Boston Police officer Steve Horgan celebrates as Detroit’s Torii Hunter falls over the right field fence into the bullpen trying to catch a grand slam by Boston’s David Ortiz during Game 2 of the 2013 American League championship series at Fenway Park. Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

As we count down the final hours of 2019 we are not just wrapping up a year, but a decade.

For the Boston Red Sox, it was a decade of incredible highs and lows. You’d be hard pressed to find a 10-year stretch that saw more peaks and valleys for the Red Sox.

The highs were obvious. The Red Sox took two duck boat trips through the streets of Boston, celebrating world series championships in 2013 and 2018. They were incredibly different experiences.

The 2013 team was not the most talented team in baseball that year. This band of bearded brothers bonded together to overcome the odds, and the favorites. The ’13 Sox helped Boston get back on its feet after the bombing at the Boston Marathon, lifting a stunned city in the days that followed and teaching us what it meant to be Boston Strong.

David Ortiz hit a grand slam in Game 2 of the American League championship series against a Tigers team that was within four outs of taking a 2-0 lead back to Detroit. From there, there was no looking back. The Red Sox won a World Series at Fenway Park for the first time in 95 years. When the duck boats stopped at the Copley Square, and the players placed the trophy at the Boston Marathon finish line, there wasn’t a dry eye in New England.

By contrast, the 2018 Red Sox were the most talented team in the game. In fact, they were the most talented team in the 120-year history of the Red Sox. They won a franchise-record 108 games, and steamrolled through the postseason. They beat the arch-rival Yankees in four games (after Aaron Judge played an ill-advised playlist including “New York, New York”), the defending champion Houston Astros in six, and then defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series.

It was a picture-perfect run for first-year manager Alex Cora, who posted a picture of each win on his wall from the start of the season. Soon, he ran out of room for all the photos.

Cora became manager after John Farrell was relieved of his duties despite leading the Red Sox to consecutive AL East titles for the first time in club history. It was a stark reminder of just how high the expectations are in Boston.

Despite two championships, the Red Sox went through four managers this decade, which began with Terry Francona firmly entrenched as the field boss. His 2011 team was hailed as the “Best Team Ever” by the Boston Herald, yet suffered one of the most stunning collapses in baseball history.

That was the year of chicken and beer, of a dysfunctional clubhouse that had a nine-game lead in the playoff race on Sept. 3 yet gave that lead away losing 20 of 27 games down the stretch. Jonathan Papelbon gave up a two-run walk-off hit that ended the season for Boston, and the Red Sox careers of Francona and General Manager Theo Epstein.

That led to the lowest point of the decade. Bobby Valentine came in for the 2012 campaign and lost his clubhouse before the team broke spring training. It was a nightly soap opera that featured outlandish statements from Bobby V and uninspired play from his team. The only good thing that came out of 2012 was the trade with the Dodgers that allowed the Red Sox to dump the salaries of Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, and Josh Beckett.

That set up the unforgettable run in 2013. Yet there were more valleys with last-place finishes in 2014 and 2015.

As the decade wraps up, the team is somewhere in the middle of those highs and lows. The Red Sox didn’t make the playoffs in 2019, ending a three-year run. There is much talent on the roster, yet just as many questions surrounding the health of the pitching staff. The organization has set a goal of lowering payroll, a goal that doesn’t spark excitement in the fan base.

Is the team headed up or down as we begin the next decade? We’ll find out soon enough. Pitchers and catchers report in just 42 days.

Tom Caron is a studio host for Red Sox broadcast on NESN. His column appears in the Portland Press Herald on Tuesdays.


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