The Red Sox are likely going to win their fourth World Series title and their ninth overall in their next two weeks. Forty-three of the previous 54 teams that have had a 2-0 lead in the Fall Classic have gone on to win. Before we pop champagne and prep the Duck Boats, I wanted to take a look back at the last team to hang a World Series banner outside Fenway Park. My favorite team of all-time in any sport: the 2013 Boston Red Sox.
You can’t begin to tell the story of the 2013 Red Sox without discussing the tragedy of the 2012 season. The 2012 team came at a special time in my life. It was the last summer before I started working 60 hours a week. I didn’t have a car, a full-time job or anything close to actual adult obligations. Naturally, I spent probably 30 days of that summer inside Fenway, watching the Red Sox. It’s a shame that team was the baseball-equivalent of throwing battery acid into your eyeballs.
After the worst Sept. collapse in the history of baseball in 2011, the Sox cleared house in 2012. There were reports of players drinking beer and eating chicken in the dugout during games. Terry Francona and Theo Epstein, the manager and architect of two championship teams, were sent packing. Bobby Valentine, a manager with a reputation similar to a drill sergeant, was brought in to restore order to the clubhouse but only very nearly avoided a violent mutiny and was canned after the one season. They finished 69-93 and finished 26 games out of first place. The big non-waiver trade deadline acquisition was Craig Breslow and I remember wanting to jump off the Green Monster right then and there. For the most part, they looked like they hated playing and we hated them for it.
They traded Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett and Nick Punto to the Dodgers in August, freeing up a lot of money for them to spend in the winter. They spent the money conservatively. Instead of being tempted to go for a big-name free agent in order to get back in the fans’ good graces, they spent the money on a handful of veterans: Mike Napoli, Shane Victorino, David Ross, Jonny Gomes, Koji Uehara. Players with reputations of being good guys to have in the clubhouse but not world-beaters in any sense.
We thought they were going to be better in 2013. We never expected them to become heroes to the entire city.
My friend and I were at the Patriots Day game where Napoli hit a walk off single to lift their record to 8-4. We left the same ballpark where we spent most of the previous season plotting bodily harm to Bobby Valentine and Josh Beckett hesitantly thinking of a potential playoff run in September but not really believing it.
We made plans to go meet up with some friends who were posted up along the route of the ongoing Boston Marathon. Probably 15 minutes before we got there, we got a call that there had been an explosion of some sort but it was very hard to hear and eventually the line went dead. Being idiots, we kept walking. As we got closer, people streamed by us, a few nursing cuts and scrapes, some frantically making telephone calls, all looking extremely frightened and confused. Eventually we found our friends and got a ride out of the city. In the hours that followed, we got the full picture of what happened.
Just prior to their first home game at Fenway since Napoli’s walk-off, the Sox honored the victims of the Marathon Bombing. David Ortiz made his famous “This is our F—king city” speech. Daniel Nava hit a game winning home run accompanied by Don Orsillo’s call of “Boston, this is for you!”
When the city needed a lift, they had the Red Sox. And the Red Sox had us. They had us all the way to the end. There was no deficit that was too big for them to come back from in the ninth inning. Everyone had a career year. They won 97 games, tied for the most in baseball. They were the best team in baseball and they had fun doing it. They let the beards run wild, Gomes punted helmets like footballs and Koji Uehara became a man possessed as soon as the sounds of “Sandstorm” came from the Fenway speakers.
Jon Lester had a resurgent year as the ace of the staff. Jake Peavy threw 95-mph fastballs and screamed at himself while doing so, despite being legally blind. Even Clay Bucholz held his elbow together for almost the entire season. After showering John Lackey with boos all throughout his Sox career at that point, he left Game 6 of the World Series to a standing ovation.
I watched that Game 6 at the house of the same friend who I spent most of my summer at Fenway Park with in 2012 and was in Boston with on that Marathon Monday in April. I won’t lie, there were some minor water works that night. A year after questioning the logistics of really caring that much about a sports team, the 2013 Red Sox were everything that was great about sports.
A couple days later, as I watched them carry the Commissioners’ Trophy through the same streets of Boston that I saw filled with panic and fear a couple months before, I felt certain they could be back there next year.
And as quick as they became championship contenders, they stunk again. Jacoby Ellsbury left for New York in the offseason. Lester was dealt to Oakland at the deadline. Every injury-prone or journeyman vet who had a career year in 2013 turned back into a pumpkin. They finished dead last in the AL East not just in 2014 but 2015 as well.
In a way the 2013 Red Sox are the complete opposite of this 2018 team. Instead of a team of grizzled vets, the current squad is a team of youth that should be great for the foreseeable future. After a couple seasons of playoff disappointments, this postseason run had a sense of relief as opposed to wide-eyed shock just to be there like in 2013. But still, these 2018 Sox are special. Chris Sale is a generational pitcher, they have one of the brightest young cores in baseball and their offense, particularly with two outs, defies logic.
But still, if this 2018 team is your favorite Red Sox team of all-time like the 2013 team is mine, enjoy the next week and make sure you get to that parade. In this sport it might all just be a memory come next June. These Sox should be great for a really long time. But the 2013 Sox were never supposed to be champions. You just never know in this sport.
Bryan Lambert is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.