Red Sox knew very early that things would be different
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BOSTON -- Red Sox manager John Farrell said there was a "special'' feel to his club when it reported to spring training in February. And when Boston took two of three from the Yankees in the Bronx to open the season, he was sold on the notion.
Things took off from there and culminated late Wednesday night when the Red Sox won their third championship in 10 years, toppling the Cardinals, 6-1, in Game 6 of the World Series at Fenway Park.
"As the season started, when we opened up in New York, the way we played there from Day 1, we knew that this was a special group,'' Farrell said on the field as the Red Sox celebrated clinching a title at home for the first time since 1918. "And we answered challenges all year long. We never fell victim to a losing streak of more than three games. To me, that speaks of not only their talent but their willingness to work and prepare."
General manager Ben Cherington used another word to characterize his feeling when players reported to Fort Myers, Fla. -- "different.''
Both were right, and both meant the same thing. The club that reported barely resembled the 2012 edition, the Bobby Valentine-managed team riddled by disharmony and injury that finished 69-93 and plummeted the Red Sox to Congress-like approval ratings in this city.
"You know about our ads -- that which is broken can be fixed,'' Red Sox president and CEO Larry Lucchino said during the postgame party on the field that lasted into the early-morning hours. "We knew there was something broken and we had to fix it. I'm just so proud that everybody in the organization functioned as one.''
That started with what Lucchino called a "connectiveness'' between Cherington and Farrell, though he acknowledged it began during the 69-victory fiasco. That was when, somewhat miraculously, the Red Sox sent $260 million in contracts to the Dodgers. That cleared the books for the work accomplished this past offseason, which netted seven free agents, including critical veterans Shane Victorino, Mike Napoli, Jonny Gomes, David Ross and Koji Uehara.
There also were franchise mainstays Dustin Pedroia, Jon Lester and David Ortiz who were eager to wipe away the ugliness of 2012 -- which actually started in September 2011 with an epic collapse that resulted in the end of manager Terry Francona's tenure with the team.
"It felt different,'' Cherington said. "You don't know what the outcome's going to be in spring training, but it was a different group of people, the feeling around the group and how committed they were to each other, to winning, to doing it the right way, and just motivated to write a new story. It certainly felt different, and it felt as we got into the season, we gained more and more confidence.''
The Red Sox started fast, 18-8 in April, and never let up in winning an AL-best 97 games. They beat the Rays in four games in the ALDS, dispatched the Tigers in six games in the ALCS and did the same to the Cardinals in the World Series.
The latter saw contributions from new Red Sox and old: Shane Victorino's three-run double in Game 6 to get Boston going against Michael Wacha; Lester beating ace Adam Wainwright in winning Games 1 and 5, and, of course, Ortiz.
The 37-year-old DH burnished his already legendary postseason resume with a batting average of .688 (11-for-16) and an on-base percentage of .760 in easily capturing Series MVP honors. And if Carlos Beltran hadn't robbed him of a grand slam in Game 1, turning it into a sacrifice fly, Ortiz would have hit .706 with an .800 OBP and nine RBIs.
"I can't add anything to his legend. He just keeps writing new stories on his own, new chapters on his own,'' Cherington said.
He just as easily could have been describing the 2013 Sox.