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Eric Wilbur's Sports Blog

The new Impossible Dream: A Red Sox repeat

You do understand that there is zero chance that the Red Sox repeat, right?

Last year was fun, but it’s not going to happen again. Not this year, anyway.

Boston’s 2013 run to its third World Series title in 10 years was magical, a march against all odds that had unlikely twists and turns for nearly every date on the schedule. The Red Sox co-existed with a healing city; they served as purveyors of the message that Boston would not, will not be denied, that its citizens remained determined to celebrate their freedoms, even in the face of the backyard threat that exposed itself on that normally-celebratory day in April.

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It was the perfect group of guys to carry it out. Just perfect.

If 2004 was defined by the “Idiots,” and 2007 was noted mostly for a dominant Josh Beckett and the emerging talent of guys like Jacoby Ellsbury and Jon Lester, then 2013 boasted a defiant group that personally made the title more than just about beating the competition. There was a civic mission at stake.

Right guys, right time.

Never mind that Major League Baseball history shows that the odds of the Red Sox repeating in 2014 are not in their favor anyway (only the Yankees, Blue Jays, Reds, and A’s have won consecutive titles since 1970), Boston still isn’t viewed as the best team in the American League. It probably even has to surrender that honor to the Tampa Bay Rays in their very own division. The Tigers are more complete. The Rangers have more firepower. The Royals are young, hungry, and ready to burst onto the scene.

To steal a term from some worry warts in the Bruins’ press corps, the Red Sox peaked early in 2014, the result of circumstances surrounding them moreso than their overall collection of talent. General manager Ben Cherington had just begun building the bridge in earnest, transitioning the team from bellicose baggage like Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, and Josh Beckett (can you imagine those guys’ responses to the Marathon bombings?), to transition players like Mike Napoli and Shane Victorino until the young crop of pitchers, shortstop wunderkind Xander Bogaerts, and free agent pitcher David Price (just play along, OK?) were ready to present Boston with the next, great Red Sox team.

Instead, they went from one of the most despised teams in franchise history to arguably its most beloved, and yes, that includes the 2004 “curse-breakers.”

The Sox won the World Series due more to their heart than their talent. Mix in a lot of luck for good measure.

How else to explain Koji Uehara having a dominant season at closer despite being the choice behind Door No. 3? To expect him to repeat that dominance a year later is foolhardy. Same goes for John Lackey, whose decent season, but exceptional postseason put him in the good graces with Red Sox fans for the first time…well, ever. David Ortiz, despite his historic World Series, is a year older, maybe five years older in Dominican years. Grady Sizemore may already be on the disabled list for all we know, and Victorino may indeed be there to meet him. Which Jake Peavy do the Sox get? Is Felix Doubront finally ready to put on the big boy pants? And AJ Pierzynski….I mean, really?

Those are a lot of questions for a defending champion. Mind you, that’s not to say no other team has the same amount, if not more problems to solve than the Red Sox do, but in 2013, solutions seemed to stream into the clubhouse like women flock to George Clooney. To expect the sequel to be as good as the original pays off rarely. In baseball, it’s darn near impossible.

Wesley Snipes jumped ship prior to “Major League 2” just like his speedy outfielder counterpart in Ellsbury surrendered to the Yankees. Oh, no, Round 2 won’t be a disaster on par with that train wreck of cinematic dust, but you just can’t simply go in with expectations that the charisma will be the same. It some cases, it can be just as good, but it will always be different.

"If somebody brings up last year, five guys were texting back, 'Turn the page,'" catcher David Ross told MLB.com about the players’ attitude in the offseason.

That’s something the 2005 team was unable to do, the darlings of TV, movies, and books that turned that team into a shell of the Cowboy Up daredevils they had billed themselves as. Ask Terry Francona, and he’ll still maintain that the 2008 squad was the most talented he had in his eight years at the helm as Red Sox manager. Even that team only made it to Game 7 of the ALCS against Tampa.

Next year, we could begin to witness the embers of a dynasty glowing brightly if players stay healthy and the front office makes the right free agent decisions once again. This year though? There’s a better chance that the NBA rigs the draft lottery in favor of the Celtics instead of the Lakers.

As for being compelling, these Red Sox have that characteristic in droves. How will Jon Lester perform staring free agency in the face? Is Bogaerts going to be the most exciting rookie Fenway Park has seen since Nomar Garciaparra? Can Bachelor No. 2, Will Middlebrooks, finally become more John Valentin at the plate than Rob Deer? When do we finally see Jackie Bradley, Jr. get the chance to work out his lumps at the big-league level?

This team is fun, bursting with young talent, and has already proven that its competitive drive is something nobody should ever take lightly again.

But they won’t be World Series champions again. Not in 2014.


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