Red Sox deliver season for the ages

Red Sox deliver season for the ages

It was back in 1967 when Carl Yastrzemski became king and a triple crown winner and Jim Lonborg ruled the pitcher's mound.

That's when interest in the Boston Red Sox rekindled. After struggling through (another) dismal season in 1966, the Fenway Flock somehow won the American League pennant and went on to the World Series.

Boston has been to the playoffs several times since, and as all of you know, snapped an 86-year "Curse of the Bambino" World Series drought by winning the championship not once, but twice.

But this year's team is more like that 1967 miracle. Piecing together a fair nucleus of players from last season like Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz, Jon Lester and Clay Buccholz, they ventured into spring training.

General Manager Ben Cherington picked up what appeared to be a few serviceable players. No superstars, but players with talent who seem to hustle every time they play. Guys like Shane Victorino and Mike Napoli and Steve Drew.

They brought in a new manager, John Farrell, to replace the three-ring circus that Bobby Valentine created a season ago when the Red Sox finished in last place in the American League East.

Last place!

But then something started to happen. Perhaps it was the horror that struck Boston during the Marathon that drew the team together and brought out the best in players.

Whatever the reason, the team put together a decent early part of the season. Buccholz and Lester got off to a tremendous start and John Lackey rediscovered the form that made him a front line starter when he was playing for the Angels.

A guy named Mike Carp delivered clutch hits in a sub role, as did John Gomes. And Daniel Nava didn't fade late in the season like he always has in the past, belting the ball all over the lot to the tune of a .300 average.

Early on, the Red Sox lost what was supposed to be the back end of their bullpen when Joel Hanrahan and Andrew Bailey were lost to injury, and the bullpen was depleted even more when Andrew Miller got hurt.

But in that process, the Red Sox discovered Koji Uehara, who has developed into the best closer in all of baseball. His earned run average for the season was an unfathomable 1.09, and since July 1, he struck out 52 hitters while walking only two.

Still the Sox overcame and kept winning. They went from worst to first in one season, featuring 11 walk-off wins with their never-say-die attitude.

Obviously I'll be rooting for them to move along in the playoffs, but even if they don't, this has been a season to remember.

Here 'N There

* If it weren't for the Red Sox, the two best stories in Major League Baseball this year would be the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Cleveland Indians.

Both emerged from the baseball ashes to claim their first playoff appearance in years.

It's particularly noteworthy that former Red Sox skipper Terry Francona is at the helm for the young Indians team. It would have been very interesting if he would have brought his tribe back to Fenway for the American League pennant.

* I'd also like to see a Red Sox-Dodgers World Series because of last year's super trade.

* One of the most touching moments I've ever seen was when Yankees players Derek Jeter and Andy Pettitte went to the mound to remove Mariano Rivera from the game in his final appearance at Yankee Stadium.

That trio represents two sure-fire first ballot Hall of Famers in Jeter and Rivera, and the third may get inclusion. Pettitte has won 256 games, is the only pitcher in Major League history to have pitched at least 15 years and never have a losing record, and has won more playoff games, 19, than anyone else.

* Life for the Yankees post Rivera, Pettitte and others, will not be an easy one.

* The Patriots are in trouble. They had cupcake games the first three weeks of the season when they faced rookie quarterbacks in back-to-back games and a bad Tampa Bay team. But going into Atlanta and beating the Falcons is never easy, and they managed to do that.

But then big Vince Wilfork went down with a season ending injury, and the defense had to be altered.

Other than Tom Brady, if there was one New England player who was considered indispensable, it's big Vince, the run stopper.

That showed on Sunday when the Cincinnati Bengals ran for about twice their average amount of yards. The Patriots defense did a creditable job, allowing only 13 points, but the Bengals are not exactly an offensive juggernaut.

What concerned me most is that the Patriots had more drops than we did during Sunday's rain showers. They lead the league in that department, and Tom Brady, whose consecutive game touchdown pass streak ended, is not looking good at all.

Maybe it's the new receivers, but he missed some wide open opportunities on a day when all he had to do was put in a couple of scores.

* When the Boston Red Sox, behind a superlative pitching performance by Jon Lester, beat the Detroit Tigers 2-1 during the last week of the season, it prevented Tigers pitcher Max Scherzer from becoming only the second pitcher in Major League history from starting a season 20-1.

He entered the game 19-1, and pitched more than well enough to pick up his 20th win, but Lester put a stop to it.

The only pitcher to start a season 20-1?

A guy by the name of Roger Clemens, who turned the trick in 2001 as a member of the New York Yankees.

He ended that season at 20-3.

* Somthing tells me it's going to be a very long season for this year's Boston Celtics.

The Boston Bruins, on the other hand, should give their fans plenty to cheer about as they make another run at the cup.