The 2013 season will go down in the record books as one of the most unexpected years in Boston Red Sox history.
It began almost as an afterthought, coming off a disastrous 2012. Yes, Bobby Valentine was shown the door before the last of the hot dog wrappers could be blown out of the bleachers, but the seemingly strange admission of 2013 being a bridge year and the supposed feel-good signings of Mike Napoli and Shane Victorino made most of you a bit indifferent.
The Red Sox brought back John Farrell to run the club on the field and the Toronto Blue Jays were almost too eager to send him packing. Two seasons up north and nothing but bad headlines to show for it.
On the surface, it seemed the team was, at best, spinning its wheels and losing the battle of affection to the blue-collar Boston Bruins playing over on Causeway Street.
Somehow, some way, things started to click coming out of Spring Training in Fort Myers. Jackie Bradley Jr. stole a roster spot on the big club after mashing Grapefruit League pitching, even earning an Opening Day start in New York at Yankee Stadium.
The Red Sox and NESN tried desperately to sell this team as a touchy-feely unit. Every ad spoke to teamwork and dedication. You would have thought there was a presidential election around the corner with the effort to brand this as a team everyone could love.
Then it happened.
Two backpacks filled with explosives placed yards from the finish line of the Boston Marathon as the afternoon wore on. With the streets filled with runners, families and others celebrating personal accomplishments, along with a beautiful spring day, the mood changed from festive to fearful in a heartbeat.
That week changed the city. The players, getting ready to go to Cleveland at the time, returned home that following weekend with a renewed sense of purpose. The trivial things did not matter, at least for a few weeks. Boston needed to heal and the Red Sox gave everyone a chance to forget.
John Lackey and Jon Lester rediscovered their form. David Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia had tremendous seasons. Little known setup pitcher Koji Uehara stepped up and excelled as an emergency closer.
Everything that could have possibly gone right, did.
They overcame injuries to Joel Hanrahan, Andrew Bailey and Clay Buchholz. Farrell effortlessly ran Jonny Gomes, Daniel Nava and Mike Carp out to left field and it worked. Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds” rang out all over Fenway Park every time Victorino stepped into the batter’s box.
It was as if the Red Sox had gone through a real life version of the Christmas classic It’s A Wonderful Life. 2012 gave us a glimpse of everything bad that could happen, as if we had never been born. This year, the one that ends Tuesday night, showed us once again why we all love the sport of baseball.
Not only did the Red Sox win the division with ease, they stormed through the Tampa Bay Rays and Detroit Tigers to capture an unlikely American League Pennant.
When you thought it could not get better, we all saw the Sox defeat the St. Louis Cardinals in six games to win their first World Series at home since 1918.
New England went through every conceivable emotion in a very public manner this past year. In the coming year, Fenway gets a new flag, the players get shiny new rings and we are forever, Boston Strong.
Tags: American League, Baseball, Boston, Boston Red Sox, David Ortiz, Fenway, John Farrell, Jon Lester, MLB, World Series
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