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  1. Ten years ago, the Curse of the Bambino was still living in Boston lore. The year before, Grady Little's blunder in leaving in Pedro Martinez cost them the lead, the AL pennant, and Little's job. Fast-forward one year later, and the Yankees led three gamed to none following a 19-8 slaughter. They were three outs away from completing the first LCS sweep since 1995 (Braves over Reds), the first ALCS sweep since the 1990 A's (against Boston). NYY's closer, Mariano Rivera, who came in for the eighth, was on the mound, and Kevin Millar led off the ninth. The fortunes turned. A rare walk from Rivera. Dave Roberts pinch-ran and barely stole second. Two pitches later, third-baseman Bill Mueller tied it. It stayed tied until the twelfth. Paul Quantrill (their seventh-inning man, but was relegated to the back of the 'pen from overuse and was literally on fumes) faced David Ortiz with one on. Needless to say, Boston never looked back.
  2. *photoshopped image courtesy of the Bleacher Report* Ten years ago, the Boston Red Sox were five outs away from reaching their fifth Fall Classic since last winning it all in 1918. But Pedro Martinez being gassed, combined with Grady Little leaving him too longer, allowed the Yankees to come back and tie it. Three innings later, the Cowboy Up Red Sox watched Aaron *bleeping* Boone launch a walk-off home run to clinch the ALCS, marking 2003 their eighty-fifth consecutive year without a World Championship. They didn't have to wait long. The following year they dominated in the second half and helped firm up their defense (which was horrible in he first half). , they won the AL Wild Card convincingly. Both the Yankees and Red Sox squared off in the ALCS, and they were down three games to none. Then the beginning of baseball's biggest comeback: a Millar walk, Roberts steal, resiliency from the improved bullpen, and a Papi walk-off home run over Gary Sheffield's head. Another comeback in Game 5 continued their reborn mystique launched the series back to Yankee Stadium for Game 6, where Schilling's bloody sock game, along with correcting two big umpire-altering calls (Bellhorn's opposite-field home run and that called the played dead and sent Jeter back to first base as the penalty). The 10-3 rout against Kevin Brown and the Yankees in Game 7 capped off the 3-0 comeback, sending the BoSox to the World Series and changing their fortunes on a dime. Three yeas later, after winning their first AL East title since 1995, they came back from three games to one to beat the Cleveland Indians and sweep the Colorado Rockies to win their second championship in four seasons. But during their success then turned tumultuous. The epic collapse (7-20 from September 1 to season's end) in September 2011 cost Theo Epstein and Terry Francona their jobs. Then when it was revealed that players ate chicken and drank beer in the clubhouse, the collapse symbolized complacency in the clubhouse and the eventual disconnection the Sox had with their fans. Their last-place finish in 2012 flushed the franchise rock bottom: Their 69-93 record was their first ninety-loss season since 1966 (72-90) and worst since 1965 (62-100, their last 100-loss season). It was also their first full-season last-place finish since 1992 at 73-89 (they finished last in 1994), further alienating the team from the city. The front office relied on ticket sales just to preserve their sellout streak because the distrust was so bad. Their August (9-20) and September records (7-22) were AWFUL! To conclude the season, they lost eight straight and twelve of thirteen, and Bobby Valentine was fired after one season! Putting it bluntly, the franchise devolved into a gigantic laughingstock, . Because of Boston's bad reputation, injuries, and spirally bad second-half record, newcomer GM Ben Cherington had to rebuild mid-season, trading Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford, and Nick Punto to the Dodgers for James Loney and Minor-Leaguers that may never taste the bigs. The bad news: The BoSox had to endure a dysfunctional clubhouse where everyone hated each other and scrutinizing embarrassment by the media. The good news: They freed up $264 million of guaranteed money from players who no longer wanted any part of the team and had a fresh payroll to sign the right players to give them that Boston chemistry. Plus, their last-place finish gave them a clear direction of what they had to do and where to go to find these players, including the ability to start fresh. One year later, after Uehara struck out Matt Carpenter with his signature splitter, the Red Sox became the second team to go from worst to first (winning the division the year after finishing last) and win the World Series. The 1991 Twins were the other (against another worst-to-first team in the Atlanta Braves in what's possibly the greatest World Series of all-time). It was the Red Sox's third championship since 2004. It was the first time they clinched it at home since September 11, 1918, over