I’m a tired, happy, shaggy bearded baseball fan this Halloween. I’ve been up late for many October nights watching the playoffs. Last night the Red Sox won their third World Series title in a decade.
They did it a year after a season when they finished last in all of baseball, leaving a smoldering crater and noxious fumes pouring out of it.
You keep on using that word, Vizzini. I do not think it means what you think it means.
Anyway, they did it with 37-year old DH David Ortiz not only bouncing back from what looked like possibly career ending Achilles issues, but regaining close to peak form and then submitting a historic hot streak at the plate in the World Series while also playing 1B for three games, having a Churchill moment, winning his third title, winning the MVP, and making a very good case for induction into the Hall of Fame.
“It’s not possible.”
Not probable, Captain Barbossa. Because, indeed, this was a team marooned on a desert island. They had become an arrogant organization with a roster laden with bloated contracts and egos. Baseball is a cruel game, quick to punish hubris, and so the Red Sox became an unpopular joke. Casual fans deserted them. Devoted fans lamented the return of the bad old days and played their 2004 and 2007 World Series DVDs until the discs burned out.
But then the Red Sox escaped. Not by lashing sea turtles together with the hair from their backs but something almost as outlandish. They worked a deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers that sent some of their biggest problems (underperformers with titanic contracts) west. Suddenly they had wind in the sails and room to maneuver.
They had a chance. But they needed to use it wisely.
Next they fired the disastrous Bobby Valentine and worked a trade with the Blue Jays to install John Farrell as manager. Suddenly they had a captain with a calm, sure hand. Someone who inspired trust rather than inciting mutiny. They took the money freed up via the Dodgers trade and adopted a different strategy, investing it in short term deals for mid range players with more professional attitudes. Voila, an entirely altered crew dynamic.
Despite all that, almost no one was picking them to with the World Series this year. Most pundits didn’t think they would make the playoffs. This was (again) supposed to be the year the Blue Jays broke through and won the division. The Orioles would benefit from experience gained in 2012. The Rays always have pitching and managerial guile. The Yankees…well, they had problems looming larger by the day, but you never count them out.
80 – 85 wins. Third place in the AL East. No playoffs. That was a common projection.
I had no problem with that. My attitude as a fan going into this season was, “Just be better. Stop embarrassing yourselves. Work hard. Play hard. Act professional. Get back on the right track and that’s enough for this year.”
Instead, something like magic happened. A sum much larger than its parts emerged. The players who had underperformed all bounced back. The players with health issues healed up enough to perform, often spectacularly. A team that actually was a team won back its fans and its city in the summer when Boston needed the escape and joy of baseball the most. They were fun to watch. Easy to root for.
Such a great story with so many fantastic threads:
- John Lackey, possibly the most reviled athlete in Boston for stretches of the past few years, returns to full health, rededicates himself, and is the winning pitcher of the final game.
- Jon Lester grows up and leaves behind the incessant whining at umpires to cement his status as the ace he always had the talent to be.
- Koji Uehara goes from being a middle reliever to submitting a season at closer that’s even better than anything Mariano Rivera – the greatest of all time – achieved.
- David Ross, a bit of a journeyman catcher for 11 seasons, becomes the rock for the pitchers and defense in the postseason and even makes some big hits.
- Xander Boegarts, 21 years old going on 30 with dazzling potential ahead.
- Beards. #GetBeard. Beard Night. Beard pulling.
It all culminated in a great night in Boston last night. The energy and roar in Fenway Park was amazing, even over the TV.
Thanks, Red Sox.
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