The 2013 Boston Red Sox are World Series Champions. Talk about unbelievable.
While the 2004 Red Sox Championship may very well be the greatest story in the history of sport, there’s so much about the 2013 team and the run they made that make this Championship remarkable in its own right. So as Boston fans continue to bask in the glow of our third World Series title in the past decade, the following are the story lines that will forever live in Red Sox lore long after the Championship parade makes its way through the city tomorrow.
1) Worst to first – In the history of baseball there has never been a last place team to win the Championship the very next season. The 2012 Red Sox, under the guidance of Bobby Valentine, finished 69-93 – a whopping 26 games behind the division leading Yankees. One year later Boston managed the best record in baseball, 97-65, then took a brutal path through Tampa Bay, Detroit, and the St. Louis Cardinals en route to the Championship.
New GM Ben Cherington and Manager John Farrell cannot be given enough credit for this turnaround. Few GM’s have ever had the pressure on them that Cherington did going into this season, and he pulled all the right strings. Veteran leadership and chemistry were his guiding lights, as he added the likes of Mike Napoli, Shane Victorino, and Stephen Drew among others. Farrell instantly commanded respect in the clubhouse and brought the emphasis back to the action on the field. Rack one up for leadership and team chemistry trumping mega-contracts and talent.
2) David Ortiz - David Ortiz was already going to go down as one of the greatest clutch post season hitters in history. What he did in the playoffs this year was absolutely absurd. In the World Series alone Ortiz had 11 hits in 16 at-bats (.688), scored 7 runs, hit 2 home runs, had 6 RBIs, and OPS of 1.948. His mid-game speech to the team in game 5 of the series ignited the Red Sox. Ortiz’s leadership, mentorship, and clutch hitting continue to be gushed over by both his current and former teammates and coaches. I’ve been hearing that this guy is washed up for 5+ years now, yet he managed a tidy little .309, 30 home run, 103 RBI season this year. He deserves the World Series MVP, and he is the greatest Red Sox player of this generation.
3) Shane Victorino - Shane Victorino’s grand slam in game 6 of the ALCS punched the Red Sox a ticket to the World Series, and instantly earned him a place in Red Sox history. He still has no idea what he’s in for, and can plan to return to Fenway to a standing ovation for the rest of his life. His three-run blast off the Green Monster in game 6 of the Series essentially delivered the Championship.
4) John Lackey - There has probably never been a more polarizing player in Red Sox history than John Lackey. In 2011 Lackey was hated by every single member of Red Sox nation, and with good reason. He was making an absurd amount of money, all the while racking up a 6.41 ERA and leading the league in earned runs and batters hit by pitch. He was smug, short with the media, and quickly became the poster boy for the “Chicken and beer” meltdown Red Sox. Fast forward to this season, and we saw Lackey pitch key innings of relief in the World Series before taking the ball and pitching nothing short of a gritty game in the clincher. Talk about redemption – the guy needed it.
5) Fenway Park – While the 2004 Red Sox broke the curse of the bambino, the 2013 Red Sox delivered Boston a World Series at Fenway Park for the first time since 1918. I have long said that the Red Sox have the greatest fan base of any team in any sport, and I stand by that. This was an incredibly special win not just for those lucky enough the be in the stadium, but for the whole city. There’s nothing like winning at home.
I watched the game in a bar in San Diego that was packed to the brim with Red Sox fans – I’ve never seen anything like it from a fan base in another city. Many of the bars in Boston were at capacity by 2:00pm the night of game 6. Any for those Boston fans who think that the Red Sox are not Boston’s biggest draw, step outside on Saturday. You’re out of your mind.
This series reminded me that a Red Sox World Series is worth two championships in any other sport. It reminded me that pitching and team chemistry are the keys to a championship. When I look ahead to next year, I see even more clearly that the 2013 team made it’s run with its third string closer (Koji Uehara, I love you). I see Xander Bogaerts waiting to show what he can do at the major league level, and I see a really nice trading chip in Will Middlebrooks. There’s certainly reason for optimism, but there’s no time like the present to soak this Championship in.
Last but not least, I have to admit that this win was doubly sweet for me. On February 22, 2013, I made the first sports bet I’ve ever made in Las Vegas. I picked the Red Sox to win the World Series, and coming off the 69-93 record with the likes of John Lackey in the starting rotation I was given 28-1 odds.
Here’s to the 2012 World Series Champion Boston Red Sox – a team that played with the ultimate chip on its shoulder, and a team that had one another’s backs – even when they decided to make a habit out of throwing the ball past the third baseman and into the outfield.