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October 31, 2013

Playoff Prospectus

Boston's Fast Track to Success

by Zachary Levine


The Boston Red Sox were nobody’s offseason champion, which is understandable for a team that was coming off a 69-93, last-place season. Sure, they did stuff. They did a lot of stuff compared to most bad teams, because most bad teams didn’t have the expectations, the window, and the recency of success that the Red Sox had.

Their four biggest offseason moves can be written pessimistically as this:

  • They “upgraded” their abysmal relief situation, acquiring Joel Hanrahan, who would flame and inflame in April, and sending the Pirates a package including Mark Melancon, who became an All-Star.
  • They signed Mike Napoli, who promptly failed his physical.
  • They signed Shane Victorino, a move hailed in various corners of the baseball media as the worst of the offseason given Victorino’s status as a platoon candidate and declining one at that.
  • They signed Ryan Dempster, who was okay and beaned Alex Rodriguez that one time.

Somewhere this addition problem got as drunk as the goggled celebrants in the home clubhouse last night, because 69 wins plus that mess doesn’t always add up to this party.

Eight months later, Victorino was smashing the biggest hit of Game 6 off the wall to cap a season that was actually a bargain for his employer. Napoli was in the cleanup spot after a nice vacation at Busch Stadium. And the bullpen problems were washed away by the much less heralded move of signing Koji Uehara and otherwise building a bullpen the way you’re supposed to.

“That part didn’t turn out the way any of us envisioned, obviously,” general manager Ben Cherington said of the bullpen. “The guys who were pitching in the games at the end of the year were not necessarily the guys we envisioned at the beginning of the year.”

Indeed, for all the reshaping in the offseason, which included hiring John Farrell and a new coaching staff, the Red Sox won in spite of a few of their own decisions, too.

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Related Content:  World Series,  Boston Red Sox,  Ben Cherington

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