The Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees both had franchise-altering offseasons, and with the slight benefit of hindsight, we can now say the Red Sox won the winter.
That’s because the Red Sox also won the postseason series with the Yankees, sending New York packing with a 3-1 triumph in the American League Division Series.
Going back to the winter, each team made two very important moves, with New York hiring Aaron Boone as its manager while also acquiring Giancarlo Stanton from the Miami Marlins to insert into the middle of the lineup. The Red Sox also made a managerial change, hiring Alex Cora, in addition to beefing up their lineup by signing J.D. Martinez.
The Red Sox held the advantage in each area all season long, and that continued into the playoffs.
Cora managed circles around Boone. Whereas it was clear the Red Sox rookie skipper soaked up a lot in one season as the Houston Astros’ bench coach, he undoubtedly benefited from the hiring of former manager Ron Roenicke as bench coach.
The Yankees, meanwhile, entrusted their club with Boone, who had no coaching experience at any level (maybe he coached his kids’ Little League teams?) and was coming out of the ESPN broadcast booth. It looked at times, especially in Games 3 and 4, as though things were moving way too fast for him, and his in-game decisions are already being heavily scrutinized.
When it comes to the boppers, Stanton and Martinez each had fine seasons, but there’s no question Martinez — a legitimate MVP contender — was the better all-around hitter and player. In the postseason, Martinez set the tone for the Red Sox with a first-inning, three-run home run in Game 1. He also got the scoring started in Game 4 with a sacrifice fly in the third inning to spark a three-run inning.
Stanton, in contrast, will likely do all he can to forget his first taste of October baseball. The hulking DH looked lost at times, helplessly flailing at pitches inside and outside the strike zone. When he came to the plate representing the tying run in the ninth inning Tuesday night, he choked, waving at two Craig Kimbrel curveballs that missed the strike zone by about a foot each.
(His broken-bat groundout in the fourth inning on a 2-0 pitch probably didn’t sit well with Yankees fans, either.)
Stanton’s final ALDS line: 4-for-18, six strikeouts, one double play and zero home runs.
Those two things are far from the only reasons the Red Sox are moving on and the Yankees are heading home, but they certainly played a big role.
Here are some more ALDS takeaways.
— Speaking of acquisitions, Dave Dombrowski gets full marks for a couple of in-season moves that paid dividends. Trading for pitcher Nathan Eovaldi — and then the organization’s decision to give him a playoff start — worked wonders, as he pitched brilliantly in Boston’s Game 3 rout. First baseman Steve Pearce, acquired earlier in the season from Toronto, had a great series, too, going 4-for-12 with a pair of RBIs while also playing some great first base defense in place of the injured Mitch Moreland.
— After all the (deserved) talk about how the Yankees had a much better bullpen than the Red Sox, Boston’s relievers actually outperformed New York.
Those numbers would have looked even better had Kimbrel not nearly turned into the Wicked Witch of the West in the ninth inning of Game 4. Relievers not named Craig Kimbrel had a 2.45 ERA in the series.
The Red Sox’s bullpen advantage was in part due to those guys stepping up, but don’t discount the roles the managers played. Cora put his guys in a position to succeed, and just about every lever he pulled worked out, while Boone wasn’t able to get his best relievers in the game at certain points when they were needed most.
— If the Red Sox are going to win the pennant, they’ll probably need more out of Mookie Betts who went just 3-for-16 in the series and now has a .238 career playoff batting average.
— You can’t say enough about the job done by Red Sox catchers in the series. Sandy Leon was a rock behind the plate. His blocking of pitches in Games 1 and 2 helped preserve the series-opening win and kept them close in the Game 2 loss. Christian Vazquez produced at the plate, highlighted by his Game 4 home run, but he also was stellar defensively with a couple of huge blocks on Kimbrel pitches in the dirt in the ninth inning. That duo far outplayed Gary Sanchez, who once again was a mess defensively.
— The Red Sox have won seven of their last eight playoff games vs. the Yankees.