From the ignominy of the numbers 1918, 1967, 1975 and 1986, to this.

From 86 years of heartburn and heartbreak, to three championships in fewer than 4,000 days.

From the cellar to the rooftop. The Boston Red Sox have done it. Again.

It’s no dynasty. This is infinitely more satisfying than that. The Sox have done it three different ways, with three different rosters, under three drastically different circumstances.

The common denominator connecting all three teams, of course, is David Ortiz. Remind yourself that the guy was once released by the Minnesota Twins. Recall that he was handcuffed by a wrist injury in 2008 and felled by his Achilles in 2012. Many among us, armed with our New England fear of a falling sky, believed he was done.

Our love affair with Big Papi is nothing if not tempestuous. Remember that hideous no-homers-in-April start in ’09? Some of us wanted him gone then. His perceived role (or lack thereof) in the chicken-and-beer fiasco and his pouty posturing for a contract extension caused more of us to question his real value.


In the immortal words of so many teenage daughters, what-EV-errrrr. Red Sox loyalists better recognize that the world championship drought would be pushing a century if not for No. 34.

The hardest part of breaking down Ortiz’s 2013 playoffs is arguing about what was his greatest contribution. Clearly the grand slam into the Red Sox bullpen that made Steve Horgan momentarily forget his sworn duty to serve and protect the Tigers’ Torii Hunter was essential to this run. Equally vital was the inability of any pitcher this side of God to throw something past Ortiz in the World Series while the Cardinals’ staff made everyone else hit Quintin Berry’s weight.

Nothing in the month of October resounded, though, like Ortiz’s impromptu, mid-game pep talk in Game 4. The Sox were down in the game, down in the series, and it didn’t take much imagination to see them down for the count. Whatever was said likely made “this is our bleeping city” sound like a random line from a filibuster by comparison. That roundtable became the defining, top-10, all-time New England sports moment in a career that is full of them.

What we’ll remember about this team other than its fearless, peerless leader was the massive personnel turnover that set it into motion and the interchangeable parts that kept the machine moving.

Losing the designated hitter for three consecutive nights in the middle of the World Series never felt like much of a punishment or an impediment, because the Sox rarely trotted out the same lineup on back-to-back nights all year. If Shane Victorino wasn’t hitting or if he was beset by the injuries that tend to strike guys in their 30s with a penchant for running into walls, then by golly, Daniel Nava would step in and contribute his two hits and steady defense.

Has an everyday player who batted .303 with double-digit home runs ever accepted a reassignment to postseason role player with the grace and professional dignity of Nava? Has a dude who hit .247 with a strikeout every four at-bats ever demonstrated such unnatural late-inning calm and flair for the dramatic as Jonny Gomes? No. The answer to both questions is hell, no. Having all those hands on deck also helped immeasurably whenever Jacoby Ellsbury became Jacoby Ellsbury and needed three days off after hurting himself while brushing his teeth.


Thank God we won’t have to examine Will Middlebrooks’ function at obstruction junction from now until eternity. Instead, we can focus on how he took his necessary midseason demotion to Pawtucket like a man, and returned with vengeance and renewed confidence. In a semi-related story, next person who questions the deadline deal that sent Jose Iglesias to Detroit for Jake Peavy gets to watch a loop of Xander Bogaerts drawing walks and extending innings until the start of spring training. X is as much a reason as Ortiz that the duck boats are being readied for action, and no, that isn’t hyperbole. He’s also the future of this franchise, and that isn’t, either.

Mike Napoli’s beard is still growing and that Justin Verlander offering he jolted into the jet stream over Comerica Park is still traveling. He’s another guy who didn’t sulk or start to collect rust when he was given a day off, or two, or three.

When Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s bat and arm betrayed him in the World Series, twice-concussed David Ross merely backstopped two of the best-pitched games in Sox playoff history and cranked a ground-rule double off arguably the preeminent pitcher in the National League.

For all his carrying-a-toothpick-to-the-plate uselessness, Stephen Drew made every play at shortstop look routine. Speaking of which, are we sure that was him launching one into the bullpen Wednesday night? Really?

What’s crazy about this patchwork crew is that their theatrics made it easy to overlook the everyday excellence of Dustin Pedroia — except when he was diving to his left with breakneck abandon or ripping another two-out, bases-empty line drive to the opposite field and keeping innings alive for Ortiz.

Managing it all was John Farrell, the anti-Bobby V. The highs never got too oxygen-deprived and lows never quite six-feet-under with Farrell in charge. He was the middle ground the organization should have sought in the first place when they were wanting someone to keep the inmates in check. It was worth whatever it cost to pluck him from Toronto.


Of course, at this time of year, you win with pitching, and what the Sox rolled out in that department was the best we’ve ever seen. From Jon Lester’s command of the postseason environment to John Lackey’s bounce-back season for the ages to Clay Buchholz’s bizarre mix of spring electricity, summer inactivity and autumn grit, Boston’s rotation never backed down, even as national media attention focused on the parade of all-stars opposing them in Tampa, Detroit and St. Louis.

Oh, and Koji Uehara. Please don’t let me overlook him. Speaking of overlooking, how did Baltimore and Texas miss the fact that this guy has the classic closer’s mentality and repertoire? Not that Boston did any better. He was essentially the third choice, after all else failed, and thank God that it did. Uehara was the bullpen’s answer to Ortiz, a peculiar but eminently lovable guy who made those around him better.

I may not understand his language or comprehend from where he pulled this turn-out-the-lights season, but Uehara earned a place in my heart forever through his translator after slamming the door on the Tigers in the American League Championship Series.

“It was more of how the team wanted me, their passion to acquire me and the sincerity,” he said through his translator. “I felt honored to play for this team.”

Because of that attitude, and 24-plus that were identical to it, we felt honored to watch.


Kalle Oakes is a staff columnist. His email is [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @Oaksie72.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: