2013 Red Sox: From The Dregs To The Brim

Sports in New England has gone under an identity shift the last two decades. While the never ending sense of dread still remains in our DNA we come to also expect success. Anything sort of a championship is considered a failure. This was the consensus during the fifteen-year drought and that is still the overarching belief during our Golden Era (God wilting this era isn’t over).

But in 2013 the tenor of the Boston Red Sox, the only other professional team based in New England to win multiple championships since the Patriots rattled off their first chip in 2001, was dread. Unlike the Patriots the Red Sox have not been a model of consistency and stable management. Mangers and front office men are often fired after a couple seasons and nobody since Terry Francona has managed longer than four seasons. General Manager Theo Epstein, along with Larry Lucchino moved away from the metrics heavy philosophy Bill James pioneered and helped sculpt two world championships. James was frozen out as the team made bad signings, such as retaining Josh Beckett, trading a top flight prospect and signing Adrian Gonzalez, and the coup de grace the driving of the preverbal Brinks truck to Carl Crawford’s house.

Beckett, Crawford and A-Gon combined for $364 million of the Red Sox astronomical salary cap. Beckett averaged $17 million, A-Gon $22 million, and Crawford of $22,285,714. Entering 2011 the Red Sox roster cost approximately $161,762,475 and three players took up thirty-seven percent of it.

While Gonzalez enjoyed individual success his first year in Boston, making the All-Star game, leading the league in hits and winning a Gold Glove, and Beckett also made the All-Star game and finished top-10 in Cy Young voting, Crawford was DOA. Initially wanting to go to Los Angeles to play for the Angels the Red Sox offered him too much green for him to turn down so he mopped around and his sluggish play showed. 2011 me hated Carl Crawford… 2021 me admires him for getting his money and still being pissy.

His last two years in Tampa Crawford hit a respectable .306, drove in 158 runs and stole 107 bases. In Boston Crawford batted .255, 56 RBIs and 18 steals. A lot is made about how all the three signings instantly became albatrosses, but Gonzalez remained a great player for multiple years and Beckett had one more good campaign in him. Crawford was the one who didn’t live up to the hype.

Entering 2011 you would have never guessed the end of the First Red Sox Empire was upon us. Stalwarts of the previous championship squad (David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis, Jonathan Papelbon, Jacoby Ellsbury, Josh Beckett, Jason Varitek, Tim Wakefield and Jon Lester) are still All-Star level talents. Added on top of that ownership opened up their pocketbooks to sign World Champion reliever Bobby Jenks as if Papelbon wasn’t already enough. Sure, John Lackey had a horrid 2010 campaign, but surely he’ll rebound and not pitch an entire season on an elbow that needed Tommy John surgery. Right?

Despite an 0-6 start the team put that memory to rest by winning 80 of their next 121 games and a division lead entering September. The Tampa Bay (no longer the Devil) Rays sat in a distant second by a whopping nine games entering the final stretch. Then came the poultry and volatile flammable liquid.

But the sharp decline wasn’t all because the Bros decided to kick back a some brewskis and eat some KFC. Youkilis battled injuries the entire year and grew discouraged and detached from the team.

Francona behind the scenes was made a lame duck when the front office did not pick up his option for 2012. Reasonable to believe he thought this to be his final season captaining the Red Sox. Hard to manage when your future is suddenly murky. Add on to that his medical issues, dealing with multiple knee surgeries and the personal turmoil of having his oldest son stationed in Afghanistan it seemed like the writing was on the wall that Francona wouldn’t be around much longer.

A-Gon was accused of being devoid of energy and passion (that’s what happens when you sign a mercenary) and even the beloved Ortiz was charged with being a clubhouse disruptor.

And Epstein’s judgment in signing Crawford and Jenks, who’s career ended that year due to injury, caused serious doubt in his future as higher ups believed it was time for a change. I’m well aware this is the man who molded three championship teams for Boston and Chicago, but Theo in my mind is the main culprit for this and doesn’t get enough blame.

Even when they were winning I remember this distinct feeling of everything feeling off, for lack of a better term. Remember those NESN commercials in the middle of the season where Don Orsillo said “It took a while, but it’s all good!” making light of the Red Sox earlier season struggles? Well, it wasn’t all good. Lester, Lackey and Beckett struggled late and there performances only waned more so as the pressure ratcheted up with every loss. Funnily enough these were the three often cited in the clubhouse drinking the aforementioned beer and eating the fried chicken during games.

