Improbability: the force towards the championship

Elsa

The Red Sox, a bunch of misfits and bearded bandits, personified how the improbable is always possible in their World Series championship.

Seven months ago, I sat on the bus on the way back from a baseball game, chatting with teammates about the Red Sox' chances going into the 2013 season. From all signs from the front office on down, it appeared that 2013 was going to be a "bridge year", a transition into the next generation of Red Sox stars.

"The Sox have no chance this year. The Blue Jays and Rays absolutely stacked," someone exclaimed from the back of the bus.

"They have a shot at the Wild Card. No shot at the World Series though," I said.

"Sox are gonna finish in last place again this year," another person said from the front of the bus.

There was some excitement for the season, but nobody had gotten their hopes up too high.

"The Sox are going to win the World Series. I'll bet anybody on it," one person said.

People laughed and started making counter-arguments. It seemed absolutely ridiculous that the thought of the Red Sox winning the World Series came up.

So the bet was made. At the time, the Red Sox odds of winning the World Series were 30:1. One hundred dollars were put down and a handshake sealed the deal.

Fast forward seven months and 108 victories later, the near-impossible has become a reality and one confident young man is now $3,000 richer.

The 2013 Red Sox are characterized by improbability, grit and beards. Everyone doubted them. There were very few, if any, baseball analysts that gave the bearded bunch any resemblance of a chance of making the playoffs, let alone the World Series.

Just read what Dan Shaughnessy wrote about this team back in February:

They will not be as bad as last year. This isn’t going to be a Pinky Higgins renaissance. The Sox have actual major league players this year, not the Pedro Ciriaco All-Stars who made out the lineup in the final days of the Bobby Valentine train wreck of 2012.

If, in fact, things go perfectly, the Red Sox actually could contend for a playoff spot. This is 2013, and five out of 15 make it in each league and it’s almost impossible to play yourself out of contention before August. The moribund Houston Astros have joined the American League. In this spirit, an optimist can make a case for the Red Sox.

Sorry. The juice glass is half-empty today. These guys could be really bad. And really boring. "Scrappy" doesn’t sell in Boston in 2013. Not after everything that’s happened. For $170 million, a little more prime-time talent would have been nice.

In fairness to Shaughnessy, this Red Sox team didn't look like anything special. People overlooked the value of a strong clubhouse, a strong leadership presence in John Farrell and the ability of a team to be "scrappy." The general consensus for most people that 2013 was going to be just another year for the Red Sox.

Kirk Minihane wrote that the Victorino signing was a huge mistake back in December:

It's very early, but the returns on the Era of Discipline have been David Ross, David Ortiz, Mike Napoli and Shane Victorino for about 110 million bucks. Not a disaster, but is anyone really overwhelmed by that haul?

And Victorino is easily the worst of the four deals. American League batters had a .731 OPS last season. Victorino has a career .732 OPS against right-handed pitching. For roughly three-quarters of his at-bats Victorino is by definition an average hitter. And for that he will be paid $13 million for each of the next three seasons.

Victorino has turned out to be the biggest surprise of the four signings that Minihane mentioned and was (alongside Jonny Gomes) the heart of this Red Sox team. It seemed improbable that Victorino could live up to the value of his contract. One grand slam and one championship later, the three-year deal has already paid itself off.

Improbability is the nature of the Red Sox team. Daniel Nava was bought for one dollar by the Red Sox after playing in independent league baseball. Jonny Gomes nearly died from a heart attack. Dustin Pedroia was doubted every step of his career due to his stature. Jon Lester was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma in 2006. David Ortiz was released by the Twins after being shopped around to nearly every team in the big leagues. Xander Bogaerts was only signed by the Red Sox after nearly missing his workout due to chicken pox. John Lackey was loathed by fans and media due to his albatross of a contract. Mike Napoli was diagnosed with a degenerative hip disorder and had to sign a one-year contract. David Ross and Craig Breslow were both let go for next to nothing multiple times.

The list of improbable stories of triumph on this Red Sox team go on and on, but the character that made up this Red Sox was second to none. With one staffing change in the managers office, The atmosphere in the locker room changed from that of a jailhouse to that of a professional, fun workplace. Instead of having TV's showing loops of that day's starting pitchers, the walls were covered with pictures of Dustin Pedroia photoshopped into famous movie scenes and fat heads of nearly all the players.

The road to the championship was unorthodox and unexpected, but the 2013 Red Sox did what nobody thought they could.

They are World Champions.

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