The pitching staff was relying on the unreliable Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz at the front end.
And a new manager, John Farrell, albeit a familiar face, was going to have to not only win games, but win back one of the most loyal followings in professional sports.
But guess what happened. “Big Papi” returned to the middle of the Sox lineup. Victorino and Napoli were impact players. Lester became a $100 million pitcher. And Farrell brought back some long, lost certitude to the Red Sox dugout. There were too many appealing side stories to mention. What about transformation of John Lackey, who went from excuse-laden, multi-millionaire to a lovable lug?
“John’s turnaround mirrors this organization,” said Farrell. “He reshaped his body. He’s more athletic. It’s almost fitting he’s on the mound to finish. The ovation he got was amazing. They’ve seen the turnaround in him and seen the turnaround in us. It was very fitting.”
Of course, despite all of the new additions, the two stalwarts, Ortiz and Pedroia, were the focal point of this renaissance. Ortiz hit .688 (he walked four times last night) and won the MVP and Pedroia’s defense alone put him in the MVP discussion.
But it’s not the statistics that apparently make them special.
“They carry the torch,” said Farrell. “Everyone looks up to them and how they respond to distractions, their confidence and the way they carried themselves from (spring training through the World Series) .... These are special, special players.”
The Red Sox have now won three World Series titles in 10 seasons, which is remarkable. But even more remarkable is what happened here the last year.
“A lot has happened in 13 months,” said Farrell, in the understatement of the night, about an hour after the clincher. “(General manager) Ben Cherington deserves all the credit in the world. He got the players ... But the key was back in spring training, buying into the team concept. And then, in the end, the overall will to win.”
You can email Bill Burt at firstname.lastname@example.org.