As much as this could be pinned on the players and the suits in the front office, this was a staggering failure of the older heads who failed to manage the chaos. Varitek was the long-standing team captain and couldn’t keep the shenanigans to a minimum. Wakefield was busy searching for his 200th win and cost Boston, by my count, a hundred chances to prevent this mess in order to get it. It’s no wonder why both these guys retired after this season.

As the season wore on the Red Sox rotation grew fatter and out of shape and the losses kept piling up. Suddenly that nine game lead over Tampa became a deficit and the Sox were fighting for their damned lives. A fight they would lose on the 162nd game and the first time I learned that bad things can happen to the teams I root for.

People began to point fingers, heads were chopped off and the people operating the guillotine also needed to put their head under the blade but instead found themselves with more power than before (Cc: Lucchino).

In need of a reputation repair the new general manager Ben Cherington’s arm was twisted to sign the once respected Bobby Valentine to a two-year deal. Here’s a pro tip: when a new manager is signed to a short term deal that’s because the dysfunctional front office was split whether to hire that person and decided on the worst possible route.

Valentine hadn’t managed in the pros since 2002, beating out Tigers coach Gene Lamont who was an active coach during the interview process while Valentine managed in Japan and did analysts for ESPN’s baseball coverage. The decent, most responsible choice was, even to a piss-ant teenager like myself was to hire Lamont. While I knew jack shit about baseball and figured Valentine would be fine because of his pedigree his hiring reeked of a gigantic swing attempt that’ll likely only chomp at air.

Still, I was optimistic. Valentine outperformed expectations wherever he went. Plus he seemed like he knew what he was talking about on TV. That movie where a kid manages the Minnesota Twins wanted to hire him so he must be good. It was also Fenway’s 100th anniversary and maybe those silly dump bricks the team sold at an astronomical price would prove a good omen for the beginning of a new era.

Side note: I made a lot of dumb purchases in my life but the one thing I am proud of in my miserable existence is I didn’t ask my mom and dad to pony up dough for a fucking brick. I think they asked me if I wanted it and I told them “It’s a brick.”

Valentine lost the clubhouse in a months time picking a fight with Youkilis publicly ripping into the third baseman on TV. Pedroia and Gonzalez stepped up to defend their teammate so Valentine relented. For someone who shied away from confrontation Valentine had an act for instigating it. Routinely calling out players during spring training and losing the respect of those all around him. By July Pedroia and A-Gon were having heated team meetings with ownership trying to nudge Valentine out the door.

2013 was the first time i had only modest expectations for the Red Sox. Expectations that boiled down to “please don’t embarrass me again.”

Gone are the high priced, underachievers, as well as the lone high priced talent worth his contract. In came the mildly overpriced, but good chemistry guys to repair the friction in the locker room. Bad chemistry is infectious. Even Pedroia and Ortiz didn’t keep themselves above the fray during the debacle in 2011. Ortiz bitched to Francona over a scorers decisions, something neither of them held the power to fix, because it could have costed him a batting award, and the team leader Pedroia seemed to just let the cancers fester unabated.

For two years we were bombarded with drama as opposed to baseball talk. It felt good to talk about newcomer Jackie Bradley Jr trying to make the 25 man roster, and the competition between left-handers Daniel Nava, Lyle Overbay, Ryan Sweeney, Billy Hamilton, and Mike Carp over who backs up Mike Napoli at first base. People talked about the youth movement with starting third baseman Will Middlebrooks, when is infielder Xander Bogaerts getting called up? Will Ryan Lavarnway and Christian Vazquez crack the backup catcher spot? How’s that young knuckleball pitcher Steven Wright looking?

You’d be surprised what a healthy, competitive training camp does for a team. Backup shortstop Jose Iglesias seized the starting spot in place of Stephen Drew who was sidelined with concussion like symptoms. Iglesias batted a poultry .188 the previous campaign and up until he was traded to Detroit in a large transaction that brought Jake Peavy to Boston, he hit a beyond .330. While he doesn’t get a ring for his contributions what Iglesias provided in the first half of the season shouldn’t be minimized.

It was a return to grit and selflessness that defined past teams. On opening day Pedroia injured his thumb sliding into first base in an attempt to beat out an infield throw, and still hit for .300, finished top-10 in MVP voting and won a Gold Glove at his position. Easily the best year for Pedroia. The year he embodied the heart and soul of the team as their version of Marcus Smart.

