Amazing. Entertaining. Heart-racing. And just downright magical.
All these things and more can be used to describe the 2013 season for the Boston Red Sox. It has been a fantastic season for which the significance can not be understated. Just one year ago we were the lowest of the low. Maybe not in Astros territory, but things were not looking up whatsoever. Our September regulars included guys like Scott Podsednik, Mauro Gomez, Pedro Ciriaco, and James Loney (the bad version). We had just given up one of our top players in Adrian Gonzalez, and our offense was completely hapless. This had all happened just a year after another dismal season thanks to a record-breaking nosedive in September that forever haunts us in our dreams. That September felt like the worst month of my life. Every night I kept getting angrier and angrier over a stupid baseball game. I kept telling myself it was just baseball, but the fact that they were so close makes it even harder to grasp. There was a ray of hope with our prospect system, but that felt too far away to get excited about.
During the off-season, I thought there was a chance Cherington could make the right moves to improve the team, but it seemed unlikely. To be honest, I was fine with a "bridge year." I kept telling my friends "just wait to see what Cherington does" before they made judgements, because of course they were going crazy over the Reyes trade to Toronto. Then, over the course of a month or so, Sox fans gained a bit of hope. One by one they signed, Ross, Gomes, Napoli, Victorino, Uehara, Drew, Hanrahan, and Carp. Sure they had holes, but they actually looked like a decent team.
Even though predictions everywhere had the Sox 4th or 5th, I still believed they had a shot. From the very first game, this season was different. No longer did they lose the first series, or start 2-10 like in 2011. They won the first game IN New York and proceeded to win 20 of the next 28 games. Because of their quick start, I knew that for ONCE they didn't have to climb their way back to prove that they were for real. Spare a couple weeks of the year, they have been the class of the AL East. When the Sox began their brutal June schedule, I said 'if they end this month in 1st, this team is going to the playoffs.' Game after game, this team has proven everybody wrong.
Even though for other teams 3 years isn't a long playoff drought, but for Red Sox nation it feels like a lifetime. Considering in '09 the Angels swept us, it feels even longer. The reason I'm a Sox fan is because of my dad. The 2004 World Series was the first real glimpse of baseball that I had, as our whole family watched every Sox game in the playoffs, including their amazing 4-win comeback. At the time, I liked the Red Sox, but I was only 9. If they had lost, I would've just gone on with my day like nothing happened. I didn't even follow an entire season until 2007 (what a lucky year to start). Even looking back and remembering my excitement when Papelbon threw the final strike in 2007, I know I would be 10 times as excited if they won this season. Every year I have increased my knowledge of the game, and gotten more and more intense about the MLB. The older I get, the happier I will be if the Red Sox succeed.
Perhaps it was me being young and naive, but when they won in 2007 I thought they had a chance every year. The collapse of 2011 and the horrific team of 2012 just made me want to get back to the World Series even more. There's just something about October baseball that's in the air that is a magical experience. It is similar in hockey, with so much hype and excitement in spring to see who will lift the Stanley Cup. I live for the playoffs. No matter what sport. Playoff time is the best time. I have recollections of watching Red Sox games on TV in September 2011 and seeing commercials for the post-season. I could not wait, and at that point it felt like 'hurry up playoffs before the Rays pass us.' With every loss, we lost hope and could see our season was slipping away. Seeing these commercials again, it makes me incredibly happy that we are back in (as division champs, no less).
Boston has always been a huge market for baseball, and the Sox are always scrutinized by the locals and by the reporters. 2012 was the low-point (or high point, considering your point of view) of the scrutiny. Everyone hated Valentine, the lineup was abhorrent (especially post-Punto trade), and negativity spread throughout the clubhouse like wildfire. This season it has been a complete 180. I'm not saying that everyone likes Boston all of a sudden, but they are a very like able team. They have tons of characters in the lineup with Jonny "Pinch-Hit Hero" Gomes, Koji "High Five City" Uehara, Shane "Flyin' Hawaiin" Victorino, and Dustin "Pedey" Pedroia among others. No longer are there questions about something bad Valentine said, or Crawford complaining about playing time, instead it feels like a family. These group of guys feel a lot like the 2004 team of "misfits" that just stayed together and formed a lasting bond. No longer do I have to hear criticism from by Blue Jay or Yankee friends about being the laughing stock of the division. Even though it was just 4 years ago we were in the playoffs, it feels like forever since I could last boast about the Red Sox winning ways.
Last year was not a fun year for me or many other Sox fans, but I'm sure this more than makes up for it. Not only did we make the playoffs, but we are the best in the majors and have a legitimate shot at the pennant. How exciting is that? If this October ends in victory for Boston, I will be ecstatic to say the least. This years team has had so many story lines. Uehara's dominance, Nava's underdog role, Farrell's return, Victorino's amazing play, and Lackey's resurgence. Just a downright fun season for everybody involved. This October is our chance to prove to the league that this was not a bridge year, nor will we be going away any time soon.
Baseball is a large part of my life, as is sports in general. I probably take things too seriously sometimes, but when the Sox are winning, I feel better. My mood can change in an instant when they take the lead or give up the lead. The amount of joy I had when we finally clinched on Friday night was amazing. Sometimes, it feels like baseball is all I've got. Winning can put me into such a good mood; however, losing sometimes makes me realize that I have other important things in life I have to focus on that can scare me. Losing can also make me feel like I have nothing, which I know sounds crazy. But baseball represents such a large part of my life, and if I can't follow it enjoyably, then what else do I have? That's why this season has been so fantastic. I can partially forget some of my problems because I'm just waiting for that one moment where the commentator can say once more "The Red Sox are World Series Champions!", and in that instance I'm on top of the world. That's what this season means to me.