in terms of evaluation of where the game is going, or the pulse of this organization, but here's the deal: Henry allows Dombrowski to get the guys Cora needs to win, and win a lot. That simply isn't the case in many, many, many organizations. Yes, a lot of Henry's money is being lit on fire right now thanks to Pablo Sandoval, Hanley Ramirez, and Rusney Castillo. But, as always, that should only matter to you if it prevents your team from acquiring the pieces they need.

5. J.D. Martinez

Now we get to the players. For what this team needed, there was no more important presence. That is all. Take Martinez out of the equation and there is perhaps more of a cause-and-effect than any other player might represent.

6. Mookie Betts

He is the Red Sox' best all-around player, impacting the game in more ways than potentially any other position player in baseball. You could still win without Betts because of the nature of a baseball lineup, but not nearly as much. While Martinez' skill-set is perhaps more impactful for the success of this team, Betts is the guy who lights the Red Sox' fuse.

7. Chris Sale

The Red Sox have won without Sale, but we started to see how difficult it was becoming. An ace is an ace, and Sale is an ace. You protect the bullpen the day before his start, the day of and the day after. He stops losing streaks. He sets the tone. He takes the will out of the other team. It seems odd putting Sale as No. 7 on this list, and perhaps I'm full of hooey. But, truth be told, I almost put him at No. 8 because of this guy ...

8. David Price

Where would the Red Sox be without Price? In trouble, that's where. During Sale's batting with shoulder inflammation Price did all the aforementioned things an ace does. He was Chris Sale. The Red Sox went 7-1 in his starts since Sale's injury, a stretch that included a 1.75 ERA and .189 batting average against. As was the case in '46 with Hughson and Ferriss, this kind of success has to be anchored by top-notch starting pitching. This 100-win team is no exception.

9. Xander Bogaerts

Hear me out. Hitting .289 with a .883 OPS and 21 home runs is certainly welcome, but can't really be considered transcendent. But here's the thing, if you take Bogaerts out of this equation you're in trouble. There is no answer to replacing the shortstop. He hits in the middle of the order and mans perhaps the most important defensive spot on the diamond with great aplomb. Bogaerts is the kind of difference-maker that you might not fully appreciate while he's playing, but will sure miss once gone.

10. Craig Kimbrel

While the Red Sox' hope this wheel of relievers stops soon, allowing for some late-inning certainty, they could always count on Kimbrel. He might not be having the same kind of season as a year ago, but it is still pretty darn good. You don't have a good Kimbrel, you are left with the confidence befitting a team with 20 fewer wins. He has earned the right to be classified as the game-ender for a 100-win team.

Related: David Price offers honest assessment of his lot in life

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