Whatever coin flips the Red Sox found themselves undertaking during the season always landed in their favor. Joel Hanrahan and Andrew Bailey are hurt? We got this guy named Koji Uehara who was striking out Barry Bonds back in 2002. Lester looking sluggish in the dog days of the season? Lackey just lost a ton of weight and looks like the Anaheim Angels version of himself.

That was the entire season, having never lost three straight games the Red Sox were on a magic carpet ride of unexpected success. That entire year the 7th, 8th and 9th inning guys were just nails and a guaranteed victory. Craig Breslow, Junichi Tazawa, and the aforementioned Koji shut the door on opponents virtually every night. And the team just rode those three like donkeys and they never broke down. How in the world have we let these names slip into irrelevance??? Koji was 38 pitching 74 innings while sporting an ERA barley above 1.00. Breslow was a nondescript journeymen and here he is being maybe the best set-up man of that year. Go to their baseball reference page it was just them the whole year. The other relievers either got traded or injured.

The much maligned Clay Buchholz looked like a Cy Young candidate his first twelve starts. The team was 11-1 in those starts. 84.1 innings and an opp. batting average of 1.95. Then he began to battle fatigue and didn’t come back until September and then came back a shell of himself.

Fortunately for Boston Felix Doubront for about 19 starts was just magnificent. 114 innings pitched and an ERA of under three he kept the rotation afloat. I honestly thought we were watching the birth of a star with him. My exact thoughts when we traded for Peavy was “Why we do that we already have King Felix!”

Just a bunch of cast-offs considered on the back-nine of their careers. Shane Victorino was thrown away by the Dodgers and considered an overpay at 3 years for $39 million. Victorino was coming off his worst campaign before signing with Boston. His slash line of .255/.321/.383 was pitiful. But Victorino was a smart hitter and made up for his shortcomings offensively by being great defensively and at base running.

Mike Napoli initially signed a multi-year contract with Boston but he failed a physical because of a bad hip so it became a one-year deal at a measly $5 million; costing him over $30 million. Despite being an All-Star Napoli was a tightrope player. Someone who embraced his extremes. Either he was bopping one out of the park or striking out. Absolutely no in between. And that extreme was met in the 2013 when he hit a home run off a dealing Justin Verlander despite batting a below .200 average in arguably a more shocking hit than Ortiz’ grand slam!

Drew was a quiet lunch-pale player. Not bombastic like Gomes or an extremist like Napoli. Drew was going to show up every day and make some run preventing plays at shortstop and it wasn’t going to matter he couldn’t hit. Drew is often talked about as a walking out (which he was, but still). Drew was actually an average hitter, but I never saw it. And I watched a ton of Red Sox games as a kid. This is before the Celtics overtook my interest. Regardless, Drew’s health always remained suspect.

There are so many random players who just have on their Wikipedia page listing their accomplishments as “2013 World Series Champion” and no player am I happier to see that honor given to than Drew.

But these guys had experience and stepped up in their own ways when the stage became its brightest. Because that was their pedigree. Victorino played on two pennant winning teams in Philly, including a championship. Napoli was a part of the Texas Rangers squad that was one misplayed fly out by Nelson Cruz away from a title. Drew was the lesser known brother of J.D, the hero of the 2007 title team. While Stephen wasn’t an albatross to later justify his contract with one swing of the bad in October, he did prove more than his modest worth of $9.5 million deal with his glove.

Another low-key signing that ended up paying gigantic dividends was Jonny Gomes, 2 years, $10 million. Gomes reputation was wherever he went the team made the playoffs, so he must be a good guy to have in the locker room. That broad statement turned out to be spot on.

Gomes’ batting swing earned him the moniker “Hacksaw Jonny Gomes” and it’s a thing of beauty to witness when he actually connects with the ball and it flys over the fence. Though he batted just .200 during the playoff run the team was 6-0 when he started in left field, and like Napoli hit the series momentum swinging home run over Trevor Rosenthal in Game 4 of the World Series.

The hits kept on coming. In a dry free agent pool for pitchers, only young future Cy Young winner Zack Greinke, the Sox deviated from their philosophy of spending like drunken sailors once given wiggle room and splurged modestly on 36-year old Ryan Dumpster… I mean DEMPSTER!

