To say the 2018 MLB season is going well for the Boston Red Sox would be an understatement. After locking up their playoff spot well ahead of October, the Red Sox are now just a couple wins away from reaching the World Series.
On an individual level, they could clean house when it comes time to hand out the hardware later. Mookie Betts, J.D. Martinez, and Chris Sale are all three in the conversation for AL MVP. There is an excellent chance Sale earns AL Cy Young honors with how he’s playing. First-year manager Alex Cora is a strong candidate for AL Manager of the Year, too.
Things couldn’t be going better for the Red Sox—right?
The team was able to win 108 games during the regular season, and they were very close to reaching the AL and MLB record of 116 wins set by the Seattle Mariners in 2001 and Chicago Cubs in 1906. But Red Sox fans are hoping the fate of their team is nothing like that of the ’01 Mariners or the 1906 Cubs.
The Mariners lost the ALCS to the New York Yankees, four games to one. The Cubs gave their cross-town rivals, the Chicago White Sox, a good fight in the World Series. But they still lost, four games to two. If history teaches us anything it’s that having the best record in baseball doesn’t necessarily mean much in the postseason.
Of the nine teams in the modern-World Series era (dating back to 1903) that have won 70 percent of their regular season games or more, only five went on to win the World Series. The ’01 Mariners are the only ones that did not make it to the World Series.
Setting a single-season win record hasn’t done teams in other sports any favors either.
Everyone thought the 2015-16 Golden State Warriors would cruise to a title after winning 73 games in the regular season. But LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers had a different outcome in mind.
During the 2007 NFL season, the New England Patriots appeared to be a lock to win the Super Bowl after finishing the regular season 16-0. It was only the second time in NFL history that a team went undefeated during the regular season and first since the start of the 16-game schedule. But in the end, it was the 10-6 New York Giants that were Super Bowl Champions.
In fact, having the best record doesn’t bode well for the World Series aspirations of the Red Sox. Since 2003, the single-season wins leader has won the World Series only four times. This, of course, doesn’t mean they can’t win it. Some oddsmakers have made them the favorite.
But according to some projections, the Houston Astros still have a better shot.
Back to the original question—is the season a failure without a World Series title? Some fans and media types will probably say yes. But they couldn’t be more wrong. It would be disappointing not to win the Series, but the season would not be a failure by any stretch of the imagination.