By Tony Massarotti, 98.5 The Sports Hub
And so today, on the final day of October, we roll out the duck boats for the 2018 Red Sox, from the owners, president and manager all the way down to the 25th man, celebrating an extraordinary season that began with a 17-2 record and that kept right on rolling, through the regular season and to 108 wins, through the New York Yankees, Houston Astros and Los Angeles Dodgers, through the barriers and mental blocks that had kept these new-age Red Sox from reaching heights we wondered if they might never reach.
Because more than just the leaves changed in New England this October.
Because these Red Sox changed, too.
We roll out the duck boats, first and foremost, for manager Alex Cora and his entire coaching staff, for the manager with the Midas touch who came here from Day 1 and told the Red Sox how good they were, who floored Red Sox ownership with his confidence and his players with his humanity, who has now won world championships as a player, coach and manager because there are some people in the world who just know how to win.
And because Cora indisputably feels like one of them.
And because he did more than convince his players.
Because he convinced us, too.
We roll out the duck boats for owners John Henry and Tom Werner, CEO Sam Kennedy and the entire Red Sox ownership group, because Henry told us way back in spring training that the changes at manager and on the coaching staff were far more significant than we thought they were, that the Red Sox needed to tap into their existing talent, and because Henry’s group has unfailingly invested resources into a Red Sox baseball operation that for too many years before him operated far too conservatively.
And because, when you get right down to it, Henry has won four titles in 15 years for an organization that had gone nearly a century without a single one.
And because in a town like Boston, as David Price will tell you, that is a trump card like no other.
We roll out the duck boats for president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski, who was brought to Boston to win championships, who thumbed his nose at critics before, during and after the trade deadline, who made big moves and small moves to win the world title that eluded him in Detroit and who becomes one in a small group of general managers to win world titles in both the American and National Leagues.
And because an achievement like that often will land you in another exclusive group, the one forever housed in Cooperstown, NY.
We roll out the duck boats for left-hander David Price, whose three-year existence in Boston has been as tumultuous as that of any player in recent Red Sox history, who exorcised more demons than anyone else this October, who took the ball on short rest, long rest and everywhere in between to change a narrative that even he said he deserved.
And because Price then went out and changed it, everyone else be damned.
And because we saved a seat on the duck boats for his adorable dog Astro, too.
We roll out the duck boats for Chris Sale, who pitched with a bad shoulder and closed out the World Series with the snarl of a seasoned closer, a day after downright snapping in the Red Sox dugout like some sort of psycho, because in two years we really had not seen the Sale from Chicago who had shredded throwback uniforms as if he were Edward Scissorhands.
Because a little crazy can go a long way in October.
And because when you get right down to it, we’re all a little crazy.
We roll out the duck boats for Rick Porcello, the original rover of this October, and for Nathan Eovaldi, the big right-handed warhorse, because each recorded more outs this postseason than anyone but Price, because winning in October requires selflessness and sacrifice and because each pitched first and asked questions later.
And because Eovaldi’s relief effort in a downright Homeric, epic Game 3 of the World Series, even in defeat, will go down in baseball lore as one of the greatest, grittiest and gutsiest efforts in hardball history.
And because somebody, somewhere, really should pay the man.
We roll out the duck boats for the entire Red Sox bullpen, from Joe Kelly (11.1 innings) to Brandon Workman (one inning), because, other than Price, there may have been no collection of Red Sox players who had been more maligned this season, who had more to prove, who then had more to do with this Red Sox championship, from round to round, than anyone else in uniform.
Because Kelly reached his potential at the very best time this October..
Because Craig Kimbrel never did blow a save.
Because Matt Barnes pitched in more games than any Sox reliever in these playoffs.
Because Heath Hembree was the only Sox pitcher who did not allow a run.
Because Eduardo Rodriguez came through in the end.
And because Ryan Brasier, with his head always tilted to the side as if he were talking on the phone, long ago told New York Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez to hurry up and get in the box so that he could strike him out and be done with him.
And because the Red Sox bullpen seemed to find its groove after that.
And of course, we roll out the duck boats for the Red Sox positional players, from Blake Swihart on up, because they almost all had their moments this October, because winning a championship takes even the smallest, slightest contributions from everyone, seen or unseen, and because a team is a team is a team.
We roll out the duck boats for Ian Kinsler, who can breathe easy after his error in Game 3, because he helped the Red Sox beat the Yankees with an RBI double in Game 4 of the AL Division Series and because, in October, every little thing matters.
We roll out the duck boats for Christian Vazquez, whose homer was the decisive run in that same Game 4 against the Yankees.
And for Sandy Leon, who routinely smothered balls in the dirt as if he was falling on a fourth-quarter fumble.
And for Mitch Moreland, whose final swing of the 2018 season was a pinch-hit, three run homer began Boston’s extraordinary comeback in Game 4, that truly began the healing and erasure of grueling Game 3, that sent the Red Sox on the way to their 118th win of the season and, ultimately, their 119th, too.
And because, to that point, the 2018 Los Angeles Dodgers had been a perfect 54-0 when holding at least a four-run lead and because every other team in baseball had lost at least once in such a circumstance.
And because the Dodgers have now blown a four-run lead, too.
We roll out the duck boats for Xander Bogaerts, who had the best and most complete year of his career in 2018, who hit in eight straight games to start the postseason, who quietly handled 80 chances afield without making a single error in October, because sometimes the postseason isn’t solely about what you do.
Because it’s also about what you don’t do.
We roll out the duck boats for Eduardo Nunez, the drama-king utility man who seemingly spends more time laying on the ground than standing on his feet, because his pinch-hit, three-run homer in Game 3 of the World Series was the first blow that helped break the Dodgers.
And because we can live with the first kind of drama if Nunez keeps giving us the second kind.
We roll out the duck boats for Brock Holt, who almost singlehandedly took down the Yankees in Game 3 and whose double started the five-run, game-winning rally against the Dodgers in Game 4, because the role players for the Red Sox are really the ones who made a difference this postseason.
And because, yes, Holt became the first player in postseason history to hit for the cycle.
We roll out the duck boats for Rafael Devers, the Baby Huey of the Red Sox, the 21-year-old man-child who seems oblivious to the pressure that comes with October and who took Justin Verlander deep – yes, that Justin Verlander – to topple the previous world champions.
And because, over two years, Devers has a career postseason batting average of .311 to go along with an OPS of .884, which cannot help but make us wonder if he has the clutch gene that David Ortiz had.
We roll out the duck boats for Steve Pearce, the reigning World Series MVP, for leading the Red Sox with four home runs and a 1.083 OPS in the postseason, because many Red Sox fans did not know who Pearce even was four or five months ago and because Pearce himself grew up a Red Sox fan.
Which means Pearce understands that.
And because they know who he is now.
Oct 28, 2018; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Boston Red Sox first baseman Steve Pearce (25) reacts after hitting a solo home run in the eighth inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers in game five of the 2018 World Series at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY SportsAnd we roll out the duck boats, finally, for the brilliant Red Sox outfield, from Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley to Andrew Benintendi and even J.D. Martinez, who gave the Red Sox defense, offense and baserunning from the first pitch of the postseason to the last, from the angular corners of Fenway Park to the smooth, symmetrical dimensions of Dodger Stadium.
Because Betts, as disappointing as he was offensively, changed the series in Houston with defense, from his leap into the stands to his spectacular, spinning throw to second base to gun down Tony Kemp in the eighth inning of Game 4 of the ALCS.
Because Benintendi, throwing caution to the wind, played to win and not to lose in the final fractions of a second in the same Game 4, taking a hit away from Alex Bregman, taking life from the Astros and, ultimately, taking the world title from Houston with his breathtaking catch on the final play.
Because Bradley made every hit count in a put-up-so-shut-up postseason that included three home runs, two doubles and one ALCS MVP award among his eight hits.
And because, in the end, J.D. Martinez had 14 RBI in 14 postseason games, because he proved to be the right guy for the middle of the Red Sox lineup after all, despite the protests of some, and because the Red Sox had been looking for someone to help fill the void left by the inimitable David Ortiz, because the 2017 Red Sox missed him, and because Ortiz left a very large, long shadow.
And because now, on Halloween of all days, these Red Sox do not have to worry about shadows anymore.
Because they have their cast own.