The Brantford Red Sox had a stacked lineup coming into the 2012 season, but a stacked lineup does not always guarantee success.
“We built a team to make sure we would win our last game,” general manager Mike Bonanno said. “But there have been plenty of teams, like the New York Yankees, that have the most talent on paper and don’t win their last game.”
The Intercounty Baseball League has a storied history that dates back to 1919 in Southern Ontario. The Red Sox equaled the all-time great teams when they won their fifth-straight IBL championship last Wednesday.
Only the 1927-31 Galt Terriers and 1959-63 Red Sox have previously accomplished such a feat of dominance.
“And I think the league was the strongest it’s ever been,” Bonanno said.
If that is true, the Red Sox performance in 2012 is all the more impressive.
Not only did they secure the longevity of their dynasty, but they did it in absolutely commanding fashion.
Including the playoffs, the Red Sox lost only seven games while winning 41 for an overall winning percentage of .854.
The Red Sox dropped one game in the first round of the postseason against the Burlington Twins, but then swept the Kitchener Panthers and Barrie Baycats en route to the title.
The IBL only keeps playoff records online from 2003, but the next-best any team has done in that time is to lose only three games in the playoffs.
The IBL keeps regular season records online since 2001.
The 2012 Red Sox regular season winning percentage of .859 has only been bettered by the Toronto Maple Leafs teams of the early 2000s that featured former Toronto Blue Jays MLB players Rob Butler and Paul Spoljaric.
Bonanno said the dominance was achieved because the players were always there to pick each other up.
“It was a complete team effort from the very start of the regular season to the very end of the playoffs,” Bonanno said. “Every game it seemed like someone new would step up for us. That was the story all season.”
The statistics back up Bonanno’s assertion.
The team got fantastic years out of the core that has been together while winning six IBL titles in the past seven years, but also received incredible play from the newcomers.
The Red Sox had seven regulars hit better than .300 during the regular season and six players drive in more than 20 runs.
New to the Red Sox mound were former Yankees prospect Nathan Forer and former MLB pitcher Brian Sikorski.
The pair tied for second in the IBL with six wins apiece.
New on the diamond for the Red Sox was former MLB first baseman Scott Thorman, who turned out to be one of the best players the IBL has seen in a long time.
“When you look at what he accomplished in this league it is nothing short of remarkable,” Bonanno said. “But beyond his play, he is one of the best locker room guys around. I can’t sit here and say enough great things about him.”
Thorman led the IBL with 13 home runs and 50 RBIs during the regular season and won the playoff MVP by pounding out 10 home runs in just 44 at-bats.
Not to mention the Red Sox had sophomore Terrell Alliman lead the team in batting average (.414) and runs scored (50) for the second season in a row.
Utility player Dwayne Bailey led the team with 17 stolen bases in his debut campaign with the Red Sox and veteran Kevin Hinton, in his first season with the Sox, broke the all-time IBL hits record this season.
But it wasn’t just the newcomers that were performing.
Eight players have been around since the Red Sox won the 2006 championship season: batters Lee Delfino, Hyung Cho, Josh McCurdy, Tyler Burnell, Jason Gotwalt and Wayne Forman, as well as pitchers Stefan Strecker and Brad Hogeterp.
Delfino bested his IBL career highs with eight home runs and 40 RBIs during the regular season. McCurdy tied his career-high with 43 runs. Forman scored more runs (21) than he had since 2005 and drove in more runs (22) than he had since 2007. Burnell had his best season at the plate since 2007.
While Bonanno does a lot of the work to make the connections with the players, he said the success starts at the top with owner Paul Aucoin and manager Adam Clarke.
“Aucoin does such a great job to bring in and inspire the players,” Bonanno said. “And with that much talent on the bench, Clarke did an incredible job to juggle the lineup.”
Bonanno said the team will take some time to let the accomplishment sink in before beginning discussions about the possibility of pushing for an all-time IBL record of six consecutive championships.
“We definitely want to give the guys some time off to enjoy the championship and to enjoy the rally we will surely have coming up,” he said. “When the time comes, we will all meet and see what direction we want to take the club.”