Originally written on The Sports Post  |  Last updated 11/15/14
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In a city like Boston, pride heals wounds. After the blow of the bombings last week at the Boston Marathon, the city’s grief was met with unmistakable pride. Facebook posts and Tweets vowed that the city would quickly recover from the attacks and that police would catch the perpetrators swiftly, which they did. Nothing instills pride in us Bostonians like our sports teams. When talking about why our city is the best, we have four simple words for you: “Sox, C’s, Pats, B’s”. That’s really all you need to know. For us, the argument starts and ends there. Knowing this, Boston would never fully be able to recover until the sports teams took the field again. Enter: David Ortiz. On Saturday, April 20, the Sox took the field at Fenway Park for the first time since the attacks that prior Monday. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the surviving bomb suspect, was taken into custody the previous night, so the city could finally breathe a little. The baseball game was a big deal because it signaled that Boston could now return to a state of normalcy, but it also marked David Ortiz’s return from the disabled list and first game of the 2013 season. His 11 seasons on the team, his leadership role, and his Big Papi persona all gave him the necessary clout to address the crowd and the city before the game. “All right, Boston,” Ortiz told the crowd. “This jersey that we wear today, it doesn’t say ‘Red Sox.’ It says ‘Boston.’ “We want to thank you, Mayor Menino, Governor Patrick, the whole police department for the great job that they did this past week. This is our f*****g city, and nobody’s going to dictate our freedom. Stay strong. Thank you.” It was exactly what we had been saying to each other, but we needed to hear it from someone like Big Papi. And from a city that is very knowledgeable in the subject of swearing, that f-bomb wrapped up the whole message beautifully. While some people dismissed it as crude and distasteful, Bostonians heard it as the key to our hearts. That was exactly what we would say if we were given the microphone in front of the Fenway Faithful. David Ortiz is Boston. He was a big reason why the Red Sox broke an 86-year World Series drought in 2004. For the past few years, until this past offseason, the Boston front office seemingly lost sight of the fact that players like Ortiz, the ones who exemplify the city, are the ones who perform the best once on the Red Sox. The 2004 World Series Red Sox had a great deal of players that fit that description. Guys like Derek Lowe, Tim Wakefield, Jason Varitek, Mark Bellhorn, Orlando Cabrera, Bill Mueller, Pokey Reese, Johnny Damon, Kevin Millar, Trot Nixon, and of course, David Ortiz had comparable skill to other players in the league with big names and flashy contracts, but were overlooked because they did not play in cities that contained the Empire State Building or the Hollywood sign. But, these Boston players who may have lacked big city luster, made up for it with grittiness and desire to win by any means necessary. This video of Kevin Millar basically convincing himself and the rest of the team that they would come back from the 3-0 deficit to the Yankees in the ‘04 ALCS is exactly what I am talking about. You will never see A-Rod do something like that. To win in Boston, you need a team full of overlooked, prideful, and tough players. The blueprint for a winning team in Boston comes from within the city. But these past three seasons, Boston’s front office disregarded this blueprint and brought on big names like Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, and John Lackey. These guys - good players on their previous teams - were not wired to succeed in Boston. This past offseason, the front office returned to where they found success before. They signed good-character veterans who can play on the big stage of Fenway Park. These additions included Mike Napoli, Shane Victorino, Jonny Gomes, Stephen Drew, Ryan Dempster, and Joel Hanrahan. None of these guys will make your eyes expand, but like the ’04 squad, will get