November 23, 2013
It is a cold wintry day in south Texas, perfect for reflecting on the 2013 MLB season and dreaming of Spring Training, 2014. It has been three weeks since the Red Sox proved that no team is so far down that it can’t make an immediate and triumphant turnaround. In the process they made me look like a sage. I wrote this observation in March, 2012:
Doesn’t each player contract Spring-fever amnesia and believe that his team can win the World Series this year no matter how badly they performed the previous year – or the previous 104 years? That’s optimism (“an inclination to put the most favorable construction upon actions and events to anticipate the best possible outcome” – Webster’s 9th)….
The Red Sox certainly embraced collective amnesia by burying the memory of the 93-loss debacle that was 2012 (as well as the historic collapse of September, 2011), right from Opening Day, 2013. An 8-2 rout of arch-rival NYY in Yankee Stadium (Lester outpitching Sabathia) put the Red Sox on top of the division where they stayed most of the year. They finished April with an MLB-best 18-8 record and led the division at the end of every month. It was the kind of dominatingly steady performance you associate with a perennial World Series contender, which BOS had been until the calendar turned to September, 2011.
Whatever happened in those fried-chicken-eating, beer-drinking, Bobby Valentine-in-the-clubhouse-days, there was no hang-over or even indigestion come Spring Training 2013. Credit Ben Cherington and Larry Lucchino for having the courage to “throw the bums out” – players and manager alike (Beckett, Crawford, Valentine), and even being willing to part with a non-bum like Adrian Gonzalez who for whatever reason seemed to be neither bum nor beast. (Voters, are you paying attention as election-year 2014 comes around?) http://www.wnd.com/2013/10/poll-60-say-throw-the-bums-out/
And of course John Farrell has to be credited in some way. He obviously renewed belief in his old Red Sox players that they were an elite team, but he also integrated six questionable free agents that most baseball observers viewed as a Red Sox Plan B folly. Instead of blowing $270 million like they did in 2011 on two top free agent signings, in 2012 BOS would give away only $100 million on 6 mediocre players. Since only one B.A.B.E.S. member picked BOS to make the post-season, we obviously weren’t impressed with Victorino, Napoli, Drew, Gomes, Dempster or Uehara. But somehow, those retreads proved to be worth that $100 million and much, much more. Perhaps it was Farrell; perhaps it was the Beards; perhaps it was the inspiring effect of Boston Strong, but most likely it was the understanding that 2013 was a new year and everyone got a new start – including the chance to bring back the championship persona that was BOS.
That’s what “redux” means – resurgent, or “to bring back.” The entire BOS organization did just that – returning to their top form. John Henry, Lucchino, Cherington, Farrell, Ortiz, Pedroia, Lester, Bucholz, Lackey, and those 6 free agents. Add in sterling rookie performances first by Jose Iglesias and then Xander Bogaerts and solid work by several relievers and it all added up to another Red Sox World Championship. That’s 3 in 10 years (during which time NYY has only one), and the prospect for another BOS title in 2014 is bright (at least brighter than NYY’s). I’m guessing that more than one of us will put BOS in the post-season when our picks are completed on March 30, 2014. Of course, several other teams will take inspiration from BOS and we should be thinking about them.
At the end of “Moneyball” John Henry tells Billy Beane that “any team that is not tearing down its roster right now and rebuilding it your way is a dinosaur.” The same could be said this off-season for the Red Sox way. It is a good time to be a middle-of-the-pack free agent as teams go bargain-hunting, or at least thrift-shopping in the MLB economy ($42 million for Jason Vargas? $26 million for Carlos Ruiz? $16 million for Marlon Byrd?) The Royals and the Phillies seem to think less can be more. As do the Yankees, who for now are insisting that they will not pay a record sum to retain Robinson Cano. Of course, TEX isn’t buying into that – not with the willingness to take on $138 million remaining on Prince Fielder’s seven-year contract amid rumors they are also going to pursue Cano, Jacoby Ellsbury or David Price. The Hot Stove got fired up early this year, even if it may be maintained at a medium temperature for most teams.
But all of that will be reviewed in January and February. For now, we need to congratulate the Red Sox, and every team should thank them for bringing back hope. Of course, it never really went away. Consider these words also from my review of 2012’s season:
I can point to the Giants as a case of successful amnesia, or selective memory, having forgotten the failures of 2011 and repeated the triumph of 2010 (which not one of us predicted, by the way).
(read the rest of that post here – I promise not to quote myself any more):
So the past continues to be prologue. Will BOS repeat? Will SFO continue its alternating-year titles? Can Mike Matheny get the job finished in his 3rd year in STL? Or will Brad Ausmus win it all in his first year in DET after taking over from Jim Leyland? Or will something really new happen like TEX finally winning the Series? And then there is always CHI – the 106th year could be the charm. So much to dream about.
And dreams, of course, are our best form of amnesia.