Perfect ending for near-perfect Red Sox

October 29th, 2018

LOS ANGELES -- Take a long look at these Boston Red Sox as they celebrate winning yet another World Series, because you may not see a team as good as this one for a long time. This is perfection. Or as close to perfection as a team can get.

The Red Sox were a work of art from start to finish, and this magical season ended with them defeating the Dodgers, 5-1, in a clinching Game 5 of the 2018 World Series on Sunday night.

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Sometimes, everything works just so. The Red Sox were shrewdly constructed and smartly managed. Their ownership is baseball's gold standard, their on-field talent off the charts.

Beyond those things, these Red Sox have a collective heartbeat. Amid the wild clubhouse celebrations, Boston was resolute in the belief that the team-building work the club did last spring set the team off on this path.

"You see how much fun they have, playing against them all the time and how good they are," said World Series MVP Steve Pearce, a June trade acquisition from the Blue Jays who homered once in Game 4 and twice in Game 5. "And to come over and be a part of that team, the chemistry that they had, they welcomed me with open arms from Day 1. And they made it very easy for me."

Pearce rides midseason trade to Series MVP

Where do the 2018 Red Sox rank among the all-time greats? That's a good debate for the offseason ahead. They won for the 119th time on Sunday. Only the 1998 Yankees (125) and the 2001 Mariners (120) won more games.

They breezed through the postseason, winning 11 of 14 and eliminating two other 100-win teams -- the Yankees and Astros -- before the World Series. Boston's 108 regular-season victories were the most in franchise history and MLB's most since Seattle won 116 in 2001 (and then didn't get to the World Series).

The Red Sox finished eight games in front of a 100-win Yankees team, taking over first place in the American League East for good on July 2. They spent 141 of 186 days atop the division and were never more than two games out.

"This is the greatest Red Sox team ever," principal owner John Henry proclaimed.

Center fielder added, "I'd put us up against anybody."

This final game -- 's seven-plus dominant innings and Pearce's two home runs -- was a microcosm of an entire season. Boston used every avenue to find talent, and plenty of it was on display at Dodger Stadium.

First, a salute to ownership. Everything changed for the Red Sox -- literally the entire historical arc of a century-old franchise -- in late 2001, when a group headed by Henry and Tom Werner purchased the team.

No longer would the Red Sox be the team that broke fans' hearts in October. Since they arrived, only the Yankees have won more regular-season games. And their four World Series titles over the past 15 seasons are more than any other team (the Giants have won three).

Henry and Werner have hired smart people and given them the resources and freedom to do their jobs. This 2018 championship began to take shape with the development of homegrown talents like , , and Bradley.

But Boston also made smart trades (Chris Sale, , ) and spent big on free agents (J.D. Martinez and Price) when necessary. In plenty of ways, the Red Sox are the model for every other team.

"It wasn't as easy as what people think," rookie manager Alex Cora said. "But it starts with ownership."

Few decisions were more important than the hiring of one of baseball's most respected executives, Dave Dombrowski, as president of baseball operations three years ago. It was his signing of slugger Martinez last spring that created a super lineup, and then his in-season trades for Pearce and pitcher were the finishing touches.


Game 5 of the World Series was a reflection of all the work. Three years ago, Boston gave Price one of the largest free-agent contracts in history, and in the biggest start of his career, he allowed Los Angeles one run on three hits and pitched into the eighth inning.

Once the guy who supposedly couldn't win in October, Price posted a 1.98 ERA over three World Series appearances.

Price tapped his heart as he walked slowly off the mound in the eighth inning with the large contingent of Red Sox faithful at Dodger Stadium giving him a standing ovation he's likely to remember forever.

As for Pearce, he arrived via trade in June to deepen a lineup that was already the best in baseball. And he finished October with a home run and four RBIs in Game 4 and two home runs and three RBIs in the clincher to earn World Series MVP honors.

To some, Pearce seemed to be an unnecessary addition. His two-run homer off Dodgers ace in the top of the first inning on Sunday got the Red Sox off to a fast start. Pearce added a solo shot in the top of the eighth.

Betts, the crown jewel produced by one of baseball's best Minor League systems, homered in the sixth, adding a line to a 2018 resume likely to include the AL Most Valuable Player Award.

When Dombrowski went looking for a new manager last offseason, he hired the Astros' 43-year-old bench coach. On his way to becoming the fifth rookie skipper to win a World Series, Cora became the prototype of the modern manager by building unshakable relationships with players.

"Since Day 1, this was the goal," Cora said. "They've been very consistent. There are no egos. They play the game the right way. They deserve this. This is amazing. It's just very gratifying to be part of it."

And on a beautiful night in Southern California, the Red Sox finished their quest in style.

"This is a very special team," Price said. "This is why I came here. This is what I envisioned, this feeling right here, being World Series champs. I'm happy we were able to do it."