Some random thoughts on the Red Sox as I recover from a champagne haze and try to figure out what to do with my playoff beard.*
*Seriously, should I shave it right away? Leave it to frighten small children and provide a home for small forest creatures? When I asked my wife if she liked it, she responded with “If you can’t say anything nice…”, so I think it may be time for the beard to go.
The narrative from the media all season has been how improved chemistry turned this team around. I have loved the beards, how close this team seems, how they have bounced back from every down moment throughout the year. What bugs me about the chemistry narrative, though, is that it sells the players short.
These guys succeeded because they were talented baseball players, and for the most part were used in the right way. John Farrell handled the left field and third base situations well, and worked through bullpen issues. Ben Cherington built a roster with talented players and great depth. When injuries struck, they were able to fill holes from the minor league system.
When healthy, the lineup was above average at every position except third base. The starting rotation went six or seven deep. The bullpen weathered injuries as Koji Uehara turned in a season for the ages. To chalk up their success to chemistry cheapens the remarkable year that the players, John Farrell, and Ben Cherington had.
There has been some noise in the media that for Red Sox fans this World Series meant more than the two others since it finished at Fenway Park. Let me clarify this point for those who are confused. This championship takes nothing away from 2004 and 2007, and no Red Sox fan was upset that those clinching games weren’t played at Fenway Park.
2004 was the pinnacle of my life as a sports fan. The Red Sox finally broke through; finally won the games that mattered, finally beat the Yankees, and finally put 86 years of misery to bed. It could have happened in A-Rod’s centaur den and Red Sox fans would have been deliriously happy.
2007 was the year that proved 2004 wasn’t a fluke, that the owners and GM could build a team of their own that could dominate the baseball world. In all honesty, at that point I thought the Red Sox had constructed a team that would contend for years to come.
2013 erases two bad seasons from the books. We know how good we’ve had it as Red Sox fans, and this year has been so much fun because we once again have a likable team to root for.
Winning a World Series at Fenway Park became a thing because so much history has happened in this ballpark, yet it’s been 95 years since it had that one moment… that moment when the pitcher leaps into the catcher’s arms and all the fans collectively lose their minds.
It doesn’t erase all the history that came before, both the good and the bad. There was no “curse” that was broken. It was just a special moment to celebrate in Boston and in Fenway Park, especially after all that happened in April. The city and the team are tied together in ways that can’t always be explained, and somehow this moment just felt right.
The second best part of this year, besides, you know, winning the World Series? After all the dust and champagne settles, the future still looks bright for the Red Sox. 2013 was supposed to ‘only’ be a transition season until the next wave of talent arrived. Some of that talent was on display this year, with Xander Bogaerts, Brandon Workman and others getting a taste of the major league level.
The Cardinals may have a crop of tremendous young arms, but the Red Sox are also stacked with pitching prospects at Triple A. After the mammoth contract dump of last season, they also have payroll flexibility. Even after the free agent signing spree last offseason, the only contracts on the Red Sox that extend past 2015 are for Dustin Pedroia and John Farrell (Clay Buchholz has two option seasons past 2015 but no guaranteed years).
I thought the Red Sox were ready for an extended run of success after 2007. I think the same thing now. Second time’s the charm?
Finally, in the immortal words of Jonny Gomes, “Cue the Duckboats!”