the Chicago Cubs. That day, Game 6 lasted one hour, forty-six minutes. Babe Ruth came in as a defensive replacement in left field. The attendance was 15,238. When Boston last won it all at home, the Boston Braves was the other professional sports team. The NFL and NBA weren't founded, and the NHL was an all-Canadian league that was about to play their second season. The 1918 season ended early due to the work-or-fight order in World War I. The World Championship washed those painfully bitter memories of 2012 away. For so many players (and manager), 2013 was an unbelievable journey. Mike Napoli: In 2011, he had a tremendous postseason and even better World Series, giving the Cardinals' pitchers massive headaches. In Game 6, he was behind the plate when the Rangers were one strike away from winning the World Series. Although he won't catch again because of his hip condition, being on the field celebrating a World Championship against the Cardinals is closure for him. Jonny Gomes: A journeyman and two-dimensional hitter, yet he understands the Green Monster, and he has the personality teammates love. Whenever he was on a team, they won. He was with the 2008 Rays (AL East; AL Championship), 2010 Reds (NL Central), and 2012 A's (AL West), but they didn't reach over the hump, but Boston signed him to revive the ecstasy that was absent in 2012. He was a leader in the clubhouse, launched two big walk-off home runs, and provided several key moments in this World Series: the three big catches in Games 1, 4, and 5; the three-run shot in Game 4; and holding Alan Craig to a second-inning single in Game 6 after shooting one off the Monster. The A's miss him dearly because of what he brought to the clubhouse. Shane Victorino: After struggling mightily in 2012, the signing came as a major shock: Everyone thought his career was done. This season, he hit nearly .300, won an AL Gold Glove, and proved to everyone he still has "it." A hamstring injury forced him to bat almost entirely from the right side from early August onward. And it was very difficult for a guy who switch-hit his entire Major League career; he had to re-learn to bat right-handed against right-handed pitchers. He played well, hit a HUGE grand slam in the ALCS (becoming the second to hit two postseason grand slams, Jim Thome the other), and picked up four RBIs in the World Series clincher. He has nineteen postseason RBIs when batting with the bases loaded and is the only player in postseason history with four four-RBI games. Ryan Dempster: The struggles he had and prior experience as Cubs closer put him into the bullpen, but he proved pivotal. He journeyed through Florida and Cincinnati before spending eight-and-a-half years with the Cubs, part of the time as their gutty closer. But he had never tasted a Fall Classic appearance. Game 1 brought him into the spotlight, and now he has a ring. Dustin Pedroia: I've always been a very big fan of this guy because he plays the game the right way. He never gives up an at-bat, and he's amazing at second-base, making tough play after tough play in the holes. He was playing while Boston collapsed and struggled into a last-place finish in 2012. He didn't forget that, felt extremely embarrassed by 2012, and wanted to contribute. This season, he did that, making opposing pitchers on the mound and batters in the batter's box uncomfortable. (During the ALCS, Prince Fielder grounded out to Pedroia eight times!) A great person and even better player who helps keep the team together. There's a reason why Boston signed the 2007 AL Rookie of the Year and 2008 AL MVP to an eight-year extension. If he keeps this up, chances are we may see a future Hall-of-Famer along with near-certainty of no one ever wearing #15 for Boston again. John Farrell: He was Terry Francona's pitching coach during the 2007 championship team through 2010 before signing with Toronto as a manager. He and the Blue Jays' players never got along, and the media villainized him. Boston really missed his guidance, especially in 2012 when guys like Clay Buchholz and Jon Lester struggled badly. Farrell's leadership as manager restored order for the Red Sox, and Lester and Buchholz led the pitching staff. Stephen Drew: He struggled offensively last year, but had flashes of offensive power combined with a very wide defensive range. This season, he hit .253 with 67 RBIs. Although he struggled at the plate for most of this postseason, Farrell kept him in because of his superb defense and range, saving games and helping out his pitcher and the rest of the field. It was also great for him to break out of his slump in the clincher, hitting a homer and single. His role was similar to light-hitter Rafael Belliard of the 1995 Braves. Jeff Blauser was the better hitter, but Belliard was the better defender. When Blauser couldn't play in the World Series because of an injury, Belliard made sure Bobby Cox didn't miss him, making tough plays himself and frustrating the opposition. David Ross: A veteran catcher with the Santa Claus beard. The 2012 Atlanta Braves