Two-years, $26.5 for a pitcher coming off a career year to be your backend of the rotation starter with an ERA of 4.33 didn’t scream “help is on the way!” for the 69-(not nice) win team. Plus, to add to the shenanigans, Dempster never pitched against the AL East. Which means he never pitched in the uber hitter friendly parks of Fenway and new Yankee stadium. His fast ball topped out at around 90 so he’d likely be a sitting duck facing A-Rod. But the Sox got 171 innings out of him and he held firm, even cracking the postseason roster despite the team having next to no use for him. Must have been as a favor for not sucking. 2013 would turn out to be Dempster’s final season in the majors, wishing to spend time with his family and forgoing his hefty $14.5 million salary. He did get a ring and went out a champion. For that I’ll always love Dempster for that.

On opening day the expectations were low and fans just wanted to have fun. Their focus was on JBJ who did crack the 25-man roster. The future was here and he was wearing number 44. I always liked that number. Watching the post game after, I believe it was Tom Carron and Jim Rice, you would have thought Bradley hit three home runs. Bradley drew three walks, which isn’t anything to sneeze at. But they broke down his at-bats pitch by pitch. But nobody complained. I was happy to see Bradley play well and I was doubly glad to see a healthy discourse. Just seeing fans and talking heads actually enjoy watching and discussing Red Sox games was an experience I didn’t have for about two years.

Bradley turned out to be a work in progress, as all top flight prospects turn out to be. Look at Jarren Duran it just takes time and you need reps to work through shortcomings. The only crime for JBJ in 2013 was the Red Sox exceeded expectations and couldn’t afford to play the rookie as they initially intended. But even though he didn’t make the playoff roster in 2013 his presence at the beginning was a purveyor of good things to come.

There aren’t many Red Sox games from the 2013 season on Youtube. I did watch the opening day game vs New York. What’s funny is how the pitchers were managed vs how the rotation would turn out later in the year. Koji was pitching in relief during the sixth inning. Hanrahan got the save. Lefty Andrew Miller walked two, struck out two. He was a guy I forgot we had, then remembered he’s the man we flipped for Eduardo Rodriguez the next season.

Still nursing his achilles injury Ortiz missed the opening series, making Gomes the designated hitter. Soon he’d take JBJ’s job in left field.

You think of all the anomalies the Red Sox had to benefit from to even reach the playoffs, its jaw dropping!

John Lackey getting into shape and healthy after coming off Tommy John surgery causing him to miss 2012 and returning to form

David Ortiz defying Father Time and not declining even slightly in production

Being able to flip Iglesias for pitching depth

Surviving the long series with a bullpen of mostly just three reliable guys

That last point makes me admire this team so much more. The Red Sox this year just ran Matt Barnes, Adam Ottavino and Garrett Whitlock into the ground to the point they are starting to get diminishing returns. Ottavino might be fine because his best stuff is more finesse than velocity, but Barnes is in a huge load of trouble because he’s a flamethrower on the mound with not much in the way of elusiveness when it comes to his pitching style. Fortunately for the 2013 team Koji’s fastball topped out at 88, Taz at 93 and Breslow at 92. Those three guys had a curveball they could get by on.

After beating Tampa in the ALDS next up on the docket was the mighty Detroit Tigers an their pitching rotation of death. “Surely we won’t get shut out by Anibal Sanchez of all people?” I thought… oh how stupid am I. This set the stage for the heavyweight fight between Max Scherzer and Buchholz… the worn down Buchholz needs to save our Cinderella season. Oh, my God we’re going to lose!

How are we going to win? Makes no sense. We’re gonna drown in a sea of Ks courtesy of Scherzer’s heterochromia iridis eyes, and Verlander’s unnatural ability to grow stronger the more pitches he throws.

Sanchez had a no-hitter going into the ninth inning giving up no runs the previous game, and Scherzer picked up right where his predecessor left off. Striking out thirteen in 7 and giving up just a charitable run to the hapless Sox lineup. I was so happy when Jim Leyland showed us mercy and pulled him after the seventh. I would have let him finished the whole game if I was Detroit.

Whereas the Sox bullpen needed to support the starters, the Tigers starters needed to support their bullpen. Buchholz did fine the first five innings of work but Farrell was asleep at the wheel and didn’t get his relievers warming up before the sixth. By then Buchholz’ pitches were essentially on a T-ball stand begging to be pelted. He gave up five, but I remember being more enraged at Farrell for letting Buchholz hang himself. To make matters worse, when Farrell did take him out he went to Brandon Workman the weakest link in the pen… In an unrelated occurrence Workman got three outs, giving up only a walk in his outing before being replaced by Doubront. Shows what I know, which is nothing.

