The Boston Red Sox’s season changed in an unimaginable way back on June 28, but no one knew it at the time. How could they?
On that day in late June, the Red Sox acquired journeyman Steve Pearce from the Toronto Blue Jays for a High-A infielder named Santiago Espinal.
Literally four months later, Pearce was named World Series MVP, and the Red Sox are world champions for the fourth time since 2004.
With all due respect to Espinal and his future, the Red Sox, uh, won the trade. In fact, it will go down as one of the most important moves in franchise history.
Pearce played as well as he has his entire career after arriving in Boston, hitting seven home runs and driving in 26 runs over 50 games. Pearce’s .901 OPS was much better than his career mark, and in that same time, Pearce’s 143 wRC+ ranked 27th in all of baseball.
The 35-year-old then showed an incredible knack for the big hit in the playoffs. Pearce hit four home runs, and drove in 11 runs, collecting at least a hit in seven of his 11 postseason starts. He was simply fantastic in the final two games of the World Series, hitting three home runs. That included a tone-setting, two-run home run in the first inning against three-time Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw.
All in all, a pretty good pick-up, especially considering the price.
“He’s been great, not only on the field but in the clubhouse,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said after the clinching Game 5 win. “He’s been a great teammate. Veteran guy. He’s been through a lot. He’s ground it out.
“Little by little his role got bigger. Seems like we were facing a lot of lefties in the postseason. He kept putting up good at-bats. He’s a good player. Actually, he played great defensively for us, too, and that was a plus. He hit righties, and he hit lefties. And I’m happy that he was the MVP of the series.”
Just as important was, as Cora alluded to, Pearce seamlessly fit with his Red Sox teammates.
“You know, you see how much fun they have, playing against them all the time and how good they are,” Pearce said after the game. “And to come over and be a part of that team, the chemistry that they had, they welcomed me with open arms from day one. And they made it very easy for me to play my game of baseball, and I couldn’t be any happier.”
Perhaps it’s fitting that, as World Series MVP, Pearce was gifted a brand-new pickup truck. In Red Sox history, he now stands (with Nathan Eovaldi) alongside players like Orlando Cabrera, Doug Mientkiewicz and Dave Roberts as midseason pickups who played immediate and longstanding roles on world champion teams.
Thumbnail photo via Robert Hanashiro/USA TODAY Sports Images