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Nick Cafardo | on baseball

‘We have bigger goals honestly’: Red Sox’ 100 wins is only a prelude to greatness

The messageboard tells the story as members of the Red Sox bullpen head for the clubhouse after the Red Sox defeated Toronto, 1-0, for their 100th win of the season.
The messageboard tells the story as members of the Red Sox bullpen head for the clubhouse after the Red Sox defeated Toronto, 1-0, for their 100th win of the season.jim davis/globe staff

It’s mind-boggling to think that Alex Cora was the bench coach on a 101-win team (the Astros) that won the World Series championship one year ago and then became manager of a 100-win team the next year. What’s to come? Who knows? Maybe we’ll be able to complete the sentence to read that Cora also won the World Series in his first season as a manager.

Before that, and with 16 games to go, the Red Sox could tie or break their all-time win record of 105. There’s certainly ample time for that. While we know they are a 100-win team with a few flaws, those issues will be left for another time. For now, the Red Sox should celebrate the fact they’ve won triple digits. As Cora said before the game, “It’s hard to win that many games in this league.” And he’s right. For while we may charge that the league is weak and that there are flawed teams everywhere, 100 wins means you’ve had one kick-butt season. Nobody can take that away from them. Every player can say he was a part of a 100-win season, the first since Ted Williams played in 1946 in Boston.

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Related: Putting a 100-win season into historical perspective

But Cora put this one in its proper perspective. And we’re sure he told his team the same thing. The 100 wins, made possible by a 1-0 win over the Blue Jays where David Price pitched seven shutout innings, was great, but Cora gave his team accolades and then moved on.

“Like I said yesterday, I’m proud of the guys, the medical staff, the organization, the coaches, the players,” Cora said. “Seems like everything clicked in Fort Myers and we haven’t deviated from the plan. We’ve been very consistent on a daily basis in preparing and going out there on a daily basis and competing. A hundred is a hundred, but we have bigger goals honestly.”

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We wonder if there’s more pressure to win it all if you’ve won this many games or is it like any other record that wins a division? The Red Sox won the division with 93 wins the last two years and are on their way to winning a third divisional title. If you don’t win in the postseason, people will forget that you won that many games. It’s like the 16-0 2007 Patriots who lost to the Giants in the Super Bowl. Tremendous feat going undefeated, but when you win all of your regular season games, you expect to do the same in the playoffs and it just didn’t happen.

There are no pitfalls to avoid. There’s nothing you can really do once the postseason starts and ends. It’s all about who’s playing best at the end and sometimes 100-plus win teams just don’t time it well. The 2000 Mariners won 116 games but lost to the Yankees in the ALCS. Last season the Astros won it all. The Indians, who won 22 straight games at one point in September and finished with 102 wins lost in the ALDS to the Yankees. The Dodgers won a major league-best 104 games but lost to the Astros in the World Series.

“I know what I signed up for,” Cora said, “I signed up to win a World Series.”

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Indeed that’s exactly right. The Red Sox fired John Farrell who won two straight divisional titles and hired Cora to get them deep into the postseason. That’s what he must do.

Cora became the first manager to guide a team to 100 wins in his first major league managing job since Dusty Baker with the 1993 Giants. And the last manager to do it in the first season with a team was Felipe Alou in 2003.

The 100 wins came early and there’s always the danger that you’re swept away by the number. It doesn’t seem like this Red Sox team will let the feat swallow them up or stop them from keeping their eyes on what’s really important.

They really need to play well the rest of the way. They will have home-field advantage which they squandered away in 2016 when they didn’t pay attention to detail in the final 10 days of the season and lost home field. This is a team which is 51-20 at home so playing the majority of games at home will be huge. They will also be challenged by the Yankees who need to hold off the Oakland A’s for their own home field in the wild-card game. The Red Sox could also be playing the Yankees in the divisional round if the Yankees beat the A’s in the wild-card game, so it’s important for the Red Sox to show they can continue to dominate the Yankees in the majority of the final six games between the two teams.

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The Red Sox continued to get a shot in the arm from Price’s stellar pitching. He has been the most dependable Red Sox starter. Now they await Chris Sale getting back to that level and hope Rick Porcello gives them three very good starters in the postseason and that Price can ward off poor performances of playoffs past and continue his good times.

The scoreboard flashed “100 wins” as Dirty Water played in the background. It meant a lot to the fans who were at the ballpark, fans all over New England, to have watched a team that won 100 games. Because most fans weren’t around in 1946.

Yes, it was a moment, a win, that you shouldn’t forget. It was a moment that will mean more when and if there’s a substantive postseason to come. While the wait since the last World Series championship has only been five years, the 100 wins has given rise to the anticipation that this team should be the next great Red Sox team.


Nick Cafardo can be reached at cafardo@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo.