Red Sox World Series title has a dash of Tampa Bay flavor

Polk County has a new hero in Lakeland's Steve Pearce, shown hitting a home run during Game 5 on his way to World Series MVP honors. [Associated Press]
Polk County has a new hero in Lakeland's Steve Pearce, shown hitting a home run during Game 5 on his way to World Series MVP honors. [Associated Press]
Published October 29 2018

LOS ANGELES

The Red Sox World Series championship clinched Sunday night, their ninth overall and fourth in 15 years, will be told in multiple paragraphs and for many generations to come. Here are five chapters, from a bit of a Tampa Bay perspective:

A Red wave

Assembling a team that won 119 games counting the postseason was an impressive accomplishment, and has sparked discussion of where this Sox squad ranks among the all-time best.

As that debate rages, Sox officials are confident they can keep winning. The core of young position players, promise of more prospects coming and their massive financial resources — think they'll see a few more T-shirts this winter?— will push them to be greedy (greedier?) in doing whatever necessary to win again. Players such as David Price are banking on that opportunity.

None of that will make life any easier for the Rays.

Sox owner John Henry said be considers this the best Sox team ever. No less an expert than Tampa's Tony La Russa, now a Boston exec, said it ranks among the best all time. "If you are comparing (individual) seasons, absolutely I would put this club with any club anywhere,'' he said. "They played in the American League East. To win 108 games, they had, what, two three-game losing streaks? The relentlessness. I admire the toughness of this club. For one year, I'd put them with anyone. But, like the Big Red Machine, they've got to do it more than once.''

The Eovaldi equation

Objectively, the late-July trade of RHP Nathan Eovaldi to Boston worked out for all.

The Sox got the extra power arm they needed, as Eovaldi gave them solid work during the season then extraordinary effort, especially out of the bullpen, in the playoffs. The Rays, after investing $4 million-plus and a year-plus of rehabbing Eovaldi got two good months of solid pitching, then swapped the final two months for six years of lefty Jalen Beeks, whose success/failure will be their final grade.

And Eovaldi? His performance on the grand stage not only established that he was healthy and capable of dominating, but also made him a lot more money in free agency.

Dodging champagne spray in the clubhouse, Eovaldi said the entire experience couldn't have turned out better: "It's unbelievable, to be part of this is a very special moment. Huge thanks to the Rays for everything they did to help me get back on the field. Taking the risk of signing me for the two years, rehabbing me, getting me back. I couldn't be more thankful.''

The Lakeland lads

LHP Chris Sale was too young to hang with 1B Steve Pearce when they were growing up in Lakeland, so HE had to settle for his younger brother. Now they've got a little more in common. Sale, the richer and more accomplished, gave the fiery dugout talk some say sparked the Sox to the pivotal Game 4 win. But Pearce was more action, hitting three homers and driving in eight runs to be named Series MVP. That's quite an accomplishment for a platoon player during much of his 12-year, seven-team career that included a 2016 turn with the Rays. Polk County bragging rights no longer belong just to Pat Borders (Toronto, 1992). "This has been a lifelong journey,'' Pearce said. "And to be here right now is a dream come true.''

Price check

Winning the biggest postseason game provided a redemptive narrative for ex-Rays ace LHP David Price given his previous lack of success, though on the field immediately after he was swept up in the joy of the victory, spending the first few minutes after the trophy presentation chasing 17-month-old son Xavier around the outfield.

"It just feels good because you're World Series champions,'' he said. "That's it. Nothing else makes it feel any better or anything along those lines.''

But Price, who has a contract opt-out but is expected to stay with Boston, did later joust a bit with the media, saying after all the questions he faced over past failures, "I can't tell you how good it feels to hold that trump card.'' Later in the same interview room session, however, he got emotional when asked about all the praise about how good a teammate he was.

Price's dad, Bonnie, also was a bit salty, saying: "He got a ring. He fulfilled his commitment. The day they signed him he said he wanted to win a World Series. He's done that. Now they can leave him alone, the fans can.''

The Cora factor

The players played well and team execs exec-ed well in providing talent and key reinforcements (Pearce, Eovaldi). But there is no question a major part of the Sox success was due to the work of first-year manager Alex Cora, who was given much of the credit for creating the clubhouse culture that fostered camaraderie, team unity and resolve. Hmm, sounds a bit like his '07 Red Sox teammate, Kevin Cash.

Contact Marc Topkin at [email protected] Follow @TBTimes_Rays.

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