24 hours later and it still hasn’t really landed for me. The Boston Red Sox, one year out of Bobby Valentine, the Uber-trade, Tito and Theo leaving, Youk being dumped, and a year spent in the basement of the AL East, have won the World Series.
How did we get here? In the word of the maddest scientist other than Benny C., television’s Walter White: “Chemistry.” A ragtag group of veterans, each with a chip on his shoulder, was tossed onto a team filled with angry Red Sox players, each with a chip on his shoulder, and led by a coach who had disappointed in his opening season as a head coach in Toronto, and had thus developed a chip on his shoulder.
But for all the nervy, crazy anger of these accumulated players, it didn’t exactly show. This Red Sox team was fun, more fun than any other team in my lifetime, maybe more fun than the Idiots of 2004. That looseness, and the immense competitiveness that was never cantankerous, translated into early success. When a city rocked by disaster needed something to raise its spirits, a foul-mouthed David Ortiz and the big bat of Daniel Nava were there to help. And yet, in every column I wrote, every conversation I had, every game I watched, I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop. This team couldn’t, and shouldn’t, win. But they kept winning, and winning, and winning.
There may never be another year like this for Red Sox fans, and that’s kinda sad in a way. This victory is bittersweet in that yes, the Red Sox won the championship, and yes, they did so on their own soil, in a haunted ballpark stuffed to the gills with believers. But it also means this season is over, and who knows if the magic will be back (It took precisely 12 hours before I began poring over the 2014 free agent list).
But that’s to be left for the upcoming months. In the meantime, here are some little moments, players, and things of note that (in no particular order) hit me during Game 6 and that I will miss dreadfully until next spring.
-I’ll get to Victorino in a bit, but my lord, can we talk about that Stephen Drew home run? Yes, he’s a fantastic defensive shortstop (that diving stop was huge), but I was convinced he would end up without a real hit. But with that pretty swooping lefty swing, he crushed a ball into right field. In his typical Drew-ian way, his initial reaction was minimal, just a little fist pump and an unchanging face, pretty much the same reactions we got from his big brother, JD.
But when he approached the Sox dugout, with that huge grin on his face, the cameras could pick up his fervent yelling, “What’d I tell ya? What’d I tell ya?” If Drew doesn’t return next season, that’s the moment I’ll hold onto, when we got a real glimpse into the stoic self of the man they call “Dirt”, who was giddy at the chance to prove himself to his teammates one last time.
-I’ll miss the year of “Three Little Birds.” I’ve been around my fair share of sporting events, but very little moments have reinforced the downright communal nature of fandom, than Victorino’s walkup music, in which Bob Marley intones, “Don’t worry about a thing.” Then, magically, the PA drops out, and the entire Fenway crowd chants, “Cause every little thing is gonna be alright”, that “alright” hanging in the air before the first pitch of the at-bat. I got chills just thinking about it.
-Speaking of chills, that Victorino double was tremendous, continuing his postseason narrative of tremendous frustration capped off by momentous catharsis. No matter how his second season in Boston goes down, he’s an October hero and permanent member of Fenway folklore.
-I’ll miss getting a dozen texts at once all saying the same thing: “Koji Time.” Hell, I’ll miss Koji in general, his giddy fistpumps, his hugging his catchers, his high fives with Napoli, his being carried by Papi, his goddamn unhittability, capped off by that miracle pitch.
-A quick moment to praise the Cardinals, who put up a helluva Series. Thank god the Sox are an AL team, because Year 2 of Wacha/Miller/Kelly/Martinez with a healthy Allen Craig/Matt Adams/Matt Carpenter/Yadier Molina core is the scariest thing I can possibly imagine. Yikes.
-I’ll miss Dirty Water.
-I’ll miss Brandon Workman, and his impeccable facial hair, and his dirty fastball/slider combo. He deserves a crack at the rotation, but selfishly I want him locking down that middle relief spot next year.
-I’ll miss John Lackey, a sentence which I never thought I’d ever utter. No moment filled me with more joy than Lackey stomping off that mound after a huge inning-ending strikeout or groundout, his cap shadowing that mug of his, his gritted teeth the only thing missing.
And of course last night, in which the Fried Chicken and Beer demons were erased for good, it’s only fitting that Lackey got the start, and his final sequence was a doozy. With two outs and Holliday on deck, Farrell approached the mound to pull Lackey. We knew what would follow, Lackey would yell and look angry, furious that anyone would dare take him off.
