In the year 2101, after Ted Williams has been awakened from his cryogenic slumber, New Englanders reflecting on the 200th birthday of Red Sox baseball will find a special place in their hearts for the Improbable Dream team of 2013.
Over drinks at Mixology on Papi Way, formerly Brookline Avenue, fans will debate whether David Ortiz was a greater clutch hitter than his son, D’Angelo “Little Papi” Ortiz, was in the 2020s or his grandson, Dustin “Baby Papi” Ortiz, was in the 2050s.
Baseball historians will marvel at a guy on a work visa named Koji Uehara, who traveled more than 14 hours by air from Tokyo to Boston — a four-hour hop in 2101 — and rescued a bullpen in crisis by submitting one of the most spectacular runs in the annals of major league closers.
Sox diehards will celebrate the Whiskered Wonders of ’13: Pedey, Salty, Napster, and the gang. They will not have forgotten a rookie called “X,” who was too young to sprout a beard but old enough to help his Sox brethren light up the city during Mayor Thomas M. Menino’s last hurrah.
History will show that the 2013 Sons of John Farrell did what no other Sox team had done. In a year of tumult and sorrow — terrorist bombings at the Boston Marathon, a federal government shutdown, murder charges against a New England Patriots star and the son of a beloved Boston baseball broadcaster — the 2013 Sox rose from the cryogenic tank (a last-place divisional finish in 2012) to become champions of the universe.
By outlasting the St. Louis Cardinals in a series for the century, the 2013 Sox did a little something to help heal a wounded city. And in the days before levees were raised against the rising sea, hundreds of thousands of New Englanders hailed the team as it paraded through Boston’s byways and waterways in things called duck boats.
Only seven months after Bostonians took shelter amid a manhunt and police firefight with alleged terrorists, citizens young and old danced in the streets to an old-time anthem, “Dirty Water,’’ their fake beards bobbing in time. It all felt very different from the championship celebrations of 2004 and 2007.
In ’04, the city had convulsed in cathartic bliss after the Sox ended an 86-year championship famine. That triumph had liberated generations of New Englanders from the psychic damage they had suffered over decades of baseball heartache.
The ’07 title had been frosting on the cake, a Riverdance with a team of veteran stars (Ortiz, Manny Ramirez, Curt Schilling, Josh Beckett) and young guns (Dustin Pedroia, Jonathan Papelbon, Jacoby Ellsbury) that had been expected to compete for a championship.
The Amazin’s of ’13 were one of a kind. They were formed in the rubble of the Great Demolition of 2012, when the Sox brass responded to a chicken-and-beer abomination in September 2011 and the Valentine Massacre of 2012 by dispatching their overpaid malcontents (Beckett, Carl Crawford, and Adrian Gonzalez) to the cash-happy Dodgers.
In the hot stove season that followed — yes, there were still a few hot stoves in ’13 — Sox owners repudiated their practice of awarding long, lucrative, self-sabotaging contracts to the likes of Crawford and Gonzalez.
The reboot fell to Ben Cherington, the second-year general manager. In the depths of winter, Cherington’s moves stoked little excitement among fans who were still holding their noses from the stench of 2012, the franchise’s worst season since 1965.
The angriest fans called him stupid. But Cherington had the last word when his winter acquisitions — Uehara, Shane Victorino, Mike Napoli, Jonny Gomes, Stephen Drew, Ryan Dempster, David Ross, and Mike Carp — proved lighthearted and likable, their personalities and performances helping to turn a baseball disaster into a delight.
Along with the returning core players and holdovers, the new crew brought good times back to the Sox clubhouse.
The ’04 team had Pedro Martinez’s miniature human mascot, Nelson de la Rosa. The ’13 team had Jake Peavy’s cigar store Indian.
The ’07 team had Manny Being Manny and a kilt-clad Papelbon. The ’13 team had a collection of tattooed and bearded dirt dogs who feared nothing, it seemed, but closing time at the saloon.
“What’s broken can be fixed,’’ the Sox brass promised in a preseason mea culpa campaign, and the team set about proving it.
Pedroia has a hunch
The 2013 Sox began their baseball resurrection the day after Easter, surging to an 18-7 start. They slumped a bit in May (15-15), and while the Bruins were commanding much of the city’s attention with their drive to the Stanley Cup Finals in June, the Sox were forging their legacy of resilience and churning toward a league-best 97 wins.Continued...