Are the 2018 World Series champions the best Red Sox team of all time?
Retired ace Pedro Martinez is hesitant to use such a superlative — even on a group that won a franchise-record 108 regular-season games en route to their title.
“I don’t know,’’ Martinez said Friday night at his third annual Pedro Martinez Foundation gala. “The record says they have the best season ever. But if you look at some of the important issues that this division had — Baltimore? Bad team. Tampa? Bad team. Toronto? Bad team. When we were playing back in those days, all those teams were good, so it was impossible to go and win 100 games unless you were a mega-star kind of team.’’
In addition to Boston’s best-in-baseball record, the American League East was home to the majors’ worst this season. The Baltimore Orioles won only 47 games, finishing 61 games behind the Sox. Per Martinez’s argument, weaker divisional opponents have the potential to inflate a team’s record (the Red Sox were 16-3 against the Orioles).
The Red Sox finished 52-24 against the AL East this season, whereas the 2004 championship team finished 48-28. The records carry just a four-game difference, but Martinez contended the level of competition was higher during his tenure. The Yankees, at 101-61, were the only AL team to win 100 games in 2004.
“You have to go and put together so many things,’’ said Martinez, who won Game 3 of the Boston’s curse-breaking World Series sweep of the Cardinals, baseball’s only other 100-win team that season. “’04 and this one were equally as good, I would say.’’
Red Sox president and CEO Sam Kennedy, however, was quick to make a definitive statement.
“It’s undeniable,’’ said Kennedy, who joined the organization in 2002. “I’ve been here for four championships, and this team is unlike any other Red Sox team I’ve been around. There have been other great Red Sox teams, but from a sheer baseball perspective, winning 108 games, beating the Yankees, the Astros, and the Dodgers — three unbelievable teams in the postseason — the way we handled them was just remarkable. That’s a credit to [manager] Alex [Cora] and his staff and [president of baseball operations] Dave Dombrowski and his staff for putting together this great team.’’
Kennedy said he was most impressed by the team’s depth and the widespread contributions from both the bench and starters. Other attendees at Martinez’s charity gala, including a pair of Yankees pitchers, sang praises for the 2018 Red Sox, too.
“You can’t take any batter for granted,’’ said Luis Severino, who took the loss in Game 3 of the ALDS against the Red Sox. “Their No. 1 hitter, No. 9 hitter, everybody can hit a home run off of you. Everybody can get a base. They will do it from 1 to 9.
“They put the ball in play. They hit for contact, they hit for power. When you have a lineup and Mookie Betts is the first batter, you can say a lot about that team.’’
“They’re a hard lineup,’’ agreed reliever Dellin Betances, who made two appearances in the ALDS. “Tough team to strike out. They can make you work out there. You have to kind of just be aggressive and challenge them the best way you can. They get on and they kind of become pests on the bases.’’