It has been a week since the Red Sox won the World Series, and every time I see the line score from the clinching game six on my phone’s MLB At Bat app, I wonder when Bud Selig is going to schedule games 7,8, and 9 to give the Cardinals a chance to come back in the series. To be fair, I would not mind seeing this group of guys play some more baseball this year, but really the fact that this magical season is over still hasn’t really hit me yet.
To anyone outside the organization it seemed very unlikely that the Red Sox would be riding the duckboats come November. Coming off the disasters of the past couple seasons I really thought it would take some time to love this team as much as I did before September 2011, but that all changed before summer really even started. Luckily, the key offseason acquisitions and the entire clubhouse culture change that they brought with them reminded us that baseball at its heart is a kids game played by men with overgrown beards, and the way that this team played with passion showed that yeah, these were big kids on that 90-foot diamond.
To give credit where credit is due, on the field it all started at the top with “Manager John” (Farrell). Farrell was pitching coach for the Red Sox from 2007-2010 and spent the Sox black hole seasons across the border gaining managerial experience with the Toronto Blue Jays. This experience, combined with the fantastic job done by the Red Sox front office in bringing in quality ballplayers and just as importantly quality people in David Ross, Jonny Gomes, Shane Victorino, Koji Uehara, Ryan Dempster, Stephen Drew, Mike Napoli, and Mike Carp really brought this team together to create the special season we all just witnessed. Every single player on this team was brought in to fill a specific role (including late season speedster pickup Quintin Berry), and all did their job without complaining.
Then there was John Lackey. When it was announced in October 2011 that Lackey would need Tommy John surgery all of Red Sox Nation rejoiced in the fact that he would miss an entire season. How wrong we all were, as in 2013 Lackey may have been the best 10-13 pitcher with a 3.52 ERA in baseball history. His 3-1 postseason record was just as surprising to most, but he believed in himself and even refused to be taken out of Game 6 in the 7th inning. It was that kind of year for Mr. Lackey. It was like that most of the guys on the 40 man roster this year.
The changes in culture and Boston baseball being fun again all took a back seat when another local sporting event, the Boston Marathon, was tragically bombed by the Tsarnaev brothers on April 15th, 2013. As is the case every year on Patriot’s Day (the 3rd Monday of April) the Red Sox started their day with an 11am first pitch against the Tampa Rays. That was a dramatic game punctuated by a Mike Napoli walk-off double, but just hours later a much more emotional and important event happened as two consecutive explosions went off near the finish line of the Marathon. The team was on their way to Logan Airport to catch a charter to Cleveland to play the Indians, but there is no doubt in my mind that this group of guys realized how important they were to the healing process of the city in the aftermath of this tragedy. No city loves their team as much as Bostonians love their Red Sox, and the “Boston Strong” ideals that this team and the One Fund Boston adopted really define this whole incredible championship drive. The Red Sox won for their “fucking” city and for something bigger than themselves, and that’s something truly rare to find these days in professional sports. No disrespect to the victims of this tragedy, but without the bombing I don’t think that the third trophy in 9 years would be sitting on Yawkey Way tonight.
Back on the diamond, it is really hard to explain what happened this season, besides everybody playing well beyond expectations. This was a season where almost every night the production came from an unlikely source, and when it really mattered you knew you could count on David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, or Shane Victorino. Mike Napoli and Jonny Gomes were two of the biggest question marks going into the season and they both had more than their fair share of clutch hits, and even relatively unheard of Daniel Nava and Mike Carp won games singlehandedly for this team. Again, it was that kind of year.
In my 27 year relationship with sports, the 2004 Red Sox championship is my personal holy grail of sports watching that will not be topped until I have children of my own competing on the diamond or the soccer pitch. The 2007 World Series title was nice and added to the New England fan’s spoils, but this 2013 championship is one that I will never forget.
Thanks to Shane Victorino with a little help from his pal Bob Marley, the 2013 Red Sox reminded us that “Every Little Thing Gonna Be All Right”. For that, I am thankful.