November 1, 2013

Red Sox conjured up effort, team play

There was no real magic in Boston winning the World Series.

By Kevin Thomas kthomas@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

BOSTON — The plan looked good on paper, at least.

click image to enlarge

Boston Red Sox's David Ortiz waves a flag after Boston defeated the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 6 of baseball's World Series Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2013, in Boston. The Red Sox won 6-1 to win the series.

AP Photo/Matt Slocum

click image to enlarge

The party nobody expected, the season nobody expected, all came together first in Fenway Park, then on the streets around the ballpark Wednesday night as the Red Sox captured their third World Series title in 10 seasons.

Gabe Souza/Staff Photographer

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The Boston Red Sox would go about their business differently. No more distractions, no more bickering between the manager and coaches, the manager and players, the players and … well, you get the picture.

General Manager Ben Cherington hired John Farrell to be the manager last October. Cherington had his new sheriff – and the 6-foot-4 Farrell is often compared to John Wayne – but would Farrell be able to clean up the mess?

Cherington, a native of Meriden, N.H., knows New England doesn’t put up with its Red Sox baseball team being a mess, like the 69-93 season endured last year.

“We earned some scrutiny. We earned some criticism,” he said.

To start the cleanup, unhappy “superstar” players Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Josh Beckett were traded to the Dodgers last August. Then Manager Bobby Valentine, who seemed to cause a distraction each week, was fired and Farrell hired.

Point one for Farrell: No more distractions.

“This winter when he got the job and then in spring training, (Farrell) kept talking about keeping the focus on the field,” Cherington said. “The most important thing will be the game that night. We’re going to be as well or better prepared than everyone.”

It appears to have worked, judging from the scene at Fenway Park late Wednesday night. While 20 reporters gathered around Cherington, about where second base would be, mini-celebrations broke out everywhere, toasting a title so unexpected when the season began.

“You know,” said David Ortiz, the veteran Red Sox slugger who has most of New England bending an ear when he speaks, “winning this World Series is special.

“I think it might be the most special out of all the World Series that I have been part of, to be honest with you.”

That takes a few extra seconds to digest. Ortiz played on World Series winners in Boston in 2004 and 2007. That ’04 title exploded with drama, excitement and historic ramifications. Not only did the Red Sox come back from a three-game deficit to beat the New York Yankees for the AL title, but then swept St. Louis to bring Boston its first World Series championship since 1918.

But Ortiz wasn’t talking about history; he was talking about the team. That’s not something to be taken lightly by a major league player who spends much of nearly every day with his teammates for a seven- to eight-month span.

“I said (this team is most special) because on this team we have a lot of players with heart,” Ortiz said. “We probably don’t have the talent we had in ’07 and ’04, but we have guys who are capable to stay focused and do the little things.

“And when you win with a ballclub like that, that’s special.”

All part of the Farrell/Cherington plan.

“John said he’s going to make it about the players,” Cherington said, “holding them to high standards but empowering them at the same time.

“Those are easy things to say in the winter but it’s hard to pull off in a (long) season. It’s a grind but he pulled it off.”

But Farrell reminds anyone who will listen, there had to be players “buying into a team concept every single day.”

Cherington brought in several players and got rid of others who weren’t going to fit in.

“Ben Cherington deserves all the credit for what he’s done with this roster,” Farrell said.

So the Red Sox gathered a bunch of likable guys to join a decent core group of players. The new guys weren’t big stars, but Shane Victorino, Mike Napoli, Ryan Dempster, Jonny Gomes and Stephen Drew, among others, were considered positives for the clubhouse.

The buzzword was chemistry. But does that win games?

“When you’re around it and you feel it, it’s hard to say it’s not valuable,” Cherington said. “I don’t know if any of us know how to engineer it but when you’re around it and feel the group coming around the way it did, I don’t have any doubt it’s valuable. I just don’t know how to predict it.”

No one predicted a winner, except the players.

“After the first couple of games in spring training, we knew we had a special group and it played out during the season,” said Daniel Nava, an unsung player who became a key contributor.

The fact no one believed in the Red Sox but themselves provided more fuel.

“The unpredictable happens,” Ortiz said. “People (predicted) us in third place in the division, or maybe in last, because of what happened last year.

“It helped us out. We had a little chip on our shoulder that we wanted to come in and put up a good run. Thank God we did.”

Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or:

kthomas@pressherald.com

Twitter: @ClearTheBases

 

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