Sometimes your favorite team doesn't make the playoffs, and if you're in that unenviable position this year, we at Beyond the Box Score want to help you decide who you're going to root for (or against) this postseason. We'll be publishing ten articles, one for each playoff team, with writers laying out the case in favor of and opposed to each team. In this, we break down the offensive powerhouse of the AL East, the Boston Red Sox.
Root for the Red Sox
It's that time of the year again; the best time of the year, actually. It's October, and October means postseason baseball. The 30 MLB teams have been whittled down to
10 8, and in a few short weeks one of them will emerge victorious as the World Series Champions. But who should you want to win the World Series?
The clear, obvious answer is that every baseball fan should be rooting for the Red Sox to win it all.
Why, you ask? For starters, the Red Sox definitely have the best dance moves of any baseball team of this century. From the Carlton to Michael Jackson to the classic JBJ ski jump, these guys really know how to #windancerepeat. Any team with this good of dance moves obviously has the all the swagger necessary to waltz their way to their 4th World Series title in 12 years.
Maybe you're somehow still sitting there and saying: so what if they're good at dancing, what about baseball? This year for the Red Sox has been full of both breakouts and comebacks, and it's got something for every type of fan. Say you're a fan of young guys stepping up to the plate! May I present to you the following group of 26-and-under players: AL Player of the Month for May Jackie Bradley Jr., leading AL MVP Candidate and AL Player of the Month for July Mookie Betts, and rookie sensation Andrew Benintendi who makes catches like this:
Comeback seasons of veteran players more your thing? Try Rick Porcello. Since his disappointing first season with the Red Sox in 2015, his ERA has dropped from 4.92 to 3.15, and his fWAR has jumped from 0.6 to 5.1. Additionally, he was the AL Pitcher of the Month for September and is a front runner in the AL Cy Young race. Or you could look at Hanley Ramirez, whose 2015 was absolutely abysmal, but is seeing a transformation in 2016 and is a great contender for the AL Comeback Player of the Year. Even Sandy Leon, the 4th string catcher at the beginning of the season, has somehow played much better than expected.
But if you really want some emotional appeal, look no further than the heart and soul of the Red Sox for the past 13 years: David Ortiz. Last year Ortiz announced that 2016 would be his final year playing in the MLB, and he's certainly gone out with a bang. This year, as a 40-year-old, he led the league in doubles, slugging percentage, and on-base plus slugging percentage. He also hit 38 home runs, the highest since his career- (and Red Sox organization-) leading 54 back in 2006. Objectively speaking, he is having one of the best seasons of any 40 year old in MLB history.
But that's not the real reason that David Ortiz will make you want to root for the Red Sox this October. He helped break the 86-year-old Curse of the Bambino with a walk off home run in the bottom of the 12th in Game 4 of the ALCS against the Yankees, starting a historic 4 game comeback. He continued on to win 3 World Series titles, and one World Series MVP. He has always come up with big hits when the Red Sox needed him, even being named the Greatest Clutch Hitter in the History of the Boston Red Sox by the organization. He carried the city of Boston after the tragedy of the 2013 Marathon Bombing, with his memorable quote: "This is our *** city". Whenever the Red Sox or the people of Boston needed him, he was there. He has meant so much to this organization that it has already been announced that his number 34 will be retired next season.
David Ortiz deserves to end his historic career as a champion, and if he plays this October like he's played the rest of them, there's a very good chance that he will. Ortiz has given this team, city, and the game of baseball countless gifts through his huge heart and amazing skill. The least any baseball fan can do is root for the Red Sox to win it all one last time for Big Papi.
Root against the Red Sox
Because screw the Red Sox.
You know that feeling you get when one of your peers - be they a colleague, a classmate, or just someone of the same age/socioeconomic status - keeps excelling and moving ahead while you tread water? It doesn't matter whether they deserve their success; it doesn't matter whether you deserve your stagnation. You can't escape that feeling. I'd call it envy, but that term doesn't really do it justice. It's this deep-seated loathing that consumes you, blocking out all other thoughts. You detest them on a spiritual level, for no rational reason, and you want them to fail while also knowing they won't.
Yeah, that peer - or those peers, rather - are the Red Sox. And man, do I hate them.
Oh, sure, Boston sucked for a while. That whole curse thing really put a damper on the club for the better part of a century. But then 2004 came along, with Dave Roberts and Curt Schilling and Manny Ramirez and the whole miserable gang. From then on, the Red Sox have won the third-most games in the American League. They rank second in the AL in both wRC+ and ERA- over that span; no other team places in the top four in both regards.
The Red Sox quite possibly reached their peak this season. No offense in baseball came close to Boston's level of play - their 113 wRC+ led the majors by a full six points - and they backed that up with the Junior Circuit's third-best ERA-. As The Ringer's Ben Lindbergh observed earlier this week, the Sox got pretty unlucky in terms of wins and losses in 2016. Thus, when you evaluate them based on their third-order record, stripping out the noise to zero in on the signal, you see that the Red Sox blew everyone else in the AL out of the water.
And because all of that just isn't punishment enough, you just know they'll get better after this season. Even with David Ortiz gone and Pablo Sandoval remaining a non-factor, the Mookie Betts-Xander Bogaerts-Jackie Bradley Jr.-Dustin Pedroia core might be the best in the league. Plus, you have Andrew Benintendi, Yoan Moncada, Rafael Devers, and a host of other top prospects waiting in the wings. And that doesn't even get into the pitching, where Rick Porcello, David Price, Steven Wright, and Eduardo Rodriguez form a dangerous rotation - and one that Henry Owens and Brian Johnson will soon be able to step into.
With the Red Sox, it's always been glory. Even during that ugly stretch in 2014-15, when every starting pitcher forgot how to throw and Hanley and the Panda completely imploded, you just knew it wouldn't last. It never does, with these types of teams. Eventually, and often despite themselves, they start to dominate again, and you can only watch as they consume everything in their path.
The Red Sox are great now, and they'll remain great for the rest of this decade at least. That they've gotten here legitimately doesn't mean anything; that they employ some of the more fun young players in baseball has no relevance, either. The Red Sox are the insufferably precocious kid in your high school whom all the teachers fawn over. They're the sycophant at work who schmoozes his way to the top in the blink of an eye. They're the spunky little club that just won't quit, and it should earn them nothing but enmity.
So, in conclusion...You know what? To hell with the strikethrough. Screw the Red Sox, forever.