How have the Red Sox Fared as AL East Champions?

A look back at the Red Sox previous six American League East division winning teams.

Will the 2013 season end with Koji celebrating on the mound?
(Keith Allison/Flickr)

Last Friday night, the Red Sox earned their 94th win in 155 games played, with the last out fittingly coming on a Koji Uehara strikeout. The win sealed the first division title for the Red Sox since 2007, and their seventh AL East title since the division was formed in 1969. So as we wait to see if Boston will maintain their position as the number one seed and face the Wild Card round survivor, or drop into second place and matchup with the Detroit Tigers, let’s take a look back at the teams that won the other six AL East titles and how each of them fared in October.

Year: 1975

Record: 95-65

Run Differential: +87

WAR LeaderFred Lynn (7.3)

Final Result: Lost to the Cincinnati Reds four games to three in the World Series.

Enduring MemoryCarlton Fisk iconically waving and willing his Game 6, 12th inning home run around the foul pole that now bears his name.

The Story:  As will become a theme with these Red Sox division winning teams, the 1975 club ran into a powerhouse opponent. The 108-win Cincinnati Reds are considered to be one of the best teams in baseball history, and the Sox still gave them everything they could handle in this epic seven game championship series.

Year: 1986

Record: 95-66

Run Differential: +98

WAR LeaderRoger Clemens (8.9)

Final Result: Lost to the New York Mets four games to three in the World Series.

Enduring Memory:  Bill Buckner. October 25, 1986, 11:37 pm. “There’s a little roller up the line…behind the bag…it gets through Buckner…here comes Knight…and the Mets win it!” I’m sorry, but it has to be this. If for no other reason than Fox made us watch it on an endless loop for the next 18 years.

The Story:  To me, the story still comes back to a highly questionable decision made by John McNamara in Game 6. After using Dave Stapleton as a late-inning defensive replacement for Buckner in all three of Boston’s wins in the series, he chose not to make that move with a 5-3 10th inning lead because he wanted Buckner to be on the field to celebrate the final out of the championship. Sadly, this falls into the all-time pantheon of putting the cart before the horse. There’s a picture hanging in my office of defensive replacement extraordinaire first-baseman Doug Mientkiewicz jumping on top of Keith Foulke and Jason Varitek at the close of the 2004 World Series. Even up 3-0 in the series and the game, Terry Francona knew enough to take David Ortiz off the field for a better glove. I think that Ortiz is fine with how that all worked out.

Year: 1988

Record: 89-73

Run Differential: +124

WAR LeaderWade Boggs (8.2)

Final Result: Lost to the Oakland Athletics four games to zero in the ALCS.

Enduring Memory:  Dennis Eckersley appearing in every game of the series, earning four saves in six shutout innings, and allowing only three base runners. That, my friends, is some pretty serious party cheese.

The Story:  The Red Sox squared off against the 104-58 Athletics in the ALCS and definitely looked like a team that had won 15 games less in the regular season. Oakland quickly dispatched Boston without much fanfare or drama. The Los Angeles Dodgers and Kirk Gibson, however, wasted no time in making Eckersley and the A’s look mortal, something Boston had been completely unable to do.

Year: 1990

Record: 88-74

Run Differential: +35

WAR LeaderRoger Clemens (10.6)

Final Result: Lost to the Oakland Athletics four games to zero in the ALCS.

Enduring Memory:  Dave Stewart going 2-0 with a 1.13 ERA and 0.625 WHIP in the ALCS.

The Story:  A rather mediocre Boston team again ran into an outstanding (103 win) Oakland team and scored exactly one run in each of the four games in the Championship Series. It was a brutal beat down. Oakland rolled on into the World Series as the overwhelming favorites before being stunned and swept by Jose Rijo and the 93 win Cincinnati Reds.

Year: 1995

Record: 86-58

Run Differential: +93

WAR LeaderJohn Valentin (8.3)

Final Result: Lost to the Cleveland Indians three games to zero in the ALDS.

Enduring Memory:  Tony Pena, the light-hitting former Boston catcher, hitting a walk-off 13th inning home run in Game 1.

The Story: The Indians were one of the all-time best regular season teams winning 100 out of 144 games in the strike-shortened 1995 season. Unfortunately, Boston was not in the same class that year. John Valentin was their best player for crying out loud. After the heart-breaking Game 1 loss, Games 2 and 3 provided much less drama as the Red Sox rolled over in the sweep. 1995 really should have been the year that the Cleveland title drought ended. But, Cleveland gonna Cleveland.

Year: 2007

Record: 96-66

Run Differential: +210

WAR LeaderJosh Beckett (6.6)

Final Result: Defeated the Colorado Rockies four games to zero in the Word Series.

Enduring Memory:  J.D. Drew‘s ALCS Game 6 first-inning grand slam off the artist formerly known as Fausto Carmona, sarcastically referred to in some circles as the $70 million grand slam.

The Story: After running into juggernaut teams in their previous five playoff appearances as division champions, this time around the Red Sox were the dominant team. After recovering from a 3-1 deficit in the ALCS against Cleveland, Colorado proved to be a much less than worthy opponent in a decisive and anti-climatic World Series.

The good news heading into another October is that when you look at the landscape of the league this year, there certainly isn’t a dominant team in the vein of the 1975 Reds or the Athletics of the late 80s and early 90s. So what will the story of this year’s team be?  Will the Red Sox again run into a familiar foe from a generation ago, the streaking Oakland A’s? Can this year’s team follow the blueprint of the dominant 2007 club to the franchise’s eighth World Series title? Are we destined to see an elated Koji celebrating on the mound? Will the enduring memory of 2013 be one of abject heartbreak or unbridled joy?

The wait is almost over.

 

Categories: 2007 World Series American League East Bill Buckner Boston Red Sox Carlton Fisk Cincinnati Reds Cleveland Indians Colorado Rockies Dave Stewart David Ortiz Dennis Eckersley Detroit Tigers Doug Mientkiewicz Fausto Carmona Fred Lynn J.D. Drew Jason Varitek John Valentin Josh Beckett Keith Foulke Koji Uehara Los Angeles Dodgers New York Mets Oakland A's Oakland Athletics Roger Clemens Terry Francona Wade Boggs

I'm a native Mainer and life-long Red Sox fan living among way too many Yankees fans in New York. I spent most of my childhood convinced that Spike Owen was going to be awesome, sooner or later. The last time I punched a wall was October 16, 2003. My bucket list included personally thanking a Red Sox player for 2004, something I was finally able to check off when I met Trot Nixon. Follow @JK7_

2 Responses to “How have the Red Sox Fared as AL East Champions?” Subscribe

  1. John Monroe September 26, 2013 at 10:24 PM #

    Fred Lynn link goes to Red Lynn’s page.

  2. JK7_ September 27, 2013 at 10:20 PM #

    John Monroe Weird — and fixed now, thanks. And thanks for reading, John!