Instead of sticking with Scherzer, Leyland called upon Jose Veras, who gave up a double to the slumping Middlebrooks after getting Drew to groundout. In comes lefty Drew Smyly who was brought in to face the left-hander Ellsbury and immediately walked him. Al Alburquerque then took over, striking out Victorino and walking Pedroia. For the fourth and final pitching change of the schizophrenic inning was the hard throwing Joaquin “Don’t Call Me Chris” Benoit. Ortiz said earlier in the year he’s had an inability to hit the curveball and change-up recently, but stated defiantly he could still hit the fastball and that’s what he promptly did on the first pitch that was right down the middle, over the wall tie game and Red Sox rise from their deathbeds and walk into a new life.

No one has ever explained to me why this was the preferred management of pitching rather than just let Scherzer put the death kneel in Boston for the eighth where it’s likely the bottom half of the order would have been up in the ninth with a four point lead how could you go wrong?

In the end future Red Sox Rick Porcello gives up the game-winning hit to Jared Saltamaccia, after Gomes beat out a Iglesias throw to first and the ball bounced out of play placing him at 2nd. An interference wasn’t called when Prince Fielder couldn’t corral a pop-up to first and a wild pitch sent Gomes to third. The disaster was capped by a slow roller into the outfield. It be the last bit Salty would get in Fenway Park.

Heading into game five is when Lester earned his big game status. Series tied 2-2 the Sox stole game 3, and were promptly throttled the next day by Pretty Ricky. Lester got himself into trouble early on, giving up three hits in the first inning. If Miguel Cabrera did not run through the third base coach’s stop sign and get tagged out at home the Tigers likely start the contest ahead.

Napoli smacks one over the center field wall the next inning, followed by two doubles by Xander, then David Ross and a single by Ellsbury to give Boston a total of three runs. The Red Sox previously couldn’t buy a run off Sanchez his last outing now suddenly had 3.

Bogaerts getting the starting nod over Middlebrooks was a smart Farrell choice for tonight. While everyone pulled their hair out over Drew, I was busy wondering why Salty and Middlebrooks were still playing. Especially since Bogey was a ready replacement and an improvement.

Playoffs:

Middlebrooks – 25 ABs, .160/.250/.240, 4 hits

Bogaerts – 27 ABs, .296/.412/.482, 8 hits

An underlying subplot to this series was not only the bad managing on the part of Leyland and Farrell, but the errors of Iglesias that caused Boston to climb back into games they really shouldn’t have. In the NBA if a team traded away a good rotation player and faced that player in the playoffs that year i’d imagine there’d be quite a lot written about the subject, but in baseball not a peep was uttered about it. In game six Ellsbury hit what should have been a double play ball and he mishandled it leading to a Victorino grand slam the very next at bat. He was absolutely the scapegoat of the series.

Just like in game two the Tigers bullpen murdered their teams chances. Ironically, Leyland wasn’t wrong to sub out Scherzer. He gave up a double to Gomes and walked Bogaerts, and Smyly did get the ground ball he desired only the shortstop didn’t come up with it. Veras took over and hammered the 0-2 pitch over the Green Monster. Doubly ironic is Ortiz was on deck.

Meanwhile Farrell didn’t do much better either. While Buchholz pitched five scoreless innings, Farrell let him stay in the game too long as the sixth inning once again being the culprit. Walking Torii Hunter, a single to Cabrera, and then Buchholz is replaced with the undisciplined Franklin Morales who promptly walks Fielder and gives up a single to former Red Sox Victor Martinez so he gets the hook for unexpected savior Brandon Workman, who gets Jhonny Peralta to ground into a double play and Alex Avila to strikeout.

In came the more reliable arms and the Sox suddenly went from worst to American League champions. A season that seemed destined for the Tigers to finally put all the pieces together, Leyland managing the All-Star game hellbent on the AL winning and gaining home-field advantage for the World Series only served to assist the team that would thwart them.

