- 211 wins
- 1 reigning AL MVP and 2 current AL MVP candidates
- 9 World Series wins
- 2 ridiculous aces that can mow down batters at will
- A boatload of cockiness
As in, a Noah’s ark-sized ship filled with cocky baseball players. Boarding two by two, shortstop alongside left fielder, catcher alongside relief pitcher. Many of them in Boston jerseys, but with one Astros player most certainly stepping onto the gangplank before all others while sporting a “Back to Back” T-shirt that makes his stance on his team’s postseason explicitly clear. All of them, heads set with the security of players who are more than sure they will be the 100-plus victory team that will prevail over the next week of baseball.
And all that cockiness will be bunking together on the good ship S.S. ALCS for the next four to seven games, and personally I can’t wait for it to unfold. Both teams, the Astros and Red Sox, are entering this series with cabinets stocked full of all of the spices needed to make a cocky stew. Boston is even tossing in a pinch of pettiness to their meal. It’s wonderful.
The cockiness of each team is presenting in different ways. The Astros, the underdogs of this series despite being the defending champs and winning 103 games this season, are coming at the ALCS with pure motivation stemming from seeming discounted for the entire postseason until now. They didn’t play in any primetime slots during the DS, and if there’s such a thing as having a 103-win season and subsequently seeming underrated going into a series against a mediocre Indians team then they did that too.
Without a doubt the leader of the Astros cockiness charge is one Alex Bregman. He’s doing a fabulous job of it, too. Just a few examples of his boastful magnificence, in case you’ve missed any of the Bregman Confidence Tour 2018.
When asked about the Astros playing exclusively day games in their last series, Bregman said,
”I want to end with saying one thing. Does Floyd Mayweather fight the first fight of the night, or is he the main event? I mean, does Tiger Woods tee off at 8 a.m.?
”It’s about time the ‘show ‘Stros’ play on prime-time television, so we’re looking forward to the ALCS.”
One line in particular, a casually tossed off “I got a sunburn today. I’m not happy” made that mini-rant even better. His smile as he said it really completes the portrait.
Another quote, made amazing thanks to a beautiful assist from an unnamed Astros staffer, clarified exactly where Bregman’s head was at over the past week. In case you doubted it before.
Alex Bregman, ladies and gentlemen. pic.twitter.com/mgRPfe00O8— Anthony Castrovince (@castrovince) October 8, 2018
He’s sharing his confidence with the fans too, telling them “Keep celebrating and get ready to celebrate some more.”
Even better, Bregman isn’t just letting his words do the talking. He has merch too! In a presser before Game 1 against Cleveland, the third baseman casually said “it’s hot in here” and took off his batting practice jersey to reveal a “Back to Back” shirt in the Back to the Future font. He didn’t comment on it, but he smirked. (If you’re reading this on Apple News or just can’t see it for some reason, click here to watch the video.)
Bregman is great, and though they haven’t voiced it quite as strongly it wouldn’t be hard to believe that some of his other teammates feel the same way about how they’ve been discounted to this point in October. But he’s been the banner waver on that front, making him the only one to have to eat a three course meal of crow should this series go south for Houston.
In the Northeast, the Red Sox are sharing that load. With more than one person on the current roster acting like they’ve been slighted somehow. And in addition to having a similar cockiness as their opponents, Boston has also ordered some extreme pettiness as a side dish.
The Red Sox felt disrespected because of some people in the media giving the edge to the Yankees in their Division Series, which Boston got through in four games. After the only game they lost, Game 2 in Boston, Aaron Judge walked through the Fenway Park concourse blasting “New York, New York.” So what did the Boston clubhouse do when they sealed the series at Yankee Stadium? The same exact thing.
Boston playing “New York, New York” while popping champagne.— ThePostGame (@ThePostGame) October 10, 2018
Red Sox and Yankees next play on April 16 in the Bronx. pic.twitter.com/0fgqUmyPiO
They also had some issues with waiting to celebrate their ALCS berth after the Yankees challenged the final out of the game and made their opponents pause their excitement mid-jubilance.
After that frustrating delay, Chris Sale said “Anybody outside the clubhouse can say what they want but we know who we are. Just keep doubting us. Keep talking. We’ll get the last laugh” and utility player (and postseason cycle-hitter) Brock Holt added “It was everything we thought it’d be, and more. We’re going to savor this, but we’re not stopping now.’’
You could practically see the pure, uncut confidence coursing through Rick Porcello after Game 4 when he called out Yankees’ starter CC Sabathia in the wake of Sabathia himself calling out Angel Hernandez.
CC Sabathia on Angel Hernandez: “He’s absolutely terrible. He was terrible behind the plate today. He was terrible at first base. It’s amazing how he’s getting jobs umpiring in these playoff games.”— Tim Healey (@timbhealey) October 10, 2018
Rick Porcello on Sabathia calling Hernandez 'terrible':— Greg A. Bedard (@GregABedard) October 10, 2018
Throw the ball over he plate CC. I thought Angel Hernandez called a good game. You have to put the ball over the white part of the plate and then you get strikes called. That's all I 've got to say about that."
No matter that Sabathia was the correct one in this situation (Hernandez wasn’t good all series and was definitely inconsistent behind the plate in Game 4) or that Porcello definitely didn’t look like the good guy in this situation. Because he also definitely didn’t care. They dismissed the Yankees and he took any complaints about Hernandez as undermining what the Red Sox did. Porcello just freaking went for it and didn’t look back.
J.D. Martinez, when asked about whether the Red Sox bullpen has been unfairly maligned for their performance this season said, “...people have to realize is these are the best players in the world right now.” They’ve blown some leads, or come close to doing so like in their clinching game of the series, and especially if you look at some of the other ‘pens in this postseason that quote immediately rings false.
But it’s cocky, and helps his teammates feel like they’re the best players in the world. So props to Martinez for putting that questionable factual assertion out there at all.
But the cockiest thing the Red Sox could have done, and in fact is just asking for them to have a poor ending to the postseason, is putting a recreation of manager Alex Cora’s “win wall” on the bricks of the Fenway concourse with “11 More” painted over the empty spaces.
Every team has their postseason method of checking off each of 11 wins they hope to accomplish in October. That part isn’t new. But transforming a fun thing the team’s manager did during the season into an actual wall of photos displayed in the park is a particularly brave brand of cockiness that a team that made history in the regular season can follow through on by winning a World Series.
Which, if anything is clear about this ALCS, where the outcome is far from certain, it’s that both teams think they’ll be the ones headed to the World Series. And anyone who thinks otherwise can answer to the big ol’ glass of cockiness they’re sipping from right now.