Mathematically, the Red Sox no longer have a chance at breaking the MLB regular season wins record, but that might be a good thing.
When the Boston Red Sox entered the month of September, they had an outside shot at making history and breaking Major League Baseball’s regular season wins record. In order to reach 117 wins, they would’ve had to finish out the season at something like 21-1 (I don’t remember the exact number, but you get the idea).
It was unlikely, but if there was any team that could do it, it was the 2018 Red Sox.
Whatever little hope Boston fans had of seeing their team crack 117 wins, it was quickly dashed this past weekend by the Houston Astros, one of the other powerhouse teams in the American League. The Astros came into Fenway Park and took two out of three games from Boston, and that was that. The Red Sox still have a very good chance of finishing the 2018 season with the best record in baseball, but they won’t be setting a new record for wins.
And that’s alright. Maybe it’s even a good thing.
Don’t get me wrong; as a Red Sox fan, I wanted to see it happen. I even kept tallies in my sports notebook with every game so that I would always know how many games they could afford to lose in order to make history. It’s not very often you get a chance to see something like this unfold before your very eyes, and it’s even more rare when you get to see your favorite team do it.
As the season moved into the dog days of August and the Red Sox looked like they had a legitimate shot to win 117 games, it was impossible not to think about it. As a fan, there would just be something so sweet and satisfying about getting to look back on the 2018 Red Sox and saying, “hey, they won 117 games — no other team in baseball has ever done that.”
But sometimes, those thoughts can distract us from the one thing that truly matters more than anything else, and that’s winning the World Series. When it comes right down to it, the number of games you win during the regular season doesn’t matter, as long as you can win 11 games in October (or 12 if you’re a wild card team).
If you need proof, look no further than the 2001 Seattle Mariners. Since Major League Baseball teams started playing 162-game seasons, the ’01 Mariners currently hold the record for most wins at 116. They also led the league in runs scored and fewest runs allowed. Plain and simple, the ’01 Mariners were the most dominant regular season team we’ve seen to date.
But when the playoffs rolled around, the Mariners reached the American League Championship Series and were eliminated by the New York Yankees in just five games. Fans can look back on the 2001 season and reminisce about how the team just kept winning game after game after game, but ultimately, the season will forever be incomplete. After all, how can you truly celebrate winning more regular season games than any team in history when your team wasn’t the one raising the Commissioner’s Trophy at the end of the year?
To steal a quote from Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane (played by Brad Pitt) in my all-time favorite baseball movie Moneyball … “If you don’t win the last game of the season, nobody gives a s—.”
It’s the exact same way in other sports too. In the NBA, the 2015-16 Golden State Warriors won 73 games, eclipsing the previous record of 72 wins set by Michael Jordan and the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls.
The ’96 Bulls ended up winning the title. The ’16 Warriors did not. They came close, even taking a three-games-to-one lead over the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Finals. But LeBron James was on a mission to win a championship for the city of Cleveland, and he brought the Cavs back to win the series in seven games.
For the Warriors and their fans, they will always look back on the 2015-16 season and remember winning 73 games, just before falling one game short of winning the title. That historic season will always have an asterisk next to it; it will forever be incomplete.
Boston fans who have been watching the Red Sox this season, wondering if they had it in them to achieve history, are all too familiar themselves with what it’s like to come so incredibly close to a historic sports season and then not get it. Since the NFL season expanded to 16 games, only one team has ever accomplished the feat of playing a 16-0 regular season: the 2007 New England Patriots.
Not only did the ’07 Pats win all 16 regular season games, but quarterback Tom Brady threw 50 touchdown passes, which was an NFL record at the time, and Hall of Fame receiver Randy Moss also caught a record 23 touchdowns. That Patriots team might be the greatest football team of all time, and yet very few people actually remember them that way.
That’s because they failed to finish the job, losing to the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLII in what might be the biggest upset in Super Bowl history. Just like that, the magic of an undefeated regular season was wiped out because the Patriots couldn’t close the deal. And as a fan, you can’t talk to anybody about how your team went 16-0, because it just leads right to them reminding you about how you fell flat on your face at the end.
And that’s why making regular season history, as exciting as it sounds, isn’t even semi-important for the Red Sox. Ask a Mariners fan if they would give up seven of those 116 regular season wins in 2001 if it meant they could win the seven more games they needed in October, and they would say yes without even missing a beat.
Now, the Red Sox and their fans don’t have to worry about the added pressure of making history, then following it up by winning the World Series. The only thing we have to focus on now is winning the title, and that’s the only thing that matters.
The Red Sox won’t be winning 117 games this year, and we’re all probably better off that way.