Think back to where you were a year ago. Or two years ago. You may have found it increasingly difficult to call yourself a Red Sox fan. Now, just 11 short months after a last-place finish in the AL East – 26 games behind the Yankees, the Boston Red Sox have won their eighth World Series championship. They didn’t do it by the length of the hair on their chins either. They dominated the Cardinals in Game 6 behind some of the guys they brought in for 2013 – guys like Shane Victorino, Mike Napoli and Koji Uehara, who did nothing but what was asked of them all season long. With old reliable, David Ortiz, having an unimaginable World Series and Jon Lester, looking as good as he did in 2007, the duo quickly turned into bigger postseason legends, while guys like Jonny Gomes, Daivd Ross and (can you believe it?) John Lackey helped this team complete an unbelievable turnaround in its first year under Manager of the Year, John Farrell. They didn’t do it to break a curse. They didn’t do it with the help of a bloody sock. They did it for each other and for a city still recovering from one of its darkest days. Now, after watching the duck boats navigate down Boston streets, no one really remembers what it felt like trailing 5-1 to the Tigers in the eighth inning of Game 2 of the ALCS. Because these guys never quit.
It is time, once again, to take a look at Boston’s latest championship by the numbers – both the good and the bad – or, as you might notice, a look at all that Ortiz accomplished in the series – and it is a lot. Also, find out which two legendary pitchers Lackey can now be mentioned in the same breath with, what noteworthy accomplishment occurred for the Drew family and the new record for Red Sox games played in a season. This is Boston Red Sox: A World Series Championship by the Numbers.
0: Lester was the third Boston left-hander to ever start a Game 1 in the World Series. Like Babe Ruth and Bruce Hurst before him, he did not allow a single run.
0: Victorino had been hitless in the World Series coming in to Game 6. But two little pokes made us all forget that.
Did the 2004 trade of Nomar Garciaparra unleash a new jinx on the Red Sox even after vanquishing the old one?
The trade deadline has passed. The Red Sox go into the final two months of the season with only one real sore spot at shortstop where Marco Scutaro is really more cut out to be a utility infielder and Jed Lowrie can’t stay healthy. It continues the pattern of instability the Sox have had at short since the 2004 World Series run.
Nomar Garciaparra, one of the modern icons in Boston sports, had manned the shortstop position from 1997 through July of 2004 when the most famous deadline deal in Red Sox history shipped him the Cubs and brought in Orlando Cabrera, Dave Roberts and Doug Mienkiewitcz. The latter provided valuable defensive help at first base. Roberts stole the most important base in club history in Game 4 of the League Championship Series. And Cabrera handled the shortstop job before being cut loose at the end of the season and going on to success with the Angels, where he had a good run of 2-3 years as one of the AL’s top shortstops. Boston meanwhile, grasped for stability at the infield’s most important defensive position.
They’ve come and gone through the Hub these last eight years. Edgar Renteria was brought in for 2005 with a good pedigree, but he had trouble handling the Boston atmosphere and really struggled defensively. He was traded to Atlanta after a year on the job. Alex Gonzalez came in and played the most exquisite defensive shortstop I’ve ever watched. But Theo Epstein was convinced that in the AL East shortstop was an offensive position as well. So he gave Julio Lugo a four-year contract. Lugo’s performance certainly made Red Sox shortstop play offensive, although not in the sense Epstein intended. The forgettable Nick Green got a crack at the job and improved on Lugo’s effort, if only because you didn’t have the words “$44 million for four years” going through your mind every time he came to the plate or couldn’t cut off a slowly hit grounder up the middle. Gonzalez came back for a stint in a trade deadline deal in 2009, although he was again let go after the year was over. Finally the front office signed Scutaro and continued to hope for Lowrie, who’d shown such promise in 2008 and again at the start of this year to get healthy. Nothing’s worked and in the tradition of Boston sports it’s led some to again believe larger forces are at work (nothing is ever simple with us, is it?).
Shortstop: Generally considered the most important defensive position in baseball aside from the pitcher-catcher battery. Responsible for a substantial amount of infield terrain, he chosen to man this position is looked to as the centerpiece of an infield.
Since Nomar, shortstop's proven tough to fill for the Red Sox.
Theo Epstein: Promoted from within the Red Sox organization, heralded as a boy wonder. Since taking the helm at General Manager in 2003, Epstein has been the face of a new era in Red Sox baseball — one that has featured 6 95-win seasons, 6 trips to the postseason, 4 ALCS appearances, and 2 World Series victories. Criticized probably too often for his edgy approach that emphasizes statistical analysis, in a results-based business, he’s produced ’em.
These two entities, though, have not mixed well.
In a pattern more disturbing than that of the Defense Against the Dark Arts teaching position at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Epstein’s Red Sox have featured 7 shortstops that at one time laid claim to the starting role, and the 8th — Marco Scutaro — will be throwing his hat into the ring less than 2 weeks. I personally don’t know why it’s been so difficult for Boston to settle on one, but I will at least provide a comprehensive timeline of the revolving door at a position of importance.