By Pat Cameron
The Boston Red Sox just completed one of the most unbelievable turnarounds in professional sports history.
After finishing in dead last in the American League East last season (69-93; worst season overall since 1965) and being completely dysfunctional overall, the Sox changed their culture and had one of the most magical seasons any fan could have wanted, compiling a 97-65 regular season record (tied with St. Louis for the best in baseball) before beating Tampa Bay, Detroit and St. Louis in the playoffs to win their eighth World Series title and first at Fenway Park since 1918. This run was made more special for Bostonians by the tragic events that took place during the Boston Marathon. The Sox were able to rally around those emotions and complete a championship season, further signifying the passionate motto “Boston Strong” that became a hit all around the city following the terrorist attacks.
This year was different for the Red Sox. Prior to this past season, they often spent the most money on highly talented players with high egos. This time around, however, they sought high character players who would bring the right attitude to the field and the locker room, such as Jonny Gomes, David Ross, Ryan Dempster and Shane Victorino.
Not only did the player roster require major changes, the managerial position was also a huge problem of 2012’s debacle. From day one, Bobby Valentine was not a good fit and that’s why he got fired the day after the regular season ended. Also, it’s what caused the Sox to trade away a player (Mike Aviles) to bring back a man in John Farrell, who had been the team’s pitching coach from 2007-10 and knew what it took to be successful.
2013 was supposed to be a rebuilding year for the Sox. They were predicted by many to finish last in their division due to having several players at the tail ends of their careers; but no one took into account that these guys were true winners.
The season started off very well with many of the new acquisitions making an immediate impact. Another major thing to the team’s success was that David Ortiz was healthy and productive. He missed the first few weeks of the season but took off like a bat out of hell upon returning. He finished the year with a .309 batting average, 30 home runs and 103 runs batted in.
The pitching staff was very solid from start to finish. Clay Buchholz started the season 9-0 before going down in early June with an injury that kept him out for the majority of the rest of the season, but other starters picked up the slack. Jon Lester was mostly inconsistent in the first half of the year but turned his game around and became the dominant pitcher we all know he’s capable of being. Then there was John Lackey. Fresh off Tommy John surgery and missing all of 2012, he stabilized the Red Sox rotation from the beginning of the year. He didn’t get the numbers he deserved (10-13 record with a solid 3.52 ERA) but was the most consistent starting pitcher all season. The rest of the rotation was changed around all season but almost every game gave the Red Sox a chance to win.
Coming into the season, the bullpen was considered one of the strong points of this Red Sox team. Unfortunately, injuries plagued them for the first half of the year leaving many questions unanswered; the main one being who would close games for this team. This was where a star would be born, and his name was Koji Uehara.
Uehara had been a journeyman his entire career. After projected closers Joel Hanrahan and Andrew Bailey couldn’t get the job done, he ended up getting closer duties and purely dominated. He was almost unhittable when he came in! He gave his manager and teammates so much confidence because they knew if he came into the game he’d shut down the opposition like it was nothing. His overall numbers for the season were ridiculous: a 1.09 ERA, a 0.57 WHIP, a .130 opponent’s batting average, and a strikeout to walk ratio of 101 to 9.
In my opinion, Uehara should be the MVP for the regular season because of how dominant and reliable he was. If the Red Sox did not have him, they most likely wouldn’t have had the same success.
The Red Sox headed into the postseason with a ton of confidence and motivation. They wanted to prove to Boston that the city can overcome anything. With the Boston Bruins falling short in the Stanley Cup Final four months earlier, it drove them so much more to win. The Sox didn’t want to disappoint their home fans again; they wanted to give them what they, and the city, deserved.
The Sandy Hook shooting and the Boston Marathon bombings were very emotional events that hurt a great number of people. The best part of this magical run was that the Red Sox were able to bring people together and show them even when people are counting you down and out, you can come together and get through tough times.
David Ortiz is an iconic part of this city and he took it upon himself to help people get through these struggles. The team leader on and off the field, he batted .688 during the World Series and took home MVP honors.
During the whole postseason I had the feeling the Red Sox were going to win because they wanted it the most. The players on the team wanted to do anything and everything they could to bring some cheer and happiness to the city. It is going to take a little time for this to sink in because of what it represents and everything that it means to Boston.
The way this season started with the tragedies and low expectations makes this season one that no one will ever forget. This town has been filled with many champions during the last decade but what this team represented makes them my favorite of all time and I know I am not the only one with that opinion.