This World Series began with a sentimental journey to 2004, a nostalgic time travel back to when Dodgers manager Dave Roberts glued his picture into the Red Sox scrapbook – Roberts on the same page with Ruth, Ruffing, Rice and Remy.
The book stayed open for a week, Red Sox fans hoping the achievements of another would lift their team to its fourth World Series title since 2004 and earn his own place in team history.
Well, make room for Steve Pearce on the page with Pennock, Pesky, Parnell and Petrocelli.
For once, this baseball season played out perfectly. The best team in April, the best team through spring and summer, turned out to best in the Fall Classic.
The Red Sox won a franchise-record 108 games in the regular season and another 11 in practically perfect postseason fashion. And now you can call them World Champs.
And it was Pearce, 35, a vagabond who has played for each team in the AL East during his career, who distinguished himself above all during the Red Sox five-game triumph over the Dodgers in the 2018 Fall Classic.
Pearce was voted Series MVP on Sunday after he hit two more home runs to power the Sox to a 5-1 win at Dodger Stadium.
“Baseball’s a funny game,” said Pearce once it was over. “The longer you stay in the game, great things can happen.
“You never know where the game will take you. And I’ve gone through a lot in my life or in my career to be here, and I couldn’t be more thankful.
Credit Dave Dombrowski, the Sox prescient president of baseball operations, for believing Pearce’s powerful right-handed bat, despite a .257 career batting average, could help the Sox down the stretch.
Dombrowski plucked him from the dissembling Blue Jays for a Minor-Leaguer in June – after Pearce had spent time on the DL with an oblique injury – and asked Alex Cora to figure it all out.
Cora mixed-and-match Pearce with left-handed hitting Mitch Moreland at first base. He hit .279 with seven homers and 26 RBIs in the regular season. He even has five homers against the Yankees.
When the Red Sox needed oxygen after Friday’s exhausting 18-inning loss in Game 3, it was Pearce who administered it on Saturday, first by blasting a game-tying homer in the eighth off Kenley Jansen, then by clearing the bases with a ninth-inning double off Pedro Baez. From a 4-0 hole, the Sox climbed to a 9-6 win.
And then on Sunday, against Clayton Kershaw, precisely the kind of pitcher Dombrowski figured Pearce could handle, Pearce hit a two-run homer in the first inning to get things moving and a solo shot in the eight to pin it down.
His numbers: 4-for-12 with three homers and eight RBIs. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Pearce had become the first position player in World Series history – and it began in 1903 – to be named World Series MVP after playing less than 50 games for the winning team.
Only The Babe and Ted Kluszewski had ever produced multiple-homer Series games at age 35 or older. And Pearce, Yogi Berra, Johnny Bench, Kirk Gibson and Eddie Murray are the only players to hit multiple homers in the clinching game of a World Series.
We can only imagine the length of the standing ovation Pearce will get when they pass out the rings in April. Like Roberts, who never played again for the Red Sox after 2004, Pearce is a free agent. So this might be where it all starts and ends with him at Fenway.
Remember, it was Boston which originally drafted Pearce in the 10th round in 2004 from the University of South Carolina. Pearce stayed in school and the Pirates took him the eighth round a year later.
Sometimes, you just need to be patient and there were other Sox stars in this season.
Consider Chris Sale, who spent the late-summer recovering from a shoulder ailment, struggling to get his velocity back, toying with ways to use his other pitches to compensate. The original plan called for Sale to start Sunday. But acting on instinct, Cora went back to the redeemed David Price, who was so spectacular in Game 2 and the ALCS.
And that worked out, too. There was Sale on the mound in the ninth inning, after seven great ones from Price, and a masterful eighth from Joe Kelly – Matt Kemp, Joc Pederson and Cody Bellinger out on strikes. Kelly struck out 10 in first innings in the World Series.
And then Sale struck out side, first Justin Turner and Kiki Hernandez, and then Manny Machado, who flailed at a nasty slider.
The old Sale reflected in the new Sale. Redemption.
“I got to throw the last pitch of a World Series,” said Sale. “So I can’t complain.”
What a season this was in Boston, perhaps the best ever. They started the season 17-2. The ended it even better: They are the first time in MLB history to beat a pair of 100-win teams [Yankees, Astros] in the postseason to reach the World Series. They are the first team in MLB history to defeat the previous season’s World Series teams during a postseason.
It will boast of the MLB’s batting champion, Mookie Betts, and the game’s most complete hitter, J.D. Martinez, signed in February, idolized by September at hitting .330 with 43 homers and 130 RBIs.
Jackie Bradley, Jr. was the MVP of the ALCS after driving home nine and hitting a grand slam against the Astros, the defending World Series champion. And Rafael Devers, one of game’s best young players, hit a three-run homer off Cy Young candidate Justin Verlander in Game 5 of the ALCS and had nine postseason RBIs.
And what about the Boston bullpen – Kelly, Nathan Eovaldi, Matt Barnes, Ryan Brazier and Craig Kimbrel? It allowed only five runs in the World Series, pitching to a 1.40 ERA. Eovaldi’s six-inning relief stint in Friday’s marathon may be remembered as the best ever, considering the circumstances.
How great has it been to be a Red Sox fan since 2004? The four World Series championships equals the number the team won in the 100 years before them.
“We’re one of the greatest teams in history,” said Kelly. “And now we have that bond for a lifetime.”