By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com Red Sox Insider Follow @sean_mcadam
Back in February, without being asked, Red Sox starter Josh Beckett set the bar.
Sitting on a picnic table outside the Red Sox Player Development Complex in Fort Myers, Beckett almost casually noted that he had never been part of a 100-win team in his career, and added that for the 2011 Red Sox to achieve that milestone would be "kind of cool.''
It wasn't exactly a Joe Namath moment, or even Dick Williams promising that a team that finished ninth out of 10 teams the season before would somehow win more than it would lose. But still, there it was -- the gauntlet.
Beckett seemed to be challenging himself and his teammates. The winter had brought the Sox newcomers Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford, while the injuries which had crippled the Sox in 2010 were largely healed.
General manager Theo Epstein is fond of saying that the Sox start out every year believing it will take a mininum of 95 wins to reach the postseason in the American League East. Win 95, goes the thinking, and you're in, regardless of what the New York Yankees do.
But a hundred wins? Sure, why not, thought Beckett.
And now, in the final month of the season, the number doesn't seem very far away.
The Red Sox are 83-53 (.610) after their first 136 games. They would need to go at least 17-9 (.653) in their final 26 games to crack 100 victories.
"I think it's a realistic goal,'' said Beckett Thursday, "and obviously still is, or we wouldn't be talking about this. It's just something that I've always wanted to do.
"I think a lot of it stems from the run that the Atlanta Braves went on when I was with Florida. Every year, it seemed like they'd win 99, 100, even 102 games. And I remember thinking, 'That would be fun to do one year.' And I felt like coming into spring training, we had a really good chance to do that."
Of course, not long after Beckett said the Sox were capable of greatness, they stumbled badly out of the gate, losing their first six games. After a dozen games, the Sox were just 2-10.
One hundred wins? Just finishing above .500 looked like it might be a challenge in mid-April.
But, of course, the Red Sox righted things. They played .655 ball (19-10) in May, .640 (16-9) in June and a scorching .769 (20-6) in July before dropping off some in August (17-12, .586).
Beckett liked the notion of achieving something few teams achieve. In the last 25 years, only 12 teams have won 100 games in the American League. From 1986 through 1997, only three teams did it.
In the National League, the 100-win barrier has been reached 14 times.
Since 1986, six different N.L. franchises have done it; five have done it in the A.L.
Amazingly, no Red Sox team has won 100 games since 1946, 65 years ago.
Not that Beckett's pre-emptive boast had his teammates doing the math in their heads, or figuring out how many wins per months they would need to get to 100.
"I think our guys are really good about staying day-to-day,'' said Beckett. "It's 'Let's win today; let's not worry about yesterday or tomorrow.'
"I think a lot of it starts with the position players. They're the guys who go out there every day. They stay in the moment. When we have 90 wins, they think of winning 91. They don't think, 'We've got to get to 100.' They don't do that.
"When it's all said and done and we don't end up (reaching 100) but we get to the playoffs, I think everybody is still going to be just as happy. I think it was more my goal than a team goal.''
Getting it accomplished in the American League East -- with 18 games against the Yankees and 36 more with Tampa and Toronto -- would make the achievement that much more special.
"That's a pretty damn consistent season,'' said Beckett. ''You can't have a bad month. I know we had a bad start to a month in April. But you can't have a bad month (and reach it). You can't.''
Beckett asked how many games the Sox would have to win of the remaining 26 to reach 100. Told they'd need to go 17-9, he paused to do the math.
"I think we've done that a few times this year,'' he said with a smile.