April expectations are old news for Red Sox

April expectations are old news for Red Sox
September 23, 2013, 11:45 am
Share This Post

Hey, so the Red Sox won the AL East.
By now, you’ve had more than 48 hours to digest this information. The Sox have had a full weekend to sober up. John Henry’s “help” has finally finished wringing the champagne out of his favorite pair of “slacks”. And basically, the whole city has already turned the page to more important things like homefield advantage (the magic number is five over Oakland) and everything as it relates to Boston’s first trip to the MLB postseason since 2009.
In a weird, almost sad way, the time to celebrate the division crown has already come and gone. At this point, the Sox will either fall short in the postseason and the AL East won’t mean as much because they didn’t handle business when it mattered most. Or, the Sox will win the World Series and the AL East won’t mean as much because, umm, the Sox just won the World Series. Who cares about the division?
But before we move on, let’s take one more second to acknowledge and appreciate what happened here.
Truth is that Boston’s been spoiled by division titles.
Down in Foxboro, the AFC East crown has become an afterthought. The Pats have won the division in 10 of the last 11 years, and are heavily favored to win it again. At this point, the team and its fans celebrate a division title with the excitement of George Clooney after he bags another model. Especially since, as of late, and just like with George and his ladies, it’s never long before the Pats division crowns ultimately result in a let down.  
The Celtics have won the NBA’s Atlantic Division in five of the last six seasons. They won another (their sixth in the last 10 years) back in 2005, with a 45-37 record and a starting line-up that featured Mark Blount, Raef LaFrentz and 36-year-old Gary Payton. That has to cheapen the accomplishment a little. Or maybe it’s just the fact that in their 67-year history, the Celtics have won their division 30 times. They win it almost as much as they don’t.
And the Bruins? They’ve won 10 division titles in the last 30 years, and five since 2000. From 1974-1993, they were in the Adams and won it nine times — which was more than any other team in the division. From 1993-2013, they were in the Northeast and won it five times — which was more than any other team in the division.
But with the Red Sox, AL East titles just don’t, or at least haven’t come around as often. Part of that is their fault. Part of that is the Yankees fault. Part of that is baseball’s fault. A little bit is probably John Wasdin’s fault. But regardless of the why, here are the facts.
Between 1969 (when the AL East debuted) and 2012 — that’s 43 seasons — the Red Sox won six division titles. That’s 12 fewer than the Yankees. Two fewer than the Orioles. Only one more than the Blue Jays, and they didn’t show up until 1977.
To put it all in perspective . . .
Since 1969, the Patriots have won their division 14 times. The Bruins have won their division 17 times. The Celtics have won it 21 times.
Before Friday night, the Red Sox had six.
Now, they have seven. So, just on the surface, without factoring in anything else about the 2013 season, what the Sox accomplished this year is nothing short of historic. This isn’t just another division title among the hordes Boston has experienced over the last handful of years. It’s something we’ve rarely experienced at all.
The Red Sox are 2013 AL East Champs
But let’s be honest: It’s not enough.
For the last two days, and for most of the last few months, there’s been an ongoing conversation on TV and radio about whether this Sox season is already a success. The question I heard thrown around this weekend was:
Would losing in the ALDS be a disappointment?
The argument for “NO” is that the Red Sox have already succeeded far beyond anyone’s expectations, and as a result, it would be unfair, unreasonable and ungrateful to expect them to do anymore. That a loss in the ALDS and/or anything short of a World Series title should be mourned with an extra strength layer of perspective. Like, “How can you be upset over a team not winning the World Series when you never expected them to finish over .500?”
The argument for “NO” is also crazy.
Sure, heading into this season, an AL East title was beyond anyone’s dreams. The Sox have already exceeded every expectation set for them back in April.
But come on, April was a long time ago. And in the six months since, every step along the way, the Sox have made it clear that those expectations were misinformed. It’s not that they’re playing better than they really are. It’s that no one knew how good they really were. And why should we keep judging this team based on our own misguided perceptions when it’s so much easier (and more fun) to accept the truth?
That we didn’t know.
That we were wrong.
That this team is good enough to win a World Series.
They always were.
Meanwhile, as we all spent the winter and most of the spring looking for reasons why the Sox didn’t have a shot, you can be damn sure that wasn’t the case inside Boston’s clubhouse. One of the biggest stories of this season has been the make up of the guys on this roster. The 180 from years past. How much they believed in each other and how, in the midst of countless injuries and numerous other instances when they could have fallen apart, they always stayed the course; they never lost faith. Probably the greatest thing about this team is that while everyone was counting them out, they had a middle finger in the sky and never for a second lost confidence in the fact that this division and the 2013 title was within reach. And in the process, they’ve made believers out of Boston. They’ve known all along what we couldn’t see until recently.
And do you think those guys are satisfied? You think they consider this season a success? Can you imagine the reaction if a reporter walked into the clubhouse and asked: “So, Dustin. Would losing in the ALDS be a disappointment?”
It would be hilarious.
That doesn’t mean they’re taking the AL East title for granted. No one’s taking this for granted. The disaster of the last few seasons is too fresh for anyone in this town to genuinely disregard how much the 2013 Red Sox have already achieved. It’s impossible to ignore the joy and excitement associated with being lucky enough to root for a team that you love. With a team that loves each other and cares about winning as much as you do.
Not to mention: A team that has four — FOUR — high quality starters and the most dominant closer in baseball. A team that has scored more runs and has a larger positive (I have to say positive because of the Astros) run differential than anyone in baseball. A team that, assuming Jacoby Ellsbury stays on track, will be as healthy as they’ve been all season when the playoffs get underway.
And when the playoffs do get underway, that team won’t just be happy to be there. They’re not one to be pigeon holed by a bunch of opinions spewed out before the season even started.
Nope. Instead, they’re AL East champions.
And that’s not a sign that this season is already a success.
It’s an indication of how much more successful this season can be.
Follow me on Twitter: @rich_levine