Game 157 - Red Sox
Red Sox 5, Indians 4
3 GB Tampa Bay, Clinched Playoff Berth
For the fifth time in six years, the Red Sox will be playing postseason baseball. Anyone that tells you the clinching celebration has lost some luster is either lying or spoiled beyond the ability to revel in the whimsical beauty of Happy Jonathan Papelbon.
Every baseball season is designed to make you forget the last one. The duration of the season and daily nature of the game creates a volume of memories that necessarily push last year and the year before that and the year before that further and further into the recesses of the mind. So even as the Sox boast two World Series championships in the past five years, the moment of clinching remains a singularly cathartic event, standing on its own as a joyous marker of a job well done.
And as always, the Sox celebrated with appropriate abandon. My favorite picture in a collection of smile-inducing shots is this one of Sean Casey, because it's symbolic of how the Sox did things this year. No single player - with the possible exceptions of Dustin Pedroia and Jon Lester - vastly overperformed expectations. The Sox have no superstars in 2008, especially since Manny winged his way westward. Instead, a bunch of good to very good players leaned on each other and went to work. They're not exactly egoless, but this squad has a distinct lack of me-first ethic. And the Mayor's as good a representative of that spirit as anyone.
How do I think they'll do in the playoffs? Who the hell knows? As we've stated ad nauseum, or at least ad makeyoustopreadingium, the postseason's a crapshoot. The Sox have as good a chance as anyone else, even if they have to go through Anaheim in the ALDS. I seem to recall that the 2004 squad faced a similar task.