This time, it changed. Farrell left him in, Lackey insisting “This is my guy, this is my guy.” Sure, Lackey walked Holliday, and Farrell pulled him immediately, but the change in faith in Lackey compared to last year was astounding. And when the Fenway faithful showered Lackey with cheers as he walked off the field, the giant Texan tipped his cap, acknowledging a group of fans that once hated and now loved him. Of course, it wouldn’t be a real Lackey moment if he didn’t step into the dugout and immediately rip out a piercing “Damnit!”
-I’ll miss the entire pitching staff. I’ll miss Jon Lester who deserves the same extension that Pedey got to be a Red Sock for life based solely on his postseason magic. I’ll miss Jake Peavy who, despite some bumpy starts, brought some fire and bulldog mentality to the clubhouse. I’ll miss Felix Doubront who goshdarnit grew up in front of our eyes in huge relief stints in this series. And most of all I’ll miss Clay Buchholz, who, despite the malicious efforts of his newborn baby, put together a hell of a season, and has raised our expectations for next year to giddy heights.
-I’ll miss John Farrell, who might as well be John Wayne at this point. Same voice, same look, same gruff it’s-all-in-the-details persona, same mistakes (Farrell’s cutesy substitution/pitching change moves, Wayne’s decisions to not be a cowboy/American soldier like when he was Ghenghis Khan in The Conqueror), and same classiness at all costs. For example, it’s hard not to get moved when Farrell immediately praised Mike Matheny and the Cards in his speech, showing real admiration for his opponent.
-I’ll miss John Henry, Larry Lucchino, and Tom Werner, who may be some of the most lovably silly owners/upper management types in baseball. I laughed for five minutes straight when Henry turned around while accepting the World Series Trophy, and pondered aloud, “What’s going on over there, a fire?”
-I’ll miss little Kaz Uehara, who answered the question, “How hard will you party tonight?” with a single, “Crazy”, and who better be in the midst of training to be the next Red Sox closer of the future.
-I’ll miss Xander Bogaerts who showed the patience of a player twice his age at the plate, played great defense, and made me ashamed to be one year older than him. Yeesh.
-I’ll miss Ross and Salty, and their yellow painted nails, who held together a Red Sox starting rotation that nobody believed in coming into the year.
-I’ll miss Andrew Bailey and Andrew Miller’s cheering on their teammates despite their respective injuries. I’ll miss Bailey’s “Wooo!”s and mourn Miller’s inability to showcase his tremendous beard on the field.
-I’ll miss Jonny Gomes, who became Kevin Millar 2.0 and even more than that, with clutch hit after clutch hit, memorable quote after memorable quote, his tendency for gritting out walks, his simultaneously nerve-wracking and dependable defense in left, and especially how he didn’t even flinch when he got plunked last night.
-I’ll miss Mike Napoli, who became a central figure in this Sox clubhouse, and whose beautiful swing I could watch forever. I don’t care how much he strikes out, Benny C. better chase the man with the magnificent beard this offseason.
-I’ll miss Jacoby Ellsbury, who may be leaving us this winter, but who was a class act through and through. Whenever he got a hit or a walk, you never changed the channel until the inning was up, just in case he went for the steal.
-I’ll miss Pedey, who deservedly got one of the biggest roars of approval last night, who is the 2nd-gen leader after Papi’s 1st-gen, who is the best defender, hardest worker, and most eloquent Tweeter in Boston. Can’t wait for next year.
-I’ll miss Don Orsillo, and Jerry Remy, and Eck, and D-Lowe, and Pedro, and whoever else wandered through that NESN booth. (I will not miss Joe Buck and Tim McCarver. Sorry boys.).
-I’ll miss going through various establishments across Providence in a Sox cap or t-shirt, and getting nods, cheers, handshakes, or just a simple “Go Sox.”
-I’ll miss frantically texting Pops (who I’ll never forgive for not forcing me to play baseball as a kid) after every hit, every run, every big-time K. It won’t be the same texting about Kelly Olynyk and Tom Brady for a season.
I’ll miss the 2013 Red Sox.
I’m glad I got to see them, and I’m sad to see them go. I’m only 22 years old, and I’ve seen them win three World Series in under ten years, just as many as my father in his lifetime, and more than his father in his lifetime.
We’re a lucky bunch of Sox fans, the success of our team counterbalancing our inherited worry, as we slowly shed the unfair reputation of being perpetually unhappy misanthropes . I’d love to say that no matter what happens next year, at least we had this team, but that’s obviously not true, and I’m already stressing out about resigning Ells, and Nap, and Salty, and Drew, and whether Jackie Bradley Jr. or Garin Cecchini are ready to make the next step as X-Bo already has.
But this team was special. No doubt about it. To quote Benny C., his head shaking as he held that trophy under his arm, “It was just fun to be along for the ride.”
151 days until Opening Day 2014. Damn.
Anything you loved about this year’s team that I missed? Leave it in the comments!