Winning and winning and winning again with different chief contributors and baseball heroes every day is nothing that can be planned. Savored, sure. And after it happens time and again, though spring, summer, and into the fall, victory in any fashion necessary becomes expected.
But planned? No, it’s not planned, at least in terms of projecting who will deliver the biggest performance on a given night.
The formula for how this unexpectedly extraordinary 2013 Red Sox ball club has come to win 94 of their 155 games is really no formula at all. Or not a standard one, anyway. This team has created its own unique blueprint for dominance, a sum-greater-than-the-whole delight, and while the biggest moments of the season are still ahead, what these Red Sox have done and the way they have gone about it is already extraordinarily fulfilling.
They are not winning like, say, the Detroit Tigers, with a couple of beastly hitters, an ace or two. There is no Yaz in ’67, putting everyone else on his back, no Curt Schilling/Pedro Martinez 1-2 fronting the rotation.
The Red Sox have arrived at this moment — Korbel-and-Bud-Light-soaked American League East champions and playoff-bound for the first time since 2009 — due to the contributions of everyone, and that is not an exaggeration in the delirious aftermath of their division-clinching 6-3 victory over the Blue Jays Friday night.
This is not a Select Few team, with 25 players hopping in 25 cabs. This is a One For All, All For One ball club, a team in every sense.
Sure, go ahead, feel free to substitute pretty much any other names for the ones I just used. Dustin Pedroia. Mike Carp. Craig Breslow. Because chances are they’d be just as accurate. They’ve all mattered immensely in their own way.
The Sox have arrived at this point due to all of them, every one, and good luck to whichever team must prepare for this deep, unified and absolutely rolling group in the American League Division Series.
It’s funny how fast everything changed — not just on the field, but with fans’ perceptions. The season began with such low expectations after last year’s 69-win self-immolation. Yet here we were, Friday night at Fenway, fully expecting that they would win the game they needed to win and clinch the division on their own terms.
I was there with my 9-year-old daughter and a couple of friends, and I have to say, it was the single most optimistic crowd I think I’ve ever been a part of. It’s as if the possibility of not wrapping it up Friday had never crossed the mind of any one of the 37,000 or so in attendance.
This Red Sox team won more than a bunch of ball games from April onward. They won over all of us, the New England-born cynics and accomplished skeptics. And those cynics and skeptics were prepared for postgame party Friday night.
As “Dirty Water” and “Tessie” and all of the other Fenway standards blasted over the PA system, as the Sox rejoiced on the field in their goggles and pith helmets and snazzy new “We Own The East” t-shirts, you saw a positive, franchise-affecting decision everywhere you turned.
There was Uehara, the first player signed in the offseason and the last man on the mound for so many victories, yelling “High-five!” at anyone who crossed his path. David Ortiz, the lone holdover from the 2004 champs, circled the field in a victory lap, larger than life as always.
Jon Lester, Friday’s winning pitcher and the restored ace, ran around with his young son and sprayed random segments of the crowd with champagne, connecting in a way that seemed impossible after the mess of September 2011 and beyond.
Jonny Gomes, whose clutch hitting and selfless, tone-setting persona have made him worth every dollar of his $5 million salary, turned into Zoltan Gomes, punting cans of Bud Light into the stands with reasonably impressive hang time.
John Farrell, the manager who instantly restored an air of professionalism and accountability, hugged a conga line of players and, though he’d never admit it, surely enjoyed the delicious irony of clinching against the Jays, the consensus preseason favorite that he managed the previous two seasons.
General manager Ben Cherington, who spent the offseason collecting an accomplished, winning middle-class-caliber veteran players, did his low-key thing in the dugout as the team he put together partied in the infield.
Cherington cannot get enough credit for this, for the team that was in such disarray a year ago is repaired to the point of being a genuine championship contender now, with a superb core of prospects on the way.
Executive of the year? A foregone conclusion, not to mention an understatement. He hit on almost all of his signings without giving up a single compensatory pick, Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr. offered a glimpse of the future, and essential holdovers Ortiz and Pedroia remained reasonably healthy and very productive.
All bridge years should be so good.
Of course, it’s far from over. While we got the confirmation Friday night of the suspicion that this team could throw a hell of a party, here’s to hoping and believing it’s not the only one they’ll have on the Fenway lawn this fall.
They celebrated and were celebrated last night, and they deserved every joyous, raucous second of it.
Best part? It wasn’t the 2013 Red Sox’ final song.
Here’s to three more encores.