Opposite Boston in the Fall Classic was their National League doppelgänger in St. Louis. Like Boston they also attributed their run to an act similar to cutting teeth. But instead of cutting loose salary, the Cardinals let their franchise superstar walk after he just helped them win a championship. But management correctly projected Albert Pujols wasn’t worth the money he was demanding and they’d be better off using his money elsewhere. A year later they’d make the NLCS all the way to game seven. A season late they’d make it back to the World Series. Two well run organizations seemingly on fire. A combination of lucky signings, home ground talent and redemption stories.

The Cardinals were the cleaner version of the Red Sox. When their first era of dominance came to a close it was much more ceremonial. Tony La Russa retired after winning his second championship for the team two-years prior. The new heads was a mixture of the young and old, Molina carrying the torch for the original group, and youngsters like Kolten Wong and Michael Wacha leading the successful youth movement. Guys who won before, carrying themselves with the utmost professionalism but still fielding players with that needed hunger.

A pitching rotation of a rejuvenated Adam Wainwright, rookie sensation Wacha, and hard throwing Joe Kelly made up for a lackluster Cardinals batting lineup missing their key contributor in Allen Craig who was still hobbled from a Lisfranc injury suffered on September 4. A quick read on Wikipedia the injury was one of the metatarsal bones in his foot became displaced. All Craig could do was hit. He couldn’t run for shit. Carlos Beltran scared me but he always gonna let the bat rest on his shoulders in the big moments.

After drubbing the Cardinals in game one 8-1, I remember being pissed at Beltran robbing Ortiz of a grand slam. In his attempt at robbing Ortiz Beltran did damage his ribs considerably so I consider it an act of karma.

In game two Ortiz hit what should have been his most famous World Series home run time give the team a lead late. But Farrell continued to mismanage the pen. And this I definitely called at the time. While Lackey’s pitch count was low entering the seventh inning I wanted Breslow to have a clean inning. But since right-handers Craig and David Freese were the first two up, Lackey stayed in. Now here’s where past me was wrong. Farrell was right to keep the rightie in, but he should have deferred to Workman or Tazawa. That mistake cost us the game. Carpenter ties the game with a bases loaded sac fly, Breslow makes a throwing error causing another run to come in completing the self destruction.

Two games gifted to St. Louis thanks to throwing errors late. In what was a monumental test of their fortitude the Sox bent plenty times in game three, allowing 12 base runners and minimized the damage to the point they had a shot to steal it just as the Cardinals did the night before.

Peavy gives up two early in the first and the Sox claw back managing only a run off Kelly and then tied the game against Seth Maness. In the seventh Farrell AGAIN trusted Breslow this time with a clean inning and he promptly fucked it up. A single by Carpenter and a hit by pitch from Beltran, Taz inherited a mess he couldn’t clean up and a Matt Holiday double returned the lead to the home team. For the love of God, Breslow isn’t up to the task! The Cardinals are clearly feasting off left-handers!!

But, miraculously, Carlos Martinez paid the Sox back by opening up the eighth by giving up a hit to Ellsbury and then hitting Victorino.

After getting Pedroia out, he walks Ortiz and is replaced by Trevor Rosenthal who was in the same spot as Taz was just in, tasked with cleaning up his predecessors mess. The struggling Daniel Nava and the rookie Bogaerts were next. Nava drives in a run via fielders choice, resulting in an out and Bogey is clutch for a single scoring Victorino. Instead of pinch hitting Salty for Ross, or Middlebrooks or Gomes, Farrell stays with the catcher who was downright miserable at the plate and grounded out to end any threat of Boston taking its first lead of the long night.

Workman and Rosy get through the next innings and in the bottom of the ninth it seemed the game was heading into extras. Fun fact: Workman batted in the top of the ninth for Boston… on second thought Farrell wasn’t a good manger. After getting the first out, Molina hit for a single bringing in Koji. Craig doubled putting runners at 2nd and third. Jon Jay hits to Pedroia at 2nd base and easily throws out Molina, then Salty decides to do something that’ll staple him to the bench the rest of the series. He makes a risky throw to third to get the running Craig, which is idiotic because Craig can’t run to begin with and there are now two out so it’s not like you’re sending him home via sac fly. Middlebrooks couldn’t catch the wild throw. Despite Middlebrooks laying face in the dirt Craig stumbles over him as he rushes home and is thrown out at the plate but is saved by an obstruction call rewarding them game to St. Louis.

Bedlam. Just bedlam. The last time a game would get me that mad was game five vs Toronto in 2020. It was a bullshit call them and it’s still a bullshit call. Thank God it didn’t matter in the end.

