Boston Strongest, indeed


From start to finish, this Red Sox team was something special

"Don't worry, about a thing. Cause every little thing, is gonna be alright."

The lyrics of the world-renowned Bob Marley song "Three Little Birds" could not be more indicative of this Boston Red Sox season. When outfielder Shane Victorino walks up to the plate, the sound of a sellout Fenway crowd of 38,447 singing the words all at once exemplifies key components of your 2013 World Series champs: Togetherness. Unity. Chemistry.

To truly understand the 2013 Boston Red Sox, you have to understand where they came from. 2 years of absolute disarray, turmoil and misery led to the Red Sox missing the playoffs for the three years straight, from 2010-2012. The infamous chicken-and-beer boys of 2011 who completed a collapse of epic proportions, blowing a 9-game AL East lead at the beginning of September to ultimately miss the playoffs, were judged as a team who didn't care about winning. Boston icons Terry Francona and Theo Epstein, who brought the city two World Series titles in 7 years, were run out of town, and a loyal fan base was absolutely stunned by the events that conspired that season.

The 2012 Red Sox were one of, if not the worst teams in baseball. Led by (or lack there of) obnoxious manager Bobby Valentine, the Sox were filled with more drama than a female high school teenager. Controversy surrounded the team from April to October, and every day it seemed as if something more dramatic than the day before was being leaked out from behind closed doors. The players didn't act as if they had each others backs, showed hate towards their manager, and seemed more interested in starting controversy in the clubhouse than actually winning games. Ultimately, this team was hard to root for and out of sorts. Unlikable.

Fast-forward to Spring Training of what would be a banner year for Boston. Savvy general manager Ben Cherington came into his second season as GM heavily scrutinized for moves he made during the offseason to construct a roster he hoped would have a shot to win it all. Shane Victorino. Mike Napoli. Koji Uehara. Jonny Gomes. Ryan Dempster. David Ross. Stephen Drew. Players who all were coming off unusual poor seasons with something to prove were brought in to change the culture in the clubhouse. Sure, team chemistry is vital, but can these "clubhouse guys" actually perform on the field? Will the pitching staff get back into pre chicken-and-beer form? Will David Ortiz be healthy enough to produce? Is John Farrell really the answer as the skipper, after two underwhelming season in Toronto? These questions were asked, but obviously were answered in a big way.

Nobody believed in the Red Sox at the start of the season. Sure, they may win a few games here and there, but there is no chance they make a run deep into October. The Sox were barely picked by any baseball experts to even make the playoffs. Then again, after how the team performed the previous two seasons, why would anyone have any sort of expectations at all?

Spring training came and went, and the 2013 season was underway. A walkoff double by Mike Napoli on Patriots Day gave the Sox a 3-2 victory over the rival Rays, and the Sox surprisingly stood atop the AL East at 8-4. Hours later, tragedy struck.

April 15, 2013. This fatal day would be the turning point for an entire season. Two bombs set off at the finish line of the 117th running of the Boston Marathon killed 3 innocent people and injured an estimated 264 others. A mindless, senseless act performed by two brothers struck deeply into the hearts of Bostonians everywhere. What kind of sick person would perform this terrible, terrible act of violence? No matter the circumstances, the community pulled together and became Boston Strong.

The phrase would be used as motivation to fuel an entire 150-game remaining schedule. A jersey with the Boston area code 617 and "Boston Strong" on it would be hung in the dugout during every game, home or away. On a day when Boston bombings victims and heroes were honored, a speech given by David Ortiz resonated throughout New England as if the pope had spoken. The words "This is our f****** city, and nobody is going to dictate our freedom. Stay strong!" most definitely gave Boston hope. They knew that no matter what happens, the resiliency of the city would prosper, justice would be served (which it surely was), and the city itself would be Boston Strong for days and years to come.

Some would say the city rallied around this team, but it was almost as if this team rallied around the city. Jonny Gomes even said it himself. "I don't feel as if we put Boston on our back. I think we jumped on their back. They wouldn't let us quit." A roster made up of 25 special ballplayers realized on that catastrophic day that they had a chance to be apart of something bigger than themselves, and bring a city torn to pieces back together by winning a championship.

And, as the fairytale season went, the Sox delivered. The boys of summer were doubted all year, but just kept winning. Not to mention, this team had a flair for the dramatic, too. 25 come from behind wins proved that you could never count these bearded men out. The phrase "Get Beard" was another rallying cry for Sox fans as members of the team, most notably Napoli and Gomes, grew out Duck Dynasty-esque beards to even further bring together the fan base of Boston. Battling atop the AL East with the Tampa Bay Rays for much of the season, the Sox finally clinched the division on September 20th. The team finished tied for the best record in baseball at 97-65, and were headed to their first postseason since 2009. So good, so good.

