BOSTON — Redemption was the ultimate goal in 2013, and the Boston Red Sox have successfully and emphatically achieved it.
Once again, and for the third time in 10 years, the Red Sox are at the top of the baseball universe. They left nothing to chance on Wednesday night, pummeling the National League champion St. Louis Cardinals at Fenway Park, 6-1, in Game 6 of the World Series.
For the first time since 1918, the faithful fans at Fenway were able to witness first-hand their beloved Red Sox capture the title on their home field. A wild celebration erupted in Fenway and far beyond, as members of Red Sox Nation partied deep into the night.
It couldn't have been more apropos. This installment of the Red Sox came a long, long way.
Beginning with the epic September collapse in 2011, marred by talk of chicken and beer polluting the clubhouse, and into an embarrassing 2012 season in which the Sox finished in last place in the American League East under Bobby Valentine, nobody — and I mean nobody — saw this coming.
But a rebuilt roster with a fresh attitude under new manager John Farrell dedicated themselves to winning back the trust of a city and playing the game the right way. The people of Boston fell back in love with their Red Sox, and they'll line the city's streets at some point in the coming days for the customary Duck Boat parade.
The Red Sox joined the 1991 Twins as the only team ever to win a World Series one season after finishing in last place.
“First off, I'll say people call (Fenway) the cathedral of baseball, and I absolutely 100 percent agree, this place is a special place to play,” said outfielder Shane Victorino. “We all understood the magnitude of (Wednesday night's) game. The fact that we hadn't won a championship since 1918. I mean, I don't think there's even that many people who could say they remember that or even could say that they were around when that happened.”
Victorino in many ways epitomized what the 2013 Red Sox were all about. He's a tireless worker who came to Boston with little fanfare.
It was Victorino's three-run double in the third that sent Boston well on its way to the victory. He later drove in another run.
Right-handed veteran starter John Lackey, who was enemy No. 1 for Red Sox fans coming into this season, also polished off his personal redemption tour. He delivered 6.2 strong innings (9h, 1r, 1er, 1bb, 5k) to earn the victory, displaying his fiery mound presence that the Fenway patrons eat up.
He walked off the mound to a standing ovation and tipped his cap in return, regaining his reputation as a big-game pitcher.
Then there's shortstop Stephen Drew, always phenomenal with the glove, but much beleaguered for his astonishingly quiet bat.
Finally, after going 1-for-15 in the series' first five games, Drew awoke with a solo home run into the Red Sox bullpen in the bottom of the fourth. It snapped an 80 at-bat homerless drought.
“(Drew) is a baseball player,” said second baseman Dustin Pedroia. “He doesn't take anything out there with him. If he strikes out, he's still out there trying to make a great play to get us back in and score some runs. He does the little things that make our team go.”
Starting all the way back in spring training, you always had the sense that this team really liked each other, respected each other, and had each other's backs. They just had to prove it to everyone else.
The Red Sox had a league-high 97 regular-season wins.
They were always gritty. Nothing fazed them, and they posted walkoff wins at a rate that was nothing short of ridiculous.
Farrell, who joined Terry Francona and Ed Barrow as the only Red Sox skippers to win the championship in their first year at the helm, always had supreme confidence in his players.
“I think we're pretty loose,” said Farrell before the game. “The feel that's down there is a good one.”
Easy to feel good when you have a postseason icon like David Ortiz on your side. Ortiz hit nearly .700 in the series and belted five home runs in October. He has starred on three championship squads.
It's also easy to feel good when you have a lefty in the rotation like Jon Lester, who won two games in the series and has won three World Series games in his career.
Boston has it all.
There's the little engine, Pedroia. The lights out closer, Koji Uehara. The dynamic table-setting speedster, Jacoby Ellsbury. The dirt dog outfielder, Jonny Gomes. The rookie phenom, Xander Bogaerts. The savvy veteran, David Ross. And, the muscle in the middle, Mike Napoli.
It took a roster full of contributors to achieve the goal.
There was once again beer in the clubhouse at Fenway Park on Wednesday night.
But this time it was warranted.