The Boston Red Sox have hit three grand slams through three games of the American League Championship Series, bludgeoning the Houston Astros with offense to take a 2-1 lead and move just two wins from a surprising World Series berth. It's rich subject material as the return of a lovable underdog at Fenway Park has proven, like another Bostonian once said, that anything is possible. With an overflowing buffet of storylines and angles to explore, veteran Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy rummaged around in his bag and emerged holding this one, published in today's paper.
It's a piece of work titled Red Sox seem to have been anointed by the baseball gods to punish the cheating Astros after these two beatdowns. We know better than to rage against a divisive headline as those are the work of print and web editors. Or to at least give the writer the benefit of the doubt because sometimes the headline does not reflect the tone and tenor of the text. Shaughnessy, though, gets right to the point and leaves no doubt that this is a straightforward piece painting the Astros as the ultimate bad guys as the Red Sox the valiant white knights tasked with meting out justice.
It is as if these 2021 Red Sox, up-and-down throughout the regular season — have been selected by the baseball gods to punish the cheatin’ Astros for their 2017 crimes against hardball humanity.
The Sox bludgeoned the Houstons again Monday, blasting to a 9-0 lead in the third inning and cruising to a 12-3 Game 3 ALCS victory. It feels like we should just fast-forward to the World Series. Bring on the Braves or the Dodgers. Let’s be done with Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, Alex Bregman and the rest of the nefarious Trash Can Dreamers.
This is baseball egalitarianism. In real time. At Fenway. Sweet.
Shaughnessy is way more successful than I'll ever be and understands his audience. These games end late and deadlines are tight. Houston's cheating is still on a lot of minds, though only a religious zealot would believe Boston is leading the series because of divine powers instead of red-hot bats.
America hates the Astros, but sanctions for Houston’s 2017 championship cheating weren’t levied until January of 2020 and the ‘20 big league season was a hollow, fan-free, 60-game farce. Fans never had a chance to let the Astros hear it.
It is not supposed to be this easy. The Red Sox are delivering punishment that was denied by COVID and MLB’s immunity from prosecution. Finally, the ‘Stros are being undressed in front of Baseball America.
Following the logic here is a thrill ride. The Tampa Bay Rays breaking Houston's hearts in last year's ALCS didn't really count because fans weren't there. Astros players didn't have to hear a bunch of drunk idiots with beer muscles shout uncreative stuff for four hours a night. There was no public flogging in the town's square in front of the unwashed masses so Tampa was only winning baseball games, not fighting some virtuous crusade.
The elephant in the room and the thing that moves the needle here all the way into totally lack of self-awareness is that the Red Sox has their own very public cheating scandals that happened during the same timeframe. And are managed by Alex Cora. Here's how that needle is threaded:
There are a lot of layers. The Sox have had their own cheating transgressions (2017 and 2018) and are managed by Cora, who was punished for his (bench coach) role in the ‘Stros scandal and had to sit out last season like some low-level New England Patriot employee exiled for videotaping opponents or deflating footballs. Cora went away for a year, only to come back to (thus far) embarrass the guys he won with in ‘17.
Mentioning the Patriots in a column delighting in cheaters getting their comeuppance is a choice. So too is conjuring up the idea that justice can only be delivered on the field by players when it was the powerful players union that prevented Major League Baseball from punishing any of the players involved in the first place. The same Red Sox who are bashing the brains out of Houston right now stood with them in solidarity when sanctions were being considered. Now, did they do this because they had the knowledge that a few years later they'd get a chance to settle it on the field?
No. Because that's insane.
Anyway, kudos to Shaughnessy on what is an objectively effective column for Boston sports fans that accomplishes all the goals it set out to accomplish. And broke my brain in the process, given that only days ago he wrote "There you have it. The 2021 ALCS. Our cheaters against their cheaters. May the best team win."
A few dingers can really change a person.