It’s only going to take four more wins for the 2018 Boston Red Sox to rightfully be considered the greatest team in franchise history.
Yes, that completely discounts valid nominees from 1977, 1986, 2003-04, and 2007-08, but none of those teams ever finished a season with 119 wins to their name, World Series title or not.
There is also plenty of reason why you could argue this team is not even close to the best in Red Sox history, and your point will be noted just as well.
Still, with another world championship at Boston’s doorstep (a Red Sox win over the Los Angeles Dodgers would bring the grand total to 11 since 2000, 12 if you count the Cannons), it is sometimes difficult to grasp the appreciation for each title, particularly when the city is piling them away like nuts for the winter.
Then, there are the “shouldas.”
The Bruins and Celtics each have one title each. They both very well could have two.
The Patriots have five Super Bowl victories under Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. Maybe they should have eight.
So, how exactly is it the Boston Red Sox, that team of annual shortcomings and despair that has been New England’s most reliable postseason participant over the past 14 years? Ever since Aaron Boone, the Patriots (David Tyree, Mario Manningham, Nick Foles), Celtics (Game 7 loss to the Lakers), and Bruins (Tuukka) have given Boston sports fans the sort of heartbreaking moments that defined the Red Sox over decades.
It took three teams 10 tries to finally beat Boston in a World Series game (Game 2, 2013) for the first time since 1986. The Red Sox are 12-2 in the World Series since 2004. Since 2000, the Patriots are 5-3 in the Super Bowl, the Celtics are 7-6 in NBA Finals games, and the Bruins are 6-7 in Stanley Cup final matchups.
When it comes to the biggest stages, the Red Sox have performed at the highest level.
Doing it again against the Dodgers will give the Red Sox four World Series titles since the start of the millennium, putting them only one shy (for now) of the Patriots for regional crowing purposes.
In a town and a region where both franchises can both duly claim to be top dog, that’s an under-the-radar competition that doesn’t exactly pit the NFL and Major League Baseball head-to-head as much as it does the level of fan loyalty each team has in Boston.
There will be a segment that boasts football is king and Brady, Belichick, RAH! Others might quote Doris Kearns Goodwin to the point of nausea in trying to explain why the false narrative of baseball as poetry is better.
Whatever. There’s enough love to go around.
But what if there weren’t?
We’ve ranked the titles enough to understand which ones most of us deem to be the most significant. The 2004 Red Sox and the 2001 Patriots usually come out 1-2 in some form or fashion. The Celtics’ win in 2008 was great, but it was also the franchise’s 17th, and first in only 22 years. The Bruins’ run in 2011 was wildly memorable, but it was still only a 36-year drought.
You can still have those.
But what if you had to choose one or the other; the Red Sox’ three World Series titles or the Patriots’ five Super Bowls?
You can’t have both. It’s either Tom Brady or David Ortiz. Adam Vinatieri or Jon Lester. Malcolm Butler or Derek Lowe.
One team has a handful while the other has none.
The traditionalist in me knee-jerks with the Red Sox being the obvious answer. Otherwise we wouldn’t have had the greatest comeback in baseball history in 2004 to end the 86-year drought. Nor would we have had the city-bonding mission of the 2013 edition, who took post-marathon emotions of Boston and channeled them into an unexpected World Series title, all in the wake of Bobby V.
But how could we exist without having seen Vinatieri’s splitting of the uprights? What better taste was there in the Deflategate nonsense than to have a Super Bowl title wrapped up in Butler’s hands? What better avenue for Patriots fans to truly flaunt their gifted obnoxiousness than by being on the winning end of the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history?
No, it’s got to be the five Super Bowl wins then. Right?
If we choose that route, then, I hate to break it to you, we’re hearing Red Sox fans moan about 100 years of futility. That magical October in 2004 would cease to exist, as would the special nature of the 2013 team. Jeremy Giambi might be a bigger name in Boston than Ortiz ever was. And not to get overly anapestic when it comes to baseball, but there is still a certain lineage of the game’s culture that does define generations easier than football can manage.
In other words, Red Sox fans have never seemingly become the Yankee fans that Patriot fans have become.
The debate over which is the most popular team probably can’t settle until Brady retires, but even then it’s difficult to surmise if we’ll get a fair assessment. The Patriots own New England, while the Red Sox are a regional characteristic that will never fade. TV ratings say football. Our collective personality says baseball.
In the impossible task of choosing, I pick the Red Sox, if only for the extraordinary events of 2004, a postseason run so wild in its unexpectedness and so special in its long-ranging after-effects that it changed the thinking of an entire region.
But I’ll take both.
Luckily, that’s the perfect world we’re living in.
Red Sox in five.