Oct. 24—In the end, the Red Sox were the same team they had been all along.
Gusty, exciting, surprising, and at times maddening.
The 2021 season was a tale of two clubs for Boston. On one hand you had the Good Sox, who surged to the top of the standings, reinvigorated the fanbase and knocked the New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays out of the playoffs before getting the Houston Astros against the ropes.
Then you had the Bad Sox, who drove the whole city crazy throughout the second half and, unfortunately, reappeared at the worst possible time over the final three games of the ALCS.
It was truly an appropriate end to what was an extraordinarily successful, and yet somehow still frustrating, season.
The Red Sox were never supposed to get this far, and yet the offense's disappearing act over the final three games still left a tinge of disappointment. The Red Sox were better than this, even though coming into the year there was little reason to believe they'd be any good in the first place.
Taking a step back from the emotions of the moment, two things are clear. The 2021 Red Sox arrived well ahead of schedule, and yet the team still had fatal flaws that were glaringly obvious all along.
When the team struggled, the struggles were contagious. The lineup would collectively forget how to hit whenever men got on base, and for long stretches it felt like the only way they could score was by hitting the ball out of the park.
Defensively, the pieces never quite fit together. Kiké Hernández was a revelation in center field, but first base was an issue all year and often times the club seemed to make silly mistakes at inopportune times.
And the pitching? Usually good, often outstanding, but when the chips were down, the team often couldn't get the biggest outs when they needed.
Should we really be surprised all three of those chickens eventually came home to roost?
The Red Sox weren't good enough to win the World Series this year, but they're much closer than they had any right to be and now the whole baseball world knows it. The flaws on this year's roster are fixable, and with a productive offseason the team can position itself as a legitimate championship contender for the next several years.
And with the farm system taking a huge step forward, reinforcements could soon be coming from within as well.
Hard as those last three games were to watch, this was a massively successful season for the Red Sox and one that should be appreciated. Now it's incumbent that the club takes the next step forward and, if it does, then 2021 may one day be remembered as the start of something special.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @MacCerullo.