---- — The World Series is in full swing, and none of us would have imagined a year ago that the Red Sox would be the odds-on favorite to win the trophy.
This band of bearded Bostonians has blasted its way to the World Series with an impressive number of walk-off homeruns, playoff grand slams, smart moves on the roster, and yeoman work through the dog days of the summer -- the time of year when many teams start to fade and crash.
Boston sports fans are once again living the kind of sports fantasy story that for most sports towns is only seen in a storybook movie. We celebrated this same improbable story line with the 2001 New England Patriots, and again in 2004 with the historic Red Sox “Idiots” who broke the curse of the Bambino. The same formula exists this year, as if by design.
Adding to our postseason enjoyment is the collapse of the New York Yankees, who failed to make the playoffs and face a grim outlook for the immediate future, with their overpriced stars on their last legs or headed elsewhere.
Of course, the same could have been said, and was, about the woeful 2012 Red Sox.
But out of the ashes of despair emerged the this year’s triumphant comeback.
Let’s turn the clock back to those ashes of one year ago. Clubhouse bickering, management dysfunction, and bad chemistry landed the team in last place. It was the bookend to an embarrassing collapse in September 2011, when the Sox spun out of control amid clubhouse binges on fried chicken, beer and childish behavior. Both collapses cost the Sox managers -- first Terry Francona and then Bobby Valentine -- their jobs.
This year was supposed to be the start of a recovery, under a new coach with many new players. It was supposed to be the “rebuilding year” that would see the Sox emerge from the dark basement and perhaps peep a bit at the light. But sports chemistry can be a strange thing -- as bad as it can be, it can also coalesce into a perfect solution. And that is what this year’s Sox became.
New players like Johnny Gomes, Shane Victorino, Stephen Drew and Mike Napoli, and superstar closer Koji Uehara have added significant talent to solid veteran lineup. Players have stepped up to achieve when their contributions have been most needed. Coach John Farrell brought the professional and cerebral leadership that the team so badly needed.
And then, there are the beards — the wild facial manes that bind the team together. Like the self described “Idiots” of the 2004 Red Sox, and the Patriots of 2001 who eschewed the normal routine of having each player introduced by name and instead came onto the Super Bowl turf as a team, there is a sense of collegial camaraderie and team dedication.
We have a ways to go before the series ends, and St. Louis is a tough opponent. This year’s Sox seem to have the formula that gives them a better than even chance at winning, and creating a solid chemistry for seasons to come.