were a team with tremendous grit and so much energy. Ross was a leader in the clubhouse, more so than Brian McCann. The Braves let him go, and Boston signed him. He didn't produce much, but did so when needed. When Jarrod Saltalamacchia struggled, he caught behind the plate and contributed in the batter's box. But he has a lot of fun with his teammates and keeps then energetic and loose. The 2013 postseason showed how much the Braves really missed him: The Braves behaved corporately, the Sox the opposite. Daniel Nava: A few years ago, he hit a grand slam off Joe Blanton in his first Major-League at-bat (the first pitch he ever saw, BTW). Afterwards, he struggled at the plate and kept bouncing around. This season, the scrappy outfielder was able to hone in his skills. He played well in the outfield and hit over .300. Back in April, in the first game at Fenway since the terrorist attack, he hit a clutch three-run homer to put them ahead for good. A few months later, he capped off an improbable ninth-inning comeback against Seattle to give Boston another one of their 97 wins in 2013. David Ortiz: What a difference a year makes. Between 2008 through 2011, there were talks of the Big Papi being done due to injuries and slow bat speed. At one point, the front office considered releasing him. He played well the rest of 2011 and the first half of 2012 before an injury prematurely ended his season. Ben Cherington signed him to a two-year extension, and 2013 turned him into a more complete hitter, relying less on the home run and more spreading the ball across the field. At one point this season, he hit the ball opposite field so well that some teams abandoned the shift when he came to bat. Of course, we can't forget before the first game since the Boston Marathon bombing. Come postseason time, and he shines. Despite only two or three hits in the ALCS, he launched a huge grand salami off Joaquin Benoit that turned the series around and sent Fenway into delirium! Then the World Series hit, and he just lit up, hitting .688, walking four times in Game 6 (three intentionally), and winning the 2013 World Series MVP. He was already great in the postseason; the World Series numbers merely increased his lore. And with this win, he's the first non-Yankee to win three titles with the same team since Jim Palmer (1966, 1970, 1983), all in a Red Sox uniform. Once his career's over, we may have #34 retired and the first (or second) DH since Paul Molitor (or Frank Thomas, since he's on the 2009 ballot with Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and Mike Mussina) in the Hall of Fame. Jon Lester: He was the Game 4 starter for the 2007 World Series and gutted it out, allowing the Red Sox to win their second in four seasons. He later evolved into the ace and pitched well, becoming a Cy Young candidate and throwing only the second no-hitter against the Royals. In 2012, he pitched horribly with a 4.82 ERA and allowed 9.5 hits per nine innings; he was one of the worst pitchers in ERA title qualifications. Farrell's guidance brought him back on track, and it showed via his 3.75 ERA, 15-8 win/loss record, and 8.8 H/9. If Papi didn't hit so well in the World Series, Lester would've won the WS MVP. John Lackey: This is the second time he pitched (and won) a WS clincher, the other being Game 7 in 2002 as an Anaheim Angel against San Francisco (as a 24-year-old rookie, the first rookie to win Game 7 of a World Series since 1909). He signed with the BoSox in 2011 and was bad and bashed by the media. In 2012, he missed the whole year due to Tommy John Surgery. But his rehab slimmed him down and turned him into a well-controlled finesse pitcher. Don't let his win-loss record fool you. When Buchholz was hurt, he was their #2 starter, and he proved pivotal in the playoffs, pitching in and out of trouble. Game 6 did exactly that and showed how to pitch and win even when he was having trouble locating. (He left many fastballs over the middle of the plate, and the Cards' hitters were late every time.) Game 6 completes his redemption and proves he belongs on the big stage with the Red Sox. Koji Uehara: His story is remarkable. When he was nineteen, he wasn't in baseball, failing an entrance exam. He wears "19" on his jersey to remind himself of how far he came. He soon began playing baseball in Japan, pitched, and later became one of the best. He then played in the U.S. and started okay. In 2011 with Texas, he got hurt and then was horrible. Only getting four outs in three outings, with a gigantic 33.75 ERA. He was so bad, he wasn't on the World Series roster. After pitching well in 2012, he signed with the Red Sox to share the middle-relief role. Then Joel Hanrahan and Andrew Bailey got hurt, promoting Uehara to the set-up position. When Junichi Tazawa struggled, Uehara was promoted to closer, and they got way more than they bargained for. Kendrys Morales, Craig Breslow, and Tazawa shared the seventh and eight innings. Using his deceptive splitter and quick windup, Uehara dazzled. a. Saved twenty-one regular-season