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Roche: Taking Time To Appreciate The Red Sox

By Dan Roche, WBZ-TV Sports
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The Boston Red Sox celebrate after winning Game 5 of the 2013 World Series. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

The Boston Red Sox celebrate after winning Game 5 of the 2013 World Series. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

420x316-grad-roche Dan Roche
Dan Roche is an award-winning sports anchor and reporter for WBZ-TV...
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BOSTON (CBS) –  I know the 2013 Boston Red Sox are on the verge of doing something special.

I know they are one win away from a World Series championship, which would be the third in the 21st century for this franchise. It’s incredible just how close they are and that they can win it on home soil for the first time since 1918.

However, before we go forward, I think this is an appropriate time to go back and take a look at what we are witnessing:

This team was in disarray a year ago. They were coming off a 69-win season and had a manager that had thrown the entire organization completely out of sync.

But Ben Cherington rolled up his sleeves and went about repairing this wounded franchise that had proudly won two World Series titles under new ownership.

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It actually began in August when Cherington pulled the trigger on a deal that rid the Sox of the long-term contracts Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, and Josh Beckett. Two of those players simply couldn’t thrive playing in the intensity of the Boston market, while the other was injured. Ben also got the arms of Allen Webster and Rubby De La Rosa in return, who should be big parts of the future.

Red Sox manager John Farrell and general manager Ben Cherington. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

Red Sox manager John Farrell and general manager Ben Cherington. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

The Sox also pried John Farrell away from Toronto. Farrell knew this organization from top to bottom and everyone was immediately on the same page as far as the direction the team should be going in regarding its players. Farrell also took it upon himself to visit and reach out to his players to gain their trust back, something that was lost in the Valentine era.

Cherington signed two under-the-radar guys to two-year deals in David Ross and Jonny Gomes. Ross was brought in for his knowledge of pitching while Gomes came in not because of what he can do on the field, but mostly his off-field presence. Cherington also took the surplus of money he saved in the Dodger deal and used it on free agents such as Shane Victorino, Mike Napoli, Stephen Drew, Ryan Dempster, Joel Hanrahan, and Koji Uehara.

The Sox began talking from day one about “playing the game the right way” and being a “team on and off the field.” The chemistry actually began coming together back in spring training in Fort Myers, Florida. Players began going out together and hanging out, and some even started growing beards as well — growing a common bond in the clubhouse.

Once the regular season started, the wins began piling up.  Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, John Lackey, and Felix Doubront led the pitching staff and never stopped. Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Jacoby Ellsbury, Daniel Nava, Will Middlebrooks and the free agents led a high-powered, grinding, “see a lot of pitches” offense.

Following season-ending injuries to Hanrahan and Andrew Bailey, Uehara emerged not only as the closer, but as a team MVP candidate as he dominated the second half. The bullpen came together with Uehara on the back end and Craig Breslow, Junichi Tazawa, Andrew Miller, Franklin Morales, and others setting up.

Role player Mike Carp was added in spring training while Jake Peavy and Quentin Berry were second half acquisitions. Xander Bogaerts, said to be the best prospect the Red Sox have had in awhile, was a late-season call up.

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Along the way, the team also pulled off several comeback signature wins, 11 of them, installing a “never-say-die” attitude that would stick all season long.

Mike Napoli is greeted by David Ortiz at home plate after hitting a walk-off home run in the 11th inning against the New York Yankees on July 22. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

Mike Napoli is greeted by David Ortiz at home plate after hitting a walk-off home run in the 11th inning against the New York Yankees on July 22. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

But the team really came together for its city following the tragedy of the Boston Marathon bombings, as Will Middlebrooks coined the phrase “Boston Strong.” These Sox went out of their way to help the city with the healing process, from hospital visits to the many pregame ceremonies honoring victims and their families.

The Sox won an incredible 97 games during the regular season and captured the AL East, earning the top seed in the American League. Boston was finally back in the playoffs for the first time since 2009.

They won the ALDS in four games, putting away a pesky Tampa Bay team that featured dominant pitching. Boston beat both Matt Moore and David Price, who combined to win 28 games in the regular season, in the series, outscoring the Rays 26-12.

The Sox then eliminated a powerful Detroit team, matching aces Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Anibal Sanchez, and Doug Fister pitch-for-pitch while getting some timely hitting. They won in six games, capturing the AL Pennant at Fenway Park.

That of course brought us to the World Series, where we’ve watched the great pitching continue led by Lester and Uehara. The hitting has been sparse, but timely, led by Napoli, Gomes, Ross, Salty, Ellsbury, Bogaerts, and, of course, “Cooperstown” David Ortiz.

Papi has been Babe Ruth during this fall classic, going 11-for-15 in while inspiring his team on the field and in the dugout.

Now the Red Sox are back home, ready for a Game 6 tonight at Fenway Park with a chance to win a World Series on home turf for the first time in nearly a century. John Lackey, who fans were begging to be shipped out of town for being broken down and part of the “beer and chicken” collapse of 2011, has the chance to clinch it as the starting pitcher.

These bearded wonders can finish off one incredible story tonight, but no matter what we witness tonight or tomorrow night in a Game 7, I think all fans should pause today. Just take a second to reflect on the last seven months, and think about what we have watched unfold on the diamond and in the Boston clubhouse.

Our beloved Boston Red Sox have gone from a laughingstock to possible champs with one unforgettable run, and for that we should say “thank you.” Thanks for restoring order on Yawkey Way, as the Boys of Summer (and Fall) are back in the place they should be.

The Red Sox are back in the hearts of fans all throughout New England.

Follow WBZ-TV’s Dan Roche on Twitter @RochieWBZ.

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