Well, well, well.
For all the hand-wringing, nail-biting, and general local distraught over the possibility of a June swoon leading into another epic collapse like 1978, the Red Sox, fresh off a sweep of the San Fran Giants at Fenway over the weekend, are right back at the 20-games-over-.500 mark (44-24). Thatís just about where they began their recent little hiccup beginning a fortnight ago against the Yankees (36-16 on June 1).
Still, with the Yankees having won only, oh, 11 of their last 12, and 14 of their last 17, plenty a pessimist is running around town muttering ď1978Ē to anyone within earshot, warning of the impending doom that is surely to befall the Olde Towne Team as in years bygone. Thing is, it might be the optimists that should be harkening back to that same year of reference.
The Sox hit the road for a nine-game trip starting tonight in Atlanta, and if they can sweep both the Braves and Padres in their home ballparks, they will have become the first team in franchise history to win 50 games by June 24. If they go 5-1, and are able to beat the Mariners next Monday, they will have matched the í78 clubís mark for earliest 50-win date.
Granted, that team won 50 in just 71 games, and it would take this yearís edition 74 to match them. Score that one for the pessimists. You have plenty of ammo anyhow.
Itís common knowledge, yet no less remarkable, that no Red Sox team has won as many as 100 games since the 1946 juggernaut, which went 104-50. In order to finish í07 with a 100-win season, the Red Sox need to finish the campaign by going 56-38 over the remaining 94 games, a .596 winning percentage for a team that has won at a .647 clip. And to match the most games won in a single season by a Red Sox team (105 in 1912), they need to go 61-33, a .649 winning rate.
Forty-one percent of a season does not a campaign make, and weíve certainly learned our lessons from seasons like 1978, 2002 and í06, but the 2007 Red Sox are putting up the numbers that may in the end have us consider them the best team in club history. Regular season, that is. There is that matter of '04, which counts for something.
Itís subjective, to be sure, as competition in 2007 simply canít be judged against the one that the 1946 team faced, or even the í78 squad, teams that played in a much smaller league with fewer games against the dregs of a watered-down league. But forgive this yearís edition if that happens to be the very reason that this second half just might be an historic one.
Just about two weeks from now, the Red Sox will begin the second-half stretch, a schedule which includes Texas, Detroit, Toronto, Kansas City, Chicago White Sox, Cleveland, Tampa, Baltimore, Seattle, Los Angeles Angels, New York Yankees, Oakland, and Minnesota. It doesn't exactly strike fear, does it?
Itís June 18 and the Red Sox have still not yet faced the Devil Rays, a team that annually serves as the Red Sox punching bag. For as much warning as people want to put into Bostonís start this season, comparing it with the 2002 team that faltered down the interleague stretch, that team also went 6-0 against the Devil Rays in roaring out to a 41-20 start. Five years later, the Devil Rays, at 30-37, are still among baseballís worst, yet are two games ahead of the Orioles for last place in the AL East.
Oh, by the way, the Sox also play Baltimore 13 more times this season.
In fact, of the Red Soxís final 94 games, 46 come against teams (Baltimore, Tampa, Texas, Chicago, and Kansas City) which are a combined 58 games under .500. In essence, they will enjoy half of the remainder of this season playing against teams either in last place or within striking distance of it.
It's difficult to see this team not winning close to 100 games. Being conservative, letís say the Red Sox can only manage a 26-20 mark against those teams, and a 23-24 skid against the Tigers, Angels, and Yankees of the world. That still would give them a 93-69 record, a mark the Yankees would need to go 58-37 the rest of the season to match and share the AL East crown.
Not impossible for sure, but remember, thatís basing the whole scenario on the pretense that a .647 suddenly morphs into a .527 team. If that happens, then you can start talking 1978. Until that point, it's a reference with no bearing.