games and seven postseason games. b. Retired thirty-seven straight batters at one point. c. Struck out 101. d. Walked nine. e. Completed the season with an ERA of 1.09. He's the first pitcher in history to strike out more than 100 batters and walk less than ten for an entire season. From July 1 to the end of the season, he only allowed two earned runs, walked TWO batters (the last one on August 3), and had an ERA of EXACTLY 0.33 (two earned runs in fifty-four innings pitched). If he was the closer for the entire season, given how dominant he was, he might've competed with Max Scherzer for the AL Cy Young Award. If Miguel Cabrera, Chris Davis, Manny Machado, and Mike Trout didn't compete for the AL MVP, you could argue that Uehara would be the AL MVP for solidifying the Boston bullpen. And all with an 87-to-90-mile-per-hour fastball and deceptive splitter that disappears from both right- and left-handers. Left-handers and right-handers hit .115 and .146, respectively, against him (the main reason why Farrell pulled Lester in Game 5 for him). Because of his efficiency, the Red Sox were able to bring him into the eighth inning for four- or five-out saves. Conversation went around about handing the ball over to him to lead off the eighth in Game 6. Three quick outs later in the ninth, and he and the others jumped for joy in the middle of Fenway Park's diamond, celebrating the franchise's eighth title. ——— The Boston Red Sox didn't rely on big free-agent contracts, instead finding bargains to fit in the roster, particularly the Boston culture. Big Papi being re-signed kept the core of the lineup, and then Gomes, Napoli, Victorino, Drew, and Uehara helped complete the mold. Almost everyone was a veteran, clubhouse leader who knew how to bond a team and win. Combined with the likes of Saltalamacchia and Pedroia to put 2012 behind htem, their style of offense, defense, and pitching helped create something that wins championships: Chemistry. They had two main components. This one is the most obvious: After the Boston Marathon bombings, Boston looked to sports to help heal a pained city. Alongside the Celtics in their short playoff run and Bruins throughout the rest of the Stanley Cup Playoffs (and giving them the strength to send the team to the Stanley Cup Finals), the Red Sox dedicated the season to the city. The team and players took it very personally partially because the finish line is about a mile away from Fenway Park, Ortiz even extra because he has close ties with the Boston community, and one of the people killed was an eight-year-old boy, the same age as one of his kids at the time. and David Ortiz's speech, the team rallied behind the city, and the city rallied behind them in return. Throughout the summer and deep into the postseason, the Boston Red Sox spent a lot more time working with the community, dedicating part of their lives to charity. They lived by the "Boston Strong" motto and logo. The soul of Boston was on their sleeves, and they didn't intend to quit, whether it was becoming the first team to win a postseason series after being no-hit into the ninth inning or only the third team since divisional play — 1969-present — to win the World Series after losing Game 3 to trail two games to one (the others being the 1979 "We Are Family" Pirates and 2003 Florida Marlins). These pieces of facial hair. Led by Gomes, the team created their lighthearted half of their chemistry. Almost everyone began to slowly grow their beards. (Farrell didn't, and Uehara shaved his. ) Whenever a bearded dude homered, they got a painful tug of the beard…and fans and players LOVED it! There was such a buzz in the media, Boston promoted it for one night: Come to the game with a real or fake beard, and you can buy the ticket for one dollar. Those beards grew and occasionally turned gray. But whatever the color, the character was there, and these Red Sox instantly became likeable throughout the city and league. ——— 2004 lifted a city and team into absolute joy (particularly how they won it), killing the Curse of the Bambino. 2007 buried the Curse of the Bambino into the graves of the Baseball Gods. 2013 allowed the city to put September 2011 and 2012 behind them and dance over that grave. And after all the city went through, it was fitting for the Boston Red Sox to celebrate their eighth World Championship in franchise history at home, their third in ten seasons, and the first time the team clinched it at Fenway in ninety-five years. Multiple generations spent a lot of money to potentially witness history and tell that story to future generations, a moment that'll go down as one of the greatest in New England sports history. The city and team bonded through tragedy, allowing both to grieve, heal through turbulent times, and finally celebrate as one. It was meant to be, and that made celebrating the 2013 World Series Championship that much sweeter. The triumphant journey brought some closure to the city and opened up a bright future for Boston, the Red Sox, and the unity they have for each other.