McALESTER — Listening to the Boston Red Sox as they celebrated winning the World Series on Wednesday, two themes emerged: John Farrell’s first year as a manager; and roster moves that included dumping off several high-salary players in 2012 and bringing in “character” guys like Mike Napoli, Johnny Gomes and Shane Victorino.
The Red Sox began the 2013 season with few players who could be considered “superstars,” and those who could were veteran Boston players who’d earned that status long ago.
In winning the World Series, the Red Sox proved that the right manager and the right locker room atmosphere can turn a bunch of nobodies into champions.
How else do you explain it? How do you explain how the worst baseball team in the American League in 2012 became the best team in 2013?
It can’t be just personnel alone. Gomes led the above-mentioned trio with an underwhelming .262 batting average in 2012, and not one of those signings seemed to carry the game-changing weight of a move like Carlos Beltran going to the St. Louis Cardinals or Albert Pujols going to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in 2012.
Sox super-closer Koji Uehara, meanwhile, came off a 2012 season in which he pitched just 36 innings, recorded one save and got into one postseason game. He didn’t even emerge as the Sox’s closer until two months into the 2013 season.
Uehara’s innings more than doubled in 2013, ballooning to 74.1 in the regular season and 13.2 in the postseason. He set career-highs in earned runs average, saves, wins and strikeouts.
The 2013 Red Sox loved playing with each other, and they loved coming to work every day. Those borderline-hideous beards many of them grew symbolized everything that made this team remarkable: a fun-loving attitude and a sense of camaraderie that made players want to play for each other.