As I sit at my computer watching the streaming of the 2013 World Series Championship Parade for the Boston Red Sox, I have to stop and reflect on the last couple of seasons.
In 2007, the Red Sox became the first team to win two World Series championships in the 21st century, sweeping the Colorado Rockies. They had not lost a World Series game in this century, as they had also swept the Cardinals in 2004. In 2008, they made the playoffs again, but were defeated in the ALCS, by the Tampa Bay Rays, 4-3, who went on to lose to the Philadelphia Phillies, in the World Series. In 2009, they made the playoffs again, but were defeated by the Anaheim angels in the ALDS, 3-0. The Angels lost the ALCS to the Evil Empire, who went on to win the World Series. 2010 saw the Red Sox not making the playoffs for the first time since 2006, finishing in third place with an 89-73 record. The Texas Rangers made it to the first World Series in their franchise history, but lost to the San Francisco Giants, 4-1.
2011 was a season of nightmares. In Terry Francona’s final season with the Sox, they started the season horribly, being swept by the Rangers in Arlington, and going on to lose the first six games of the season. At one point, they were 2-10 at the start of the season. At the end of April, they had an 11-15 record. Not great, but at least improving a bit. May saw them hit .500 and ended with a winning record, 30-25. Things were looking up. At the end of June, they were 46-34, six games over .500. July was even better! They finished July 66-40, 26 games over .500! They seemed to be heading for another postseason appearance! The end of August saw them 83-52, looking like they could win 100 games! No one knows for sure what happened in September, but they went 7-20 in the month of September, one of the worst collapses in baseball history. They still had an outside shot at the wild card spot, right up to the last game of the season, but the Evil Empire lost a six-run lead against the Rays to lost their final game, and the lost to the Orioles, 4-3, which put the Rays in the playoffs instead of the Sox. The Evil Empire already had their spot, and I still wonder if they lost that game on purpose to keep the Sox out of the playoffs. The Texas Rangers made a second trip to the playoffs in 2011, this time losing to the Cardinals, 4-3, after the heartbreak of being one strike away from victory, two different times in game six.
There was trouble in the clubhouse, along with controversy, centering around a few players, as well as the infamous “fried chicken and beer” incident. Francona’s contract was not renewed. As management sought a solution, they stepped out on a limb and hired Bobby Valentine as the manager for the 2012 season. I never thought that was a good idea, but figured it couldn’t be a lot worse. Needless to say, it was a failed experiment, and, yes, it got worse. The 2012 season might as well not even be in the books. They didn’t even have a winning record until May 29, when they hit 25-24. They stayed over .500 until June 9, when they dropped to 29-30. On June 19, they broke .500 again, going 34-33. This time, they stayed at .500 or better until July 23. August 1 would be the last day that they enjoyed a winning record for the season. They finished the season with a horrible 69-93 record, in dead last place. One of the tragedies of the season was the loss of fan favorite Kevin Youkillis, because he and Valentine weren’t getting along, so Valentine had him traded. Youkillis later wound up on the Evil Empire, but hasn’t played much because of back problems. The 2012 World Series featured the Giants and Tigers, with the Giants winning in four straight games.
Enter John Farrell and 2013. This team hit the ground running, beating the Evil Empire in the first series, 2-1. This team was never below .500 for the entire season. They won seven straight games in early April and finished the month with an 18-8 record. The month of May turned out about the same, as they also finished this month ten games over .500, at 33-23. June was even better, finishing at 50-33. At the end of July, they were 65-43, 22 games over .500. We began to wonder if we would see another 2011 September. August finished at 81-55, 26 over .500. Much to our glee, they never slowed down. September looked just like the rest of the season, as this “Impossible Dream Team” (if I may borrow that title for the 2013 Red Sox) finished 2013 with a stunning 97-65 record, the best in the American League, and tying the St. Louis Cardinals with the best record in the MLB. They weren’t in first place for the entire season, but there were very few days when they were not. At the end, they were 5.5 games ahead of the Tampa Bay Rays. What made the season even better was that the Evil Empire finished in fourth place, only eight games above .500.
The Red Sox and Cardinals watched as their respective leagues’ wild card games progressed. The AL had a tie-breaker between the Rangers and Rays, which the Rays won. Then the Rays went on to beat the Cleveland Indians to advance to the ALDS, against the Red Sox. The Pittsburgh Pirates beat the Cincinnati Reds in their WC game. The Sox beat the Rays 3-1 in the ALDS, while the Tigers beat the Athletics 3-2 in their ALDS. In the NL, the Cardinals beat the Pirates, 3-2, while the LA Dodgers defeated the Atlanta Braves, 3-1. In the ALCS, the Red Sox met the Tigers and defeated them, 4-2. The Cardinals also beat the Dodgers, 4-2. The Boston Red Sox were back in the World Series, and it was a repeat of the 2004 series. I don’t think anyone expected another sweep, although it would have been nice. The Sox started out like gangbusters, beating the Cards 8-1 in game one, behind several Cardinal errors. The Cardinals came back an won game two, 4-2. Both of those games were at Fenway Park. After a day off, they met in St. Louis, where the Cardinals won game three, 5-4 in a nail-biter, in the bottom of the ninth. They now led the series 2-1. The defining moment of that loss was the “obstruction” call that allowed the Cardinals to score the winning run of that game. The Red Sox would not lose another game. They won game four 4-2, assuring a return to Fenway. They won game five, the last game in St. Louis, 3-1. Back in Boston for game six, the Red Sox were never behind, decisively winning the game, 6-1, to win the first World Series at Fenway Park since 1918. It was a fitting end for an “Impossible Dream” season. The Boston Red Sox had gone “from worst to first.”
There were a number of heroes in this postseason. I can’t even remember everyone who hit clutch home runs after having had dismal performances at the plate. David “Big Papi” Ortiz hit a stunning .688 in the World Series, tying a series record for consecutive times to reach base safely. He hit a clutch grand slam home run to tie one of the ALCS games. Shane Victorino hit a clutch grand slam in the World Series. Mike Napoli hit a solo home run that was the only run in game three of the ALCS. And little Koji Uehara. . . He was the MVP of the ALCS, being virtually untouchable as a closer. He was just as good in the World Series. He set a record for WHIP (walks and hits per innings pitched) during the regular season. He allowed less base runners per at bat than any other pitcher. Ever. EVER! David Ortiz, rightfully so, was awarded the MVP for the World Series.
I’ve kept the parade feed on during the entire time of this writing. The most emotional moment occurred when the parade stopped at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, where, on Patriot’s Day, a bombing occurred, disrupting the race, killing three people, and injuring at least 260 others, of which 14 required amputations. At the site of the finish line, Johnny Gomes and (I think) Jarrod Saltalamacchia got off the boat and placed the World Series trophy on the finish line, along with a couple of “Boston Strong 617” jerseys, and someone sang “God Bless America.”
It was an incredible season. I don’t know about any other fans, but I certainly didn’t expect a World Series championship in 2013. I hoped for better than 2012, with the new manager, John Farrell, but I didn’t expect this.
It was truly an “Impossible Dream Team” (with all due respect to the 1967 team). And the Boston Red Sox are the first team to have three World Series Championships in the 21st century.