Heading into October baseball, Boston just kept rolling. The Sox took down division rivals Tampa Bay in the AL Division Series in four games. Aces David Price and Matt Moore were picked apart by the Red Sox offense, and even after giving up a walk-off home run to Jose Lobaton the night before, none other than Koji Uehara shut the door on the Rays season and advanced the Red Sox to face the Detroit Tigers in their first ALCS since 2008 in Game 4.

After nearly being no-hit by the Tigers in Game 1 and losing 1-0, the Sox faced an extremely deep hole. Down 5-1 in the bottom of the 8th inning, the Sox seemed doomed. They were about to go down 0-2, and have to play the next 3 games in Detroit. Things were not looking bright one bit. But as the script as the entire season went, you could not count the Sox out. One of the best postseason hitters of all time, David Ortiz, stepped to the plate down 5-1 with the bases loaded, seemingly with the whole season on the line. And of course, Ortiz belted a first-pitch fastball into the Red Sox bullpen, sending Tori Hunter flipping over the wall and also sending bullpen cop and internet sensation Steve Horgan's arms into the air. The grand slam tied the game and shifted all momentum back to Boston's side, and one inning later catcher Jarrod Saltalmacchia sent Fenway into a frenzy after his walk-off single to win the game, 6-5.

Returning home to Boston after taking 2 out of 3 in Detroit, the Sox had a chance to clinch the pennant in Boston and send themselves to the World Series. Down 2-1 in the bottom of the seventh, the struggling Shane Victorino came to the plate with the bases loaded, and unsurprisingly delivered a grand-slam into the Green Monster to win the game and enter the Sox a spot in the Fall Classic. This never-say-die attitude from a cast of bearded idiots proved to the baseball world that anything is possible. At that point, it was almost like you came to expect the dramatic comeback to happen whenever the Sox were in need.

You know the rest. Boston went on to win the World Series in 6 games, defeating the St. Louis Cardinals 6-1 on a day Boston sports fans will never forget. A party 95-years in the making surely was celebrated as such. One of the most improbable championship wins in recent memory for Boston served justice to the community of Boston, and put a smile on the face of a city that had been crushed to pieces after the tragic events just 6 short months ago.

David Ortiz was crowned World Series MVP, hitting an unreal (and unquestionably Hall of Fame worthy) .633 in the series to secure the honors. Koji Uehara was near perfect, and Jon Lester pitched like an ace in his two starts. The heart and soul of the team, Dustin Pedroia earned his second ring, alongside good friend Jacoby Ellsbury. John Lackey, who was the center of blame and was nearly run out of town after an atrocious campaign in 2011, earned a standing ovation and a tip of the cap from the Fenway faithful after a strong performance in Game 6. Even unlikely heroes such as Gomes and his 3-run bomb to win Game 4 showed how magical this years team really was. David Ross had the winning hit in Game 5. With all things considered, what the 2013 Red Sox did was one of the most special championships in sports history.

Sure, this team had incredible chemistry. Of course that is a huge reason for their success. But listen, these guys were great baseball players. Here's a list of pitchers the Sox took down during the postseason (some more than once as well): David Price, Matt Moore, Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander, Adam Wainwright, Michael Wacha. Some of the leagues premier pitches were beaten by Boston and sent home for the winter. This team had the best offense in baseball during the regular season. Furthermore, how good was this team at taking advantage of opportunities? Whenever the offense needed a big hit at any point in a game, no matter how bad that player was struggling at the time, they delivered. A pitching staff that always turned in clutch outings, and a bullpen that almost always closed the door contributed to the teams success as well. Some say this team wasn't as talented as others in the past. I disagree. Each and every guy on this roster added something to the team, and when all the ingredients were mixed, a World Series title came out of it.

This team cared about each other. They cared about the city of Boston. They had each others backs, on and off the field. These guys loved playing baseball. When you have 25 guys all with the same vision, something special can happen. And right before our eyes, it sure did. From Day 1 of Spring Training, all the way to Game 178, this team was together. The beard-tugging. The champagne celebrations and champagne bottles the size of the Stanley Cup. The ski goggles, army helmets, USA flag bathing suits and more, this team was extraordinary. Seeing the attitude of the players and coaching staff each and every day made these Red Sox easy to root for and easy to support. In the end, they had one goal. And they accomplished it. Worst to first. These guys truly were Boston Strong.

As the lyrics resonated throughout the hallowed grounds of Fenway Park on a brisk New England night in late October, the 2013 Boston Red Sox taught the fans and city of Boston one thing. Don't worry about a thing. Cause every little thing, is gonna be alright.

Here's to you, Red Sox. Thank you for a season we will never forget.

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