On Tuesday of this week, with the Red Sox bumbling along in last place in the American League East, with a record of 6-11 losses, after a record-breaking4 108 wins in the regular season last year and their fourth World Championship in this century, I was wondering how I could write anything positive about the 2019 Red Sox for this week’s column.

In the midst of this complete collapse, which I hope is only temporary, I supposed I could write about J. D. Martinez’s great start, hitting .344 with five doubles, three homers and nine runs batted in. Or, I could write about how good David Price looked in his last outing against the Baltimore Orioles on Sunday, going seven shutout innings to get a rare win for Red Sox Nation. 

Boston Red Sox pitcher Heath Hembree, right, talks with catcher Blake Swihart, center, after giving up a two-run home run to Baltimore Orioles’ Chris Davis, left, during the eighth inning of a baseball game in Boston, Monday, April 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

I imagine that would be little consolation for the Red Sox fans who bought their tickets, at inflated prices, as soon as they became available to ensure their opportunity to see this wonderful team, which was basically the same as the juggernaut that humiliated the Yankees, Astros and Dodgers last postseason. 

Imagine proudly announcing to your wife and two kids that you were surprising them with a trip to Fenway, to see the World Champions play on one of the most special days of the season, Patriot’s Day, taking them to the game only to watch the Sox lose, 8-1, to the Orioles. That’s the team that lost 115 regular season games last year and sold off all their stars to rebuild. Imagine what you could have done with that $400 to $600 you spent on a day to the ballpark, never mind the embarrassment the Sox caused you in front of your family.

Trying to find something to mitigate the shock of this horrendous start, I decided to do some research on teams that won the World Series and had less than auspicious starts the following year. 

Since the start of the 21st century, the Red Sox record of six wins and 11 losses was the worst record a for a reigning World Series Champion through 17 games of the next season. In that 18 years, three teams have started out 7-10 after winning the World Series, the 2007 Cardinals, the 2014 Red Sox and the 2015 Giants. The Giants and Cardinals finished second and third, respectively, in their divisions, and I don’t have to remind Red Sox fans that the Sox finished last in 2014, after their 2013 Championship. 

I looked for an example of a team having a poor start after winning the World Series to see if I could write something to reassure Red Sox fans that the season was not necessarily a total loss.

Eighty years ago, in 1939, the Yankees won their fourth straight World Series, sweeping the Cincinnati Reds in four games  The 1940 Yankees would field almost the same team that won the 1939 Series, with Bill Dickey behind the plate, an infield of Babe Dahlgren, Joe Gordon, Frankie Crosetti and Red Rolfe and an outfield of Charlie Keller, Joe DiMaggio and George Selkirk. Their pitching staff included Lefty Gomez, Red Ruffing and Spud Chandler.

After winning the World Series for the fourth time in a row, this team could have been expected to make it five straight. They were the reigning World Series Champs and had basically the same team coming back. Does that scenario sound familiar?

The 1940 Yankees started out the season with a loss to the Philadelphia Athletics, 2-1, but came back to win the second game at Philadelphia, 4-1. The Yankees then beat the Washington Senators in Yankee Stadium, 5-3, and, after 12 games, had an even 6-6 record. They then lost the next five in a row, to drop to 6-11 on the season, matching the 2019 Red Sox record for the first 17 games.

To make matters worse, the World Champions then entertained the Cleveland Indians in Yankee Stadium and the Indians’ great, Bob Feller, pitched a complete game, three-hit shutout, to drop the Yankees to 6-12.  Jump ahead 79 years and Tuesday night, the Yankees shutout Boston on three hits to drop the Sox record to 6-12.

In 1940, the Red Sox came to New York and beat the Yankees 3-2 in extra innings and the Yankees record went to 6-13. This Wednesday night, the Sox dropped to 6-13, blowing a 3-1 lead and bowing to the Yankees 5-3.

The 1940 Yankees turned it around after that series and finished the 1940 season with a record of 88-66. They went 82-52, a .612 winning percentage, after that pathetic start. Even that was only good for a third-place finish, two games behind the pennant-winning Detroit Tigers.

The parallel between the 1940 Yankees and the 2019 Red Sox does not paint a pretty picture for the Sox after their horrendous start. After a 6-13 start, the Sox would have to win 94 and lose just 49 the rest of the way to win 100 games and would have to go 89-54 to win 95. While not impossible, it is highly unlikely, especially given the fact that the five starting pitchers had only had three quality starts between them in the first 19 games.

It may take 95 wins to earn a Playoff berth, especially the way the Tampa Bay Rays have started the season, leading the American League East with the best record in baseball. Even in Bobby Valentine’s horrible season in 2012, the Sox started out 9-10 before finishing dead last.

The Yankees of the 1940s went on to win three more American League pennants and two World Series in the next three years, making it seven trips to the series in eight years.

The 2014 Red Sox went from World Series Champs to cellar dwellers in one year. Maybe this year’s Sox are not as good as we think they are, and maybe Alex Cora caught lighting in a bottle in 2018 like John Farrell did in 2013. The first three Red Sox teams that have won the Series this century have not even won the division the next year, finishing second twice and fifth once.

Let’s hope we are not seeing history repeat itself. That’s not exactly the type of repeat Red Sox Nation expected of this team.

Carl Johnson is a noted baseball lecturer and author. His books include the popular series “THE BASEBALL BUFF’S BATHROOM BOOKS” and “THE BEST TEAM EVER?” which chronicles the Red Sox 2018 World Series win.

Comments are not available on this story.

filed under: