Fan dilemma: Consistently good vs. occasional titles?

October 4th, 2022

The Red Sox are about to finish in last place again, for the fifth time in 11 years. This has been, by any measure, a dreary and disappointing and ultimately lost season at Fenway Park. But when you look at the big picture with them, something really hard to do at the end of a season like this, when you look back at the last 20 years, would you rather be a fan of them, or the Yankees? Or a Dodgers team that has won 110 games this season with two still left to play? Or even the Astros?

How do you keep your own scorebook in baseball?

The Dodgers have already won the most games they have ever won in a season, all the way back to Ebbets Field. In fact, they’ve won more games than any National League team since 1909. They have had four 100-win seasons in the last six, have won the National League West nine out of the last 10 years, and the only reason it’s not 10 in a row is because the Giants won 107 games in 2021 and beat them by a game. Additionally, the Dodgers have been to three World Series in the last six years.

But the Dodgers have only won one Series, in ’20, the first title for them since 1988, doing that in a regular-season that only saw 60 games.

The Yankees have a chance to get to 100 wins if they can win two of their last three games against the Rangers. They haven’t had a losing season since 1992, an extraordinary run. They have won the American League East twice in the last decade, and twice in the last six seasons have gone to the AL Championship Series before losing to the Astros both times, once in seven games.

But the last time they played in the World Series was 2009. They won it that year. It is the only the second Series they have played in since 2000, the other being in ’03 against the Marlins, which they lost in six games.

And then there are the Red Sox. They are about to finish in last place in their division again, behind the Orioles, who surged past them in the summer and never looked back.

But no team in this century has won the World Series more than the Boston Red Sox have. They have won four. The closest team to them is the Giants with three. The Sox ended 86 years of waiting in 2004, after coming from 0-3 down to beat the Yankees in the ALCS. They won again in '07. The next year they lost Game 7 of the ALCS to the Rays. Then they won in '13, and won again in '18, a year that saw them win 108 regular-season games, the most in their own history.

The Red Sox might be the most complicated and maddening team in the sport and maybe all of professional sports, because of the way they keep rising and falling. Since 2004 they have won the Series with three different managers, three different general managers and two team presidents. Since the ’18 title, which ended with the Red Sox beating the Dodgers in five games, Dave Dombrowski was fired and Mookie Betts, as talented an all-around player as the Sox have ever had, was traded to -- wait for it -- the Dodgers.

And what has made Red Sox fans even more angry and more frustrated is that it was only one year ago -- though it seems like much longer -- that they were ahead of the Astros, two games to one, in the ALCS, and two wins away from going back to yet another World Series. It means they were as close to the Series as the Yankees have been one time -- 2017 -- since they last won it all in ’09.

So would you rather be the Red Sox? Or the Yankees? Or the Dodgers? Or a fan of the Astros, who have been to three World Series of their own over the last six years despite some of its legacy clouded, and mightily, by sign stealing?

I asked a Red Sox fan I know this question. He's a season-ticket holder who is there all the time.

“Despite what I’ve had to endure this season,” he said, “one we came into without a power-hitting right-handed hitter, without a first baseman, and without a closer, I’d still rather be us.”

I asked a Yankees fan the same question;

“I’d rather be me,” he said. “I don’t do last place. I’ve had too many empty autumns in the time you’re talking about, but I don’t want to do empty summers, either.”

It was a rousing regular season for the Yankees, one that had them at 64-28 at the All-Star break before they faded during the second half. But then Aaron Judge started hitting home runs at an historic pace. The Dodgers? They have rolled through the season from the start and are currently 22 games ahead of the second-place Padres in the NL West. The Red Sox are 22 1/2 games behind the Yankees in the AL East and playing out the string against the Rays, whom they beat in an AL Division Series one year ago.

Five last-place finishes in the past 11 years. But four World Series titles in the last 19. Would you still rather be them, or would you rather be the other guys?