It was staring us in the face back in March, really, the indomitability of the Boston Red Sox, who were so rich with talent that manager Alex Cora - then just weeks into the gig - had the cojones to jokingly trumpet his club's Grapefruit League success despite being fully aware of both the meaninglessness of spring-training results and the ammunition critics would have should his team falter.
"Remember," Cora recalled earlier this week, "I said jokingly, being sarcastic, that we had the best record in Spring Training, and people almost crushed me for that."
Baseball, in its infinite capacity for randomness, could've crushed him, because the best team so often isn't the last one standing.
But it didn't. It couldn't. Because these Red Sox weren't merely better, demonstrably, than everyone else, from the New York Yankees to the Houston Astros to the Los Angeles Dodgers, but good enough to render themselves immune to the capricious nature of the game itself.
On Sunday night, to nobody's surprise, the Red Sox fulfilled the destiny presaged by their dominant (and meaningless) spring and equally dominant regular season, beating up on Clayton Kershaw and grabbing a 5-1 victory over the Dodgers at Chavez Ravine in Game 5 of the World Series en route to their first championship since 2013. Once the calendar flipped to October, the Red Sox lost just three games, magnanimously dropping one each to the Yankees, Astros, and Dodgers, the latter of whom have now watched the World Series champions soak their infield with champagne in successive seasons.
In the World Series, they beat Kershaw, the best pitcher of his generation, twice. Against the Astros, who won 103 games themselves in 2018 after grabbing the first title in franchise history last year, the Red Sox pummeled Gerrit Cole, then bested Justin Verlander in their series-clinching Game 5 victory. Before that, in their best-of-five clash with the Yankees - the putative American League East favorite in spring training - Boston embarrassed Luis Severino, a Cy Young candidate, and toyed with New York's vaunted bullpen. At no point in any series did their straits become dire.
"This is the greatest Red Sox team in history," owner John Henry told FS1 as his players took turns hoisting the Commissioner's Trophy.
It seems ridiculous, now - verging on discrediting - that some (myself included) had the gall to doubt the Red Sox at the outset of the postseason, as if Chris Sale's wonky shoulder or a meh collection of hitters at the bottom of the lineup or a shaky bullpen could somehow obscure the fact that they won 108 freaking games during the regular season while still navigating the same challenges that every other team does. Sale, for instance, missed virtually the entire second half. Mookie Betts battled an oblique injury in June and ended up appearing in his fewest games since his 2014 debut campaign, when he was first called up a couple weeks before the All-Star break. Eduardo Rodriguez spent a couple months on the disabled list. Steven Wright barely pitched all season. Second base was a dumpster fire all year in the absence of Dustin Pedroia. Their catchers combined to post a lower OPS than every qualified hitter except Chris Davis. And they still won more games than any team since the 2001 Seattle Mariners, eviscerating their own franchise record for wins from back in 1912, their first season at Fenway Park.
Besides, rosters and lineups get optimized during the playoffs, anyway; the worst players don't play, and the worst pitchers don't pitch. And between Dave Dombrowski's tireless efforts to improve the fringes of his roster - shoutout to Nathan Eovaldi and World Series MVP Steve Pearce - and Cora's uncanny ability to identify favorable matchups for his guys, the Red Sox were perfectly positioned to parlay their regular-season success into October glory. To be sure, the Red Sox played practically flawless baseball to get that bread, but, ultimately they also had the personnel - and a manager with the tactical acuity - to render them virtually invincible in the small-sample cagematch that is the postseason. (Eovaldi out of the bullpen for six innings? Yep. David Price on short rest? Do it. Sale to close out Game 5 of the World Series? Giddy up.) So while it would've been disingenuous, on the eve of the American League Division Series, to anoint the Red Sox the 2018 World Series champions, it feels just as wrong now to not acknowledge that this all felt decidedly preordained: the Red Sox were never not winning the World Series.
"We could’ve done more and won the championship, but it got out of our hands," Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig said following Game 5. "We practically gifted it to Boston, who is a great team. We did things we shouldn’t have done. We made bad decisions. We did bad things on the field that gave them an easier victory."
Puig isn't wrong that the Dodgers played poorly throughout the World Series. On both sides of the ball, they were inept, consistently failing to generate rallies at the plate and committing far too many errors, both mental and physical, afield. But they didn't gift the Red Sox a victory. The Red Sox took it, because they were that much better.
And it was clear from the beginning. Cora was just the first to acknowledge it.
Jonah Birenbaum is theScore's senior MLB writer. He steams a good ham. You can find him on Twitter @birenball.