LOS ANGELES – Sure, there’s still 82 more years remaining, but for now, the Boston Red Sox are baseball’s franchise of the century.
The Red Sox claimed their fourth title in 15 seasons Sunday night, beating the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-1 in Game 5. And as the celebration unfolded on the field and in the visitor’s clubhouse at Dodger Stadium, the question was no longer whether Boston has been Major League Baseball’s most consistently excellent franchise.
The question is, which Red Sox team among their four championship squads since 2004 is the greatest?
For Red Sox fans, this could amount to choosing which child is their favorite. And as baseball continues evolving at a breakneck pace, the team’s four titlists practically hail from distinct eras, making comparisons challenging.
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“I like the starting pitching we had in 2004,” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, famously a key reserve on that squad, before Game 5. “But offensively, (2018) is very balanced, very athletic, probably more athletic than the teams that I remember, considerably better defensively.
“The baserunning, the threat to steal a base, up and down the lineup. The bullpen strength and the arms, that's real.”
So, how does this 119-win World Series champion stack up against the three that preceded it?
One impeachable ranking:
No. 4: 2013
If 2004’s breakthrough team was the Idiots, just call this group the Aberrations. Their 97-win season was wedged between 2012’s 93-loss team and 2014’s 91-loss squad, and bouncing back was the them for several players. Oft-injured outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury stayed healthy and productive, taking a .355 on-base percentage and 52 stolen bases into free agency. Pitchers Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz boosted the team to a 20-9 start and the division was put away by early September.
Some odd-fitting veteran parts – Shane Victorino, Jonny Gomes, David Ross, Mike Napoli – fused around Red Sox legend David Ortiz, who produced a .309, 30-homer, 109-RBI season and then went nuts in the playoffs. His Game 2 grand slam rescued them against the Detroit Tigers in the ALCS, and then he produced an all-time great World Series: 11 hits in 16 at-bats, two homers, a .760 on-base percentage.
Why they’re No. 4: Pitching, mostly. Their World Series hero was John Lackey, who won Game 1 and 6, and had an underwhelming 3.52 regular season ERA, the best mark among pitchers with more than 16 starts. The Rays-Tigers-Cardinals playoff gauntlet wasn’t exactly a murderer’s row.
No. 3: 2004
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