I was at a wedding watching this. The dad of the bride was giving a heart felt toast during this sequence of which I interrupted by screaming “BULLSHIT” the dad promptly turns around and says “the Red Sox lost. I don’t know what happened.”

Once again the season rested in the fading arm of Buchholz. Christ! Buchholz has been in so many high leverage games I’m starting to consider the only reason we did win in the end was because of Devine intervention.

And if Craig couldn’t trudge around the bases before he certainly couldn’t do anything beyond just standing in the batters box. The spill he took at the end of game three limited him immensely. To the point where he was an afterthought. Someone who lurked in the shadows as a possible pinch hitter when the chips were down. Let’s just hope Mike Matheny is a fool and doesn’t use him.

Farrell had seen the light and decided Middlebrooks and Salty’s missions were complete, more or less, and it was time for Bogey and Ross to take over. While Ross wasn’t any more of an upside at the plate he’d at least connect the ball with his bat, whereas Salty just whiffed.

Buchholz only went four innings and gave up one run. Farrell knew he couldn’t play around and was quick with the hook when it looked like Buchholz was too vulnerable. In the four innings he only gave up one run.

In the fourth inning there was a chance for St. Louis to really turn the screws in. With Buchholz on the ropes, he intentionally walked Daniel Descalso to get to Lance Lynn who up until that point was pitching a gem. Would have been the perfect time to sub in Craig and put the game in the hands of your usually reliable bullpen. Two on, two out, high leverage chance to maybe win this thing now. But Matheny elected for the conservative route and let Lynn bat and promptly fail to score the runs.

Next inning, Red Sox tie it with a Drew sac fly, and the inning after Gomes hits a deep ball over the wall for three runs. By then Lynn’s night was finished and Maness had to take the heat for the three run shot.

Another time when the Sox were seemingly at the end of the road only to be given new life. This time it was Gomes who was the hero. The man who was heralded as bringing about a winning attitude wherever he went. First in Tampa in 2008 when they crashed the World Series, then Cincinnati in 2010 when they made it back to the playoffs after a long hiatus, then Oakland in 2012 in a feel good story for that year. The bombastic professional willing to sacrifice to win just hit a series altering slam. It’s only fair.

In a series where no one was hitting, besides Ortiz, it makes sense the spark came from Gomes in hindsight. Whenever he started the Sox coincidently found themselves in the winners circle. When he didn’t they lost. Besides game one, the Cardinals pitchers threw smoke and when they figured out they could just pitch around Ortiz it left Boston more impotent than ever.

Gomes only batted once in the previous game, it was a fly out that dropped his postseason average to a pitiful .125. If Victorino didn’t have back spasms prior to first pitch Gomes wouldn’t have never seen the field. As a last minute substitution Gomes first at bat in the 2nd inning was a 5-4-3 double play. Little did we know what we witnessed beyond the surface. As St. Louis looked poised to tighten their grip on the series Gomes exhibited, as Gomes brother puts it, a confident at bat. Not many in the Red Sox lineup had that. Passively accepting them playing catch-up vs St. Louis.

Before this moment a 3-1 deficit was to be expected. “Maybe Lester can stretch this thing back to Fenway” I thought “But no way does Lackey or Peavy win the next two.” That hit, according to Gomes, wasn’t even supposed to happen. He’s confessed he doesn’t hit righties particularly well, and with the young Maness riding a hot rookie campaign throwing 66 innings and a 2.32 ERA (and a ZERO ERA for the postseason). Gomes knew Maness trusted his sinker, he believed he could hit it if it was put in the correct spot. Lady Luck again smiled down on us and WHAM! Three-run shot. The Impossible Dream team once again cheat death.

When I saw that golf-like swing i repeated “GO GO GO GO GO!” if it was any other team besides my own I would have know from the moment it left the bat that it was over the wall. But the fan in me couldn’t allow myself to ever feel comfortable.

Farrell learned to not trust Breslow anymore. Remember that tangent I had about left-handed pitches not performing well vs St. Louis? Well, Doubront shoved that right up my preteen ass throwing two and a third scoreless innings… wait. Who is that coming out of the bullpen? Farrell you piece of shit!!

So Breslow is back and quickly puts two runners on despite needing just one out to escape the initially clean inning he inherited. Once again Taz had to clean up his mess. Holiday fails to make the Sox pay and they escape allowing just one run.

