For the 2007 Red Sox, during the month of September, the postseason was largely a formality. The Red Sox trudged their way through much of September, going 8-9 through a 17-game stretch during which they posted a team ERA of nearly 5. Just 3-4 weeks later, they swept the Colorado Rockies to win the World Series and finished the postseason 11-3.
Here’s the point: September performance can be terribly misleading in major league baseball, which is why baseball lifers will bombard you with the old adage that no evaluations should be made during spring training or in September.
So while Alex Cora trots players in and out of the lineup this month – as he did on Wednesday in Atlanta – remember this: he knows what he’s doing. (We think.) The regular season in baseball is an interminable grind, after all, and Cora knows that it’s worth losing a few meaningless games in September to recharge his roster for the most important month of the baseball season.
As we all know, there are countless examples of teams that got hot at the right time and made a run into the playoffs, then at least threatened to win the World Series. One of the most obvious examples ever is the 2007 Colorado Rockies, who were 76-72 on the morning of September 16. The Rockies then ripped off 13-of-14 to end the regular season before winning a one-game playoff, then swept their way through the first two rounds of the postseason. All in all, they won a stunning 22-of-23 before getting creamed by the Red Sox in the World Series.
But whatever. They went from nowhere to somewhere in the blink of an eye.
Of course, that team had to play that way to get into the playoffs at all. The 2018 Red Sox do not. So before you worry about the 2018 Red Sox playing relatively mediocre baseball in the last few weeks … don’t. As a contrast t the 2007 Rockies, we give the 2000 New York Yankees, who led the division by 7-1/2 games with two weeks to go. The Yankees subsequently lost six straight, won two, then lost seven more, allowing the Red Sox to inch within 2-1/2 games of first place. All in all, the Yankees lost 13-of-15 entering the playoffs.
Then they won their third straight World Series and fourth in five years, going 11-5 in the postseason.
Are the Red Sox capable of similarly flipping the switch? We’re going to find out. But their play in the first five months of the season has given them the unusual luxury of being able to fully recharge this September.
So are we really going to mock Alex Cora for wisely taking advantage of it?