2018 champs stand out as greatest Sox team

Club went an astounding 119-57 in regular season and postseason

October 29th, 2018

LOS ANGELES -- The team that had gone generation after generation and decade after decade (86 years in fact) without winning a World Series now stands alone as the only squad in the 21st century to win it all four times.

But these 2018 Red Sox -- who did their final bit of damage by taking out the Dodgers, 5-1, in the clinching Game 5 of the World Series on Sunday at Dodger Stadium -- won't merely be blended in to what will be looked back on as a golden era of Boston baseball.

This group will stick out for the magnitude of its greatness, which started with a franchise record of 108 wins in the regular season and continued as the Red Sox steamrolled three worthy postseason opponents (the 100-win Yankees, the 103-win Astros and the back-to-back National League champion Dodgers).

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"I feel that this was the greatest team I've seen play," said Red Sox owner John Henry. "They were strong in every department. The bullpen was maligned and went through a really tough period [late in the season], but overall, just from Day One, this team started 17-2 and never let up."

:: World Series schedule and results ::

What they were was a wagon.

"It just shows that it takes 25 guys to win," said superstar outfielder . "We proved that. We've got a great group of guys, and I love each and every one of us. I think that's kind of how we work. Everyone wants to chip in and do their part to win games."

The Red Sox were headlined by their stars (Betts, J.D. Martinez, and Chris Sale), their role players (World Series MVP Award winner Steve Pearce) and their fearless rookie manager (Alex Cora), all of whom made fitting contributions to their crowning victory -- the one that made them a jaw-dropping 119-57 wire to wire.

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Yes, 119-57, which calculates to a .676 winning percentage. That happens in the NBA or the NFL, but it's not supposed to happen in the marathon sport that is baseball.

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"When you say that, it's almost overwhelming, because you just never think that you'll be associated with a club that can do that -- you talk about 119-57, those numbers are mind-boggling," said president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski. "You think you have a good club, you might win 105 or something with the postseason and you're really satisfied.

"But you start talking about it, it's winning more than two-thirds of your games over the year, so no, I don't think you can really grasp it. I think it's a tribute to all these guys, because you don't get to that point unless you're talented and also you grind, you really work through things, you bounce back, you're resilient and you're tough, and that's this group."

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Look no further than the final chapter of the joyride.

Betts and Martinez, the co-MVP regular-season forces who had gone a combined 0-for-18 in Games 3 and 4 at Dodger Stadium, both went deep Sunday night. It was particularly sweet for Betts, who ended his career postseason homer drought at 86 at-bats.

Perhaps it was also karma. In the hours after the Game 2 victory at Fenway Park, Betts went to a homeless shelter near the Boston Public Library and delivered tray after tray of food.

"That's not the first time. It wasn't supposed to get the media that it got," said Betts. "It's kind of something that me and my family take pride in the blessings that we have. Blessing other people is something that we like to do."

And what to say about in-season acquisition Pearce? The gritty first baseman -- a platoon player who emerged into a force when it counted most -- belted two more homers in Game 5 to give him three in the World Series.

"Best feeling in my life," said Pearce. "This is what you grow up wishing -- that you could be a part of something like this. With that special group of guys out there, to celebrate with them, that was awesome."

Then there was Price, who changed his October reputation more than anyone possibly could these last few weeks. After going winless in the first 11 postseason starts of his career, Price finished off the Dodgers by winning his third straight start. This one came just four days after he beat Los Angeles in Game 2, and two days after he helped the bullpen out with two outs in the 18-inning loss in Game 3.

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"I mean, Steve Pearce was the Most Valuable Player, but it was really a toss-up between Steve and David Price," said Henry. "David Price and Steve, those two performances are why we're standing here tonight."

To close it out, Cora, in his last masterful stroke in a season full of them, turned to Sale, who disposed of the Dodgers in 15 nasty pitches -- 11 of them strikes. All three outs in the ninth came on strikeouts. L.A. didn't come close to hitting any of them.

Sale was supposed to start Game 5, but Cora vaulted Price in front of him for the second straight series and was again rewarded for the decision.

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In becoming the first rookie manager to win a World Series since Bob Brenly with the D-backs in 2001, just how much did Cora play a role in all this?

"On every level," said Henry. "In every way. What did he do wrong this year?"

As the champagne flowed and the cigar smell wafted through a packed clubhouse, there was much to reflect on.

Four championships for the Red Sox in 15 seasons for a team that hadn't won in the 86 years prior to that? It was an amazing thing for the man who closed the sale of the Red Sox on a February day in 2002 to consider.

"Well, it's tremendous," said Henry. "I don't know what it is about these Boston teams. In the World Series, what are we, 16-3 against the best teams in the National League. But this one, in my mind, was easily the best."