October 22, 2013

TOM CARON: Red Sox built on a solid foundation

The newcomers have been great, but Ortiz and Pedroia are the Glue Two.

BOSTON — There has been no lack of storylines for the 2013 Boston Red Sox. The American League champs are an easy group to cheer for, a deep team of overachievers that has captured our hearts with their never-say-die run to the World Series.

We’ve spent a lot of this summer talking about the newcomers on the team. It’s easy to point to Jonny Gomes, Mike Napoli, Shane Victorino and Koji Uehara as character-types who brought a new attitude to Fenway Park.

Just don’t forget about the middle-of-the-lineup combination that has led this offense for years.

David Ortiz is the only remaining member of the 2004 championship team that ended 86 years of futility in Boston.

And Dustin Pedroia has been the heart and soul of the Red Sox since he burst onto the scene in his Rookie of the Year season of 2007.

They are a most unlikely pair. Ortiz, the larger-than-life slugger who commands attention whenever he strolls onto the scene.

Whether it’s a bases-loaded situation in the eighth inning of a championship series or a charity function in December, Big Papi is always ready to steal the spotlight.

Back in April, during Boston’s darkest days following the marathon bombing, it was Ortiz who finally got us to laugh with his infamous “this is our (bleeping) city” comment at Fenway. Even the FCC found it impossible not to smile at the designated hitter’s choice of words.

Big Papi stands 6’4” and weighs 230 lbs. – at least eight inches and 65 pounds bigger than Pedroia. But pitchers know to give each hitter the respect he deserves.

After all, it is Pedroia – not Ortiz – who has an MVP award on his mantel at home.

While the offensive half of the game come easily to Ortiz, Pedroia is the ultimate grinder.

He’s the first one at the ballpark every day. The first one in uniform and in the dugout. He has been on a quixotic journey to prove himself since he first wore a baseball uniform as a child.

In the spring of 2009, Pedroia said in the course of an interview that he was “going to prove everyone (who doubted his talents) wrong.”

The last time the Sox made it to the World Series, the pair combined to drive in eight runs in the four-game sweep of the Rockies.

With the roster around them undergoing a complete turnover, they have become the bedrock upon which General Manager Ben Cherington built this pennant-winning team.

From 1996 to 2000, when the New York Yankees won four World Series in five years, they were led by a cornerstone of players who would define the franchise for years.

Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera became known as the “Core Four.” Without them there would not have been a Yankee dynasty.

So as the Sox return to the Fall Classic for the third time in 10 years, let’s give credit to the Glue Two.

Pedroia and Ortiz have been the one-two punch in the middle of the Red Sox lineup all season long. Without them the season would’ve been over a long time ago.

Tom Caron is studio host for Red Sox broadcasts on the New England Sports Network. His column apperas in the Press Herald on Tuesdays.
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