By Caleb Stine
Last Friday, the Red Sox season came to a close. This season ended disappointingly but was a success in the eyes of many fans. In a year that required expectations for postseason play to be drastically adjusted every other series throughout the spring and summer, the Red Sox went down fighting to the Houston Astros in the ALCS, a phrase I would have been delighted to write in April.
The better team won the series. The bats of Houston need no introduction, but the pitching performances from both Framber Valdez and Luis Garcia in the final two games were frustratingly phenomenal and able to effectively silence a once-hot Boston offense.
The Red Sox had a strong chance to take the series, but certain individuals in theory on the side of neither team had a part to play in pivotal Game 4, and ultimately this was the product of a talented Houston team that produced a stellar series of baseball.
It’s best now to take a look at why the Red Sox got to where they were in spite of modest expectations.
“Competition” means the Yankees, a team that was set to win both the division and the pennant according to ESPN in April. While in regular-season terms, Boston was tied with their New York rivals, this disappointing year by the Bronx “Bombers” was able to position the Red Sox in the AL Wild Card after a disappointing August and September, a place not a single ESPN writer predicted the Red Sox would be.
Under-The-Radar Players Stepped Up
The 2021 Red Sox was a team of seasoned veterans in J.D Martinez and Xander Bogaerts, and young stars in Rafael Devers and Alex Verdugo, but where the Sox really shined is in their preseason acquisitions of seemingly unfamiliar names.
Hunter Renfroe batted just .156 with the Rays in 2020 and is now finished with a .259 season and a nod to win the Gold Glove for right field. Kiké Hernandez, a player who recorded 68 home runs with Los Angeles in six years, was able to put up 20 in Boston this past season and out-bat his Dodger career by .01.
Rookie Garret Whitlock had himself an incredible start to his no-doubt successful career. A 1.96 earned-run average and a 1.105 WHIP provided much-needed reliability in the bullpen throughout the year. His achievement in the “arm barn” lead him to close out the Wild Card, and more importantly, earn his place on this column’s “Core Four” of trusted relief pitchers.
Thank you, Cashman.
Additionally, Chaim Bloom was able to orchestrate a deal to acquire Kyle Schwarber, who was arguably the last Boston player of the season to deliver offensively this season. Kyle from Waltham produced a career-high season batting average and on-base percentage with the Red Sox.
Given his vision of acquiring rookies and seasoned players via mid-season trades or preseason acquisitions, I’m excited to see what else Mr. Bloom has up his sleeve.
The Boston Red Sox are an organization consistently supported by intangible variables. An energetic stadium crowd, loyal fanbase, and the unwavering support of the city of Boston. If you’re a member of Red Sox nation these are things you feel, and can never measure.
The Rays don’t have any of these things, and the Yankees and Blue Jays experience doses of what Boston brings on a consistent basis.
Fenway Park made up for lost time considering 2020, and the atmosphere psyched out Gerritt Cole, trolled Randy Arozarena, and shamed Jose Altuve and Co. in the postseason.
Add in the return of Alex Cora, a manager with the ability to personally connect with players and tap into their play. A man who loves the Red Sox and baseball, and loves that he loves the Red Sox and baseball. A coach who knows his team and the game. Cora was critical to the Red Sox success this year and it’s of his opinion that there’s “unfinished business” to take care of next season.
Rest in peace, RemDawg. Red Sox Nation loves and misses you.