Tyler Maher | Beantown Beat
Road to redemption
Published: Wednesday, September 25, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, September 25, 2013 03:09
Twenty-four hours after securing a postseason berth, the Boston Red Sox clinched their division last Friday night with their 94th win of the season, a 6-3 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays. For the first time since 2007, the Olde Towne Team is tops in the American League East. Ah, it’s good to be back.
Few could’ve predicted this sort of success at the beginning of the year, with Boston coming off a last place finish and its worst season since 1965. The Red Sox were guaranteed to improve after reloading during the offseason, but there was still a sour taste lingering in millions of New England mouths.
The team’s major additions didn’t look too promising either. New manager (and former Red Sox pitching coach) John Farrell lost more games than he won in his two seasons guiding the Blue Jays, and his new personnel were just as flawed. Shane Victorino and Jonny Gomes couldn’t hit against righties. Stephen Drew was coming off the worst season of his career. Mike Napoli had a bum hip. Ryan Dempster struggled after transitioning to the AL midway through 2012. All were on the wrong side of 30.
Nobody believed in them. Experts predicted another last-place finish. Vegas gave them 30 to 1 odds at winning the World Series and set the over/under for their season win total at 79.5. (Anyone who took the under lost that bet weeks ago.) For the first time in a long time, Boston took the field on Opening Day with minimal expectations. No pressure.
The Red Sox caught everyone by surprise when they rolled to a 20-8 start, establishing themselves as contenders right out of the chute. It felt too good to be true. Sox fans, skeptical of their team’s early success, were slow to jump back on the bandwagon. Fenway’s decade-long sellout streak ended in the second home game of the year, and attendance was down. Red Sox Nation, it seemed, had lost the faith.
To be fair, the lack of excitement over the team’s hot start was also related to events beyond their control. Baseball took a backseat in April — traditionally the sport’s best month — when bombs rocked the Boston Marathon. The curtain closed on the Celtics’ Big Three era, and the Bruins came within two wins of their second Stanley Cup in three years. Then the whole Aaron Hernandez thing happened and ... the Sox became something of an afterthought. They were a nice story, but could they keep it up?
The Red Sox did not go away. They didn’t fade or tank or choke. They fell out of first place for a few days at the end of July, then fortified their rotation by trading for Jake Peavy and promptly regained control of first. They held off the Tampa Bay Rays during August’s dog days until reinforcements arrived in the form of September roster expansions. After clinging to first place for most of the summer, they finally started pulling away from the pack around Labor Day and locked up the division for good.
Now, after a glorious summer of come-from-behind wins, scary beards and tremendous baseball, Boston is postseason-bound. Farrell has time to rest the regulars and line up his starting rotation. He can prepare the Red Sox to do what they did the last time they won the AL East: go on to win the World Series.
Tyler is a junior majoring in economics. He can be reached at Tyler.Maher@tufts.edu.