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Band of Beards: The magical run of the 2013 Boston Red Sox
Starting from Scratch
To call the 2012 campaign of the Boston Red Sox "abysmal" would be an understatement. The facts are that 2012 was Boston's first losing season since 1997, their first season with 90 or more losses since 1966, and their worst season since 1965 with an embarrassing 69-93 record. Allow me to throw some more salt on the wound. The Sox along with its "nation" fan base had just suffered through one of the worst end-of-the-season collapses in baseball's storied history effectively managing to lose 18 of their final 24 games. The whole "chicken and beer controversy" twisted the knife further into the hearts of Red Sox fans everywhere but that's another story in and of itself that I won't waste words on. The catalyst of this debacle was Bobby Valentine, the former Mets manager and Baseball Tonight analyst who's quirky managerial style failed to connect with the players since the first day of spring training. Second baseman Dustin Pedroia expressed that sentiment early on in the season while coming to the defense of former teammate Kevin Youkilis whom Valentine had criticized publicly."I don't know what Bobby's trying to do. But that's not how we go about our stuff here", said Pedroia. The disconnect was glaring from the beginning and towards the end of the season Sox fans were calling for Valentine to get the axe. In comes John Farrell.
"Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity." —General George Patton
When the Sox announced the hiring of John Farrell (a former Tito Francona disciple) a sense of calm came over Boston fans and we all let out a collective sigh of relief. Here was our knight in shining armor coming to save the day from that evil sheepish-grinning clubhouse saboteur that need not be named for sake of wasted breath. But there was no shining armor. No bluster. No bravado. All business. You took one look at John Farrell and you quickly understood that this was a leader of men that won't let his players dictate the culture of the clubhouse. It was his way or the highway and this 2013 team was not fond of highways. They bought in to what Farrell was selling which was a promise to restore order to the storied franchise that had faltered as of late. After the Farrell signing the pieces really started to fall into place.
A Whole New Ballgame
The offseason acquisitions of sturdy and dependable ballplayers like Mike Napoli, David Ross, Shane Victorino, Stephen Drew, and Koji Uehara proved to be paramount for the success of the team. Management learned from their mistakes of giving out huge contracts to marquee names. They decided to stay away from fully talented/half-assed superstars that were glad to cash in and sit on their money whilst seemingly displaying apathetic indifference. Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez, and Josh Beckett come to mind in this context. These guys were overpaid and underperforming and it was time for them to go. They were the exact polar opposite of the type of dirt-dogs that the Sox wanted. The head shed over at 4 Yawkey Way decided to try their hand at the sabermetric approach popularized by Billy Bean and the Oakland Athletics. Big power hitters and power pitchers with gaudy numbers and huge contracts have become a thing of the past. On base percentage and slugging percentage are key elements to a winning formula in the big leagues, and General Manager Ben Cherington understood that. The band of beards was now in place and ready to ruffle some feathers.
Is using sabermetrics a good way to gauge a players potential value?
The Marathon Bombings
The marathon bombing tragedy that happened on April 15, 2013 which left 3 people dead and around 280 injured, had a profound effect on this city and its beloved team. Such a random act of violence bonded together a tough city that can sometimes appear cold and distant to outsiders. We didn't earn the moniker "Massholes" for no reason at all. Bostonians are a proud group that can be standoffish but when it comes time to help out our brothers and sisters we'll be the first to hand you the shirts off our backs. There is no doubt in my mind that the tragedy brought the team closer together and truly gave them a reason to fight tooth and nail to win ballgames. They were playing for us(the fans) and were helping out with the healing process simultaneously. After David Ortiz famously declared unapologetically, "This is our fucking city", it all seemed to make sense and the aim and scope of this team was now understood. The 2013 Boston Red Sox were emblematic of the very blue-collar fan base they busted their humps all season for.
This is OUR F'N City!
The culmination of a bonded group of men, a noble leader, a terrible tragedy, and great play on the field led to the capturing of baseball's most coveted prize...a World Series trophy. The joy of winning a professional sports championship aside; this one was bittersweet. Not only did we go from worst to first, we endured an unspeakable tragedy and were lucky enough to witness a group of over-achievers achieve the grand prize and share in their excitement. After all the city had been through, how sweet the taste of victory was. Everything seemed right and you couldn't pen a better Hollywood script. We conquered evil and three formidable playoff opponents at the same time. The beards are a delightful anecdote to an incredible season but the story of the 2013 Boston Red Sox is not facial hair. It is one of determination, cohesiveness, and mental-toughness throughout the year and into the playoffs all the way to the world championship. Thanks for the memories and thanks for helping us heal together.