By Harry Jones
BU News Service
New York, New York. As Aaron Judge cockily strolled out of Fenway Park after Game 2 of the American League Division Series, those were the words that echoed through the Fenway hallways, courtesy of Judge’s boombox.
On the face of it, it was a baffling show of disrespect. The 108-win Red Sox were level in the series and had frequently topped the Yankees throughout the regular season. Hardly time to be gloating.
Yet, Red Sox fans had reason to worry. The team had been slowing down since they had clinched their division at the Yankees’ expense. David Price had, once again, bottled it in a playoff game. Concerns about the Sox bullpen were growing.
The Yankees nearly pulled Game 1 back and had won Game 2 comfortably. Nathan Eovaldi was due to pitch next against Luis Severino, who had starred in the Yankees’ Wild Card victory over the Oakland Athletics. Defeat at the hands of their bitter rivals after the Red Sox’s franchise record-breaking season seemed unthinkable.
Yet, after Game 3, no cries of New York, New York could be heard at the Yankees stadium. In fact, by the end of the game most of the seats that would have cost hundreds of dollars were empty. It had been a bloodbath. Eovaldi had barely allowed a hit, while the Red Sox ran riot on Severino and each pitcher that came after him. It ended 16-1 to the Red Sox.
Nor would Sinatra’s smooth tones be heard in the Bronx the following night, as the Red Sox clinched the series.
The lesson from this was clear: Do not disrespect these 108-win Red Sox.
One person who did not heed this advice was Houston Astros’ hitter Alex Bregman. The circumstances were eerily familiar— just over a week on from the Judge incident, the Astros’ series against the Red Sox was tied after two games at Fenway Park. Eovaldi was poised to pitch Game 3. Bregman decided it was high time for some Red Sox mockery. Right on schedule, Bregman posted a video onto his Instagram story of Eovaldi being hit for two consecutive homers in a game earlier this season.
Surely, Bregman was not so arrogant to tempt the same fate as Judge?
He was. The same fate followed. Eovaldi helped the Red Sox to a convincing 8-2 victory in Game 3. The Astros would not win another game, swept on their own turf.
Boston teams have reveled in mockery this year. Who can forget the Celtics’ Terry Rozier responding to Eric Bledsoe’s claim that he did not know who he was by calling by him Drew Bledsoe? If that wasn’t enough, he arrived at the next game wearing a vintage Drew Bledsoe Patriots jersey. Who was sitting in the front row? Drew Bledsoe himself. Rozier went on to star in the series, which the Celtics won.
What is surprising is the panic that has ensued after each mockery. Red Sox fans have been quick to declare themselves underdogs against both the Yankees and the Astros. How can a franchise record-beating team with comfortably the best record in the league be underdogs, I hear you ask?
The answer; they weren’t. Red Sox fans were simply incapable of rationalizing their team’s chances when not reaching the World Series after such a season would spell disaster.
Now, they are in the World Series. Their opponents, the LA Dodgers, represent an entirely different challenge. Whilst the Red Sox enjoyed a dominant season, the Dodgers have had an inconsistent one. The general consensus is that they are weaker than the opponents the Red Sox beat to get here. The Red Sox cannot deny their favorites tag and neither can their opponents.
What’s more, most of the baseball fanbase do not want to see a Red Sox victory. The Sox last victory came only five years ago. The Dodgers haven’t won it since 1988 and cruelly lost last year’s final in a seven-game series.
Hopefully, the clear favorites tag will not hinder the Red Sox, but continue to drive them forward. If you are seeking encouragement, the Dodgers’ Manny Machado is never far from controversy and has a tempestuous relationship with Red Sox fans. If anyone were to do a Judge, or a Bregman, it would be him. Keep your eyes peeled and ears pricked once Game 2 is over.