2013 Red Sox endeared themselves to New England
2013 Red Sox endeared themselves to New England
They may have been the most over-achieving team in Major League history.
I fully admit that back in April, I gave the Boston Red Sox absolutely no chance of winning the American League East or the World Series. Heck, I didn't think they would be a playoff team and thought they would be lucky to break even for the season.
Jon Lester had a bad 2012 when the team won a paltry 69 games and finished in last place; Clay Buchholz had a history of injury problems; John Lackey was just coming off Tommy John surgery and the year before he was the worst starting pitcher in all of baseball; Felix Doubrant was an unknown quantity, and the newly acquired Ryan Dempster was an innings eater, someone who needed a lot of runs to be successful.
And that was just the starting rotation.
At first base was a converted catcher and his hip deterioration was at issue, so much so that the Sox pulled back a multi-year contract and instead gave him one year.
Rock-steady Dustin Pedroia was at second base, a questionable Stephen Drew was added to a long list of players who the Sox had tried in the past decade at shortstop, and a questionable Will Middlebrooks was slated to play third.
Jacoby Ellsbury in center field was fine defensively, but he, too, has had issues remaining on the field. Left field was going to be a platoon between Jonny Gomes and Daniel Nava, neither of them exactly Hall of Famers, and right field would be manned by a spunky, but less than powerful Shane Victorino.
Jarod Saltalamacchia was returning as the catcher, but he isn't exactly an all-star.
David Ortiz was returning as designated hitter, but questions arose about his health as well a his age. How long can he continue to perform at a high level?
The bullpen, although fairly good on paper, was a major question mark, and before the season even got going, the two guys that they had slated to close games, Joel Hanrahan and Andrew Bailey, were lost for the season.
Papi was on the sidelines, there was a weak bullpen, questionable starting pitching and unknowns up and down the lineup.
So what happens? Lester and Buchholz get out to terrific starts. Napoli, although he strikes out too often, has a tremendous impact when he does hit the ball and sets a new RBI record for April and the team if off and running.
They used the tragic Boston Marathon bombing as a catalyst, knowing that sports aren't the answer to such devastation, but can certainly help ease the pain, and take on the mantra of Boston Strong.
Injuries took their toll on the team, but each time players from within the organization got called up and contributed.
Daniel Nava had a career year, hitting over .300, Gomes was as inspirational as you could find. Victorino, the human baseball target, manages to get his way on base one way or the other all season despite battling injuries, Papi was still his magnificent self, and maybe most importantly, a relief pitcher who had been flying under the radar in what had been a good Major League career, Koji Uehara, emerged as not one of the best, but the absolute best closer in baseball.
Manager John Farrell proved to be a master in managing the pitching staff, and afforded Lester some time off right around the all-star break and helped him turn the season around.
Even when situations called for other players to be in the lineup, Farrell somehow used his instincts, and more often than not, ended up being right.
It was a team of destiny, one that we will likely never see together again as some will opt for the lure of big dollars and go elsewhere via free agency.
That's fine. This group gave Boston its third World Series championship in a decade at a time when the area needed it most.
The organization was rewarded with the rolling rally on Saturday morning as 25 Duckboats paraded through Boston streets in front of an estimated two million adoring fans.
The most poignant moment was when Gomes and Salty got off their Duckboat at the Boston marathon finish line and draped jerseys with the Boston area code over their championship trophy.
They took time to acknowledged those who were injured in the fateful blast, and to say thanks to the first responders who responded so heroically, further solidifying their identity with Boston fans.
It was an every day man's team and proved to us that we can achieve almost anything with tremendous work ethic and desire.
It's not easy to win a World Series. The Sox had to fend off Baltimore and Tampa Bay during the regular season, beat Tampa and top pitchers Moore and Price, and for their reward, got to face a Tigers pitching staff that featured Verlander and Sherza, and they beat them, too.
Then came the young rocket arms of the St. Louis Cardinals, and once again, the Sox rose to the occasion.
They may not win another one for a while, but that's fine, because the memory of this one, just like when the Sox swept the Yankees after being down three games to none in 2004, will last for a long, long time.
* What's up with the Patriots? They look like Jacksonville in the first half against Miami, and then look like world beaters in the second half.
Then they beat up Pittsburgh for a half, let up and let the Steelers back into the game, and then put the pedal to the metal and wipe out the team from Three Rivers.
Always known for an aggressive, hard nosed defense, the Steelers are already out of the playoff picture.
When did the Steel Curtain become a shower curtain?
* Now that the Sox and their fairy tale season is done, more focus will be turned to the Celtics, and that's not going to be good thing.
Not this year. NO championship here, no playoffs and not even a .500 season.
* I got my first look at the new Cumberland High School football field on Sunday when the Blackstone Valley American Youth Football League held its Super Bowls there.
If it proves as durable as officials have claimed, the town has a class facility that will be enjoyed for years.