In comes Lackey. Now keep in mind I’m just a kid, so seeing a starter in a relief role is very foreign to me I believed Farrell lost his damned mind. Instead, Lackey gets Matt Adams to ground out by a great charge by Bogaerts. Molina hits a hot liner to Bogaerts, who makes a great stop but the arm strength isn’t there and lazily is out of Napoli’s reach and Molina is on 2nd. Two pitches later a wild pitch during the Jay moves Molina to third. Lackey appears to be disintegrating before our very eyes. Just a sac fly or a grounder will drive Molina home. But Jay pops it up to Drew in the infield so crisis averted.

2011 World Series hero David Freese grounds its softly to Drew and is easily thrown out. A big load is off my back, I sigh “Koji time.”

First batter: Descalso, is out. Second batter the dangerous Craig hits one over the head of Nava and is immediately taken out for the speedy Kolten Wong. Craig could have reached second but his legs were failing him. Carpenter continues to be useless and flies out to Pedroia, setting up Beltran.

A dominate, grizzled veteran slugger with the chance to rip the heart out of Boston vs the dominate grizzled veteran pitcher. This is what baseball is all about because no matter what it comes down to your best players facing off in a….

Sorry, I must’ve turned away from the TV while I was on my diatribe. Koji threw Wong out at first and the game was over. The rookie took one step too many away from the bag and paid the ultimate price. Seeing Wong take his lead Napoli stayed near the bag expecting a throw and got it. Even the Fox cameraman was shocked as his sights was set on a pretty blonde woman in the stands.

What’s funny is while blunders like this usually haunt athletes until they’re six feet under, everyone’s forgotten this moment and Wong has enjoyed a solid career since. The next season he finished third in Rookie of the Year voting, won two Gold Gloves and has secured a place for himself as one of the best second basemen in the National League.

But to have a World Series game end on a pick-off play, right after we had one end on an interference call this was if baseball was played if all the participants were secretly drugged.

Games five and six were less hectic. The series turned into a tug-a-war match that Boston eventually won. But unlike game four the moment when it definitively ended for St. Louis was less grand.

Boston struck first with an Ortiz double into left sending Pedroia home. Lester was crushing until the fourth when Holiday smashed one over the wall to knot it up. From then it became a war of attrition.

It culminated in the top of the seventh, a dealing Wainwright facing Boston’s bottom of the order Nava – Bogaerts – Drew – Ross – Lester. Nava went down easily, but the late season call-up Bogey hit a ground ball single, followed by a Drew walk. Quite improbable considering Drew up until that point had an on-base percentage of barley over .100. So to say Wainwright fucked up would be an understatement. Because Ross would hit a ground rule double the next at bat driving in Bogey, meaning Farrell could let Lester bat to keep him in the game. If there was two out maybe Farrell thinks about favoring the offense.

But Farrell didn’t have to put his thinking cap on. Ellsbury drove in an extra run and the Sox had seized complete control. St. Louis manages only a Freese double as Lester and Koji shut the door and promptly throttled the birds in the sixth and final game of the series. While winning the World Series on the hollowed grass of Fenway it didn’t feel like a gigantic weight was lifted from Boston fans shoulders, but more of a once in a lifetime sight to behold.

It was the climax of the long journeys for Koji. It was revenge for Napoli for the Cardinals stealing the 2011 title from him. It was validation for Drew proving to be just as, if not more useful than his older brother for the same team he won a championship on just six years earlier.

The mercenaries like Victorino, Gomes, Drew, and Napoli exceeding expectations. Homegrown guys like Bogey, Nava, Middlebrooks, Salty and Ellsbury reaching the apex of their potentials. The stalwart veterans like Lester, Pedroia, Buchholz, Ortiz and Lackey redeeming themselves for their arrogance destroying the first Red Sox Empire and birthing a new one in the grand year of 2013.

And of course, cemented Ortiz’ legacy in Boston as a fucking hero.

The relievers who day in and day out didn’t let up when the workload only increased. Utterly an improbable turn of events. From the dregs to the peak in a dizzying two-year span the subsequent years felt like an epilogue even as owner John Henry ran two Red Sox greats out of down in a five-year span.

2013 is special because it was never supposed to happen. The lone championship Boston can truly call a Cinderella tale – besides the 2001 Patriots. This likable bunch saved the Red Sox reputation. Their crown rolled into the gutter and the Beards picked it up with their bats.

Author: sailboatstudios

Hack. Amateur. Professional quitter.

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