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Remembering (and ranking) Red Sox titles

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Chalk up another championship for the Boston Red Sox.

When a Chris Sale fastball blew past the talented malcontent Manny Machado and the Sox beat the Los Angeles Dodgers, clinching their fourth World Series title of this still-young century, my first thought was that I was actually almost sad that it was over. My immediate reaction was that this was one of the most fun teams for which I’ve ever had the chance to root. And that it was one of the best.

But is it THE best?

It might be. While the 2004 group was the one that finally put an end to the fabled curse and the 2007 and 2013 teams were undeniably impressive squads, this 2018 team might have the edge on them all.

First of all, 108 is a LOT of wins. Tied for the eighth-most in a regular season in MLB history, as a matter of fact. It was the fourth time a Red Sox team crossed the century mark and the first time in almost 75 years. And thanks to the expanded playoffs, the team’s 119 total wins is second all-time only to the historic 125 put up by the 1998 Yankees.

While the other championship seasons were nothing to sneeze at wins-wise, they all trailed the 2018 team by double digits, winning 98 (2004), 96 (2007) and 97 (2013).

Secondly, this team went through a legitimate gauntlet for this title. They faced 100-plus win teams in both the ALDS (Yankees) and ALCS (Houston Astros), losing just a single game in each of those series. The Yankees were one of the most prodigious power-hitting teams of all time, setting a new league record for home runs in a season; they won 100 games. The Astros were considered by many to be the best team in baseball at the season’s beginning and through much of the year as they defended their World Series title; they won 103 games. After that, the Dodgers almost felt like an afterthought, even with their 92 wins and second straight pennant. And again – Boston lost just one game during the series.

While the 2004 team has the advantage thanks to the historic 0-3 comeback against the Yankees, neither 2007 nor 2013 presented a particularly challenging path to the promised land.

With those factors – and others – taken into consideration, my final title season rankings in ascending order follow thusly:

(Please note that every single one of these wins is precious and as a Boston sports fan who spent years suffering before the current embarrassment of riches era arrived, I beg you – cherish these victories. You never know when the well will run dry.)

4. 2013

This was a weird one. Sandwiched in between a pair of 90-plus loss last-place finishes in 2012 and 2014, this championship feels like an aberration. A welcome aberration, but an aberration nonetheless. It was an odd collection of dudes, with weird fits like Mike Napoli and Shane Victorino and other guys that today make you say, “Oh yeah, he was on that team!” The pitching was OK, with Jon Lester as the ace and Clay Buchholz before he was bad and then good again.

Ultimately, this team won because David Ortiz decided to go out there and have the greatest statistical World Series in history. He was huge throughout the playoffs, but went nuclear in the Series, going 11 for 16 with two homers and getting on base at a .760 clip. Obviously, a title is a title, but 2013 will always feel a bit like a glitch in the Matrix.

3. 2007

Boston’s 2007 squad was an impressive one to be sure. You had a handful of old-guard holdovers, guys like Ortiz and Manny Ramirez and Jason Varitek, still performing at a high level. Curt Schilling was still around and getting it done. Meanwhile, youngsters like Rookie of the Year Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis and closer Jonathan Papelbon were holding their own and then some. It was a torch-passing season that just happened to end with a championship.

This team sandwiched a tight seven-game series against Cleveland (where they came back from down 3-1) between a pair of sweeps – the Angels in the ALDS and the Rockies in the World Series. Oh, and Jon Lester came back from freaking cancer and took a shutout into the sixth in the clincher. And this one is THIRD. Goes to show how good some of these teams have been.

2. 2004

It almost feels sacrilegious to put this team anywhere other than number one. These were the legendary Idiots, the scruffy bearded weirdos who didn’t care to allow nearly a century of futility to get in the way of them fulfilling their championship destiny. These were the Cowboy Up Red Sox of Kevin Millar and Johnny Damon. Yes, Manny and Ortiz were here, doing their thing. Pedro was still around and Schilling was incredible. Varitek and Derek Lowe and Tim Wakefield. Just a bunch of lovable lunatics who refused to lose.

Obviously, the Comeback is the highlight, the first-ever rally to win a series after losing the first three games. And it was GREAT. But that only pointed out the dullness of the sweeps that surrounded it – the Angels in the ALDS and the Cardinals in the World Series. Not that they were actually dull, because I got to see something that I genuinely wondered if I ever would – a Red Sox championship.

1. 2018

And here we are. I’ll freely admit to the possibility of recency bias; I am writing this roughly 12 hours after the final out was recorded, so I’m feeling pretty great about things. But objectively, it’s hard for me to argue. The talent is undeniable, of course. Mookie Betts is your probable AL MVP and J.D. Martinez is likely top-five. Chris Sale was having a Cy Young-caliber season before injury issues caught him. Betts teamed with Andrew Benintendi and Jackie Bradley Jr. to make up one of the best defensive outfields of all time. Seemingly innocuous midseason acquisitions like Nathan Eovaldi and (eventual World Series MVP) Steve Pearce played major roles. And rookie manager Alex Cora turned out to be precisely the right guy to skipper this team.

The relentlessness of the march to the title – losing just one game in each series – should have rendered things less exciting, but it was quite the opposite. This team marched through one of the most daunting playoff gauntlets in years and made it look relatively easy. Heck, it took a record-setting 18-inning game for the Dodgers to manage the one win they got. All in all, a fun and memorable crew – one whose place in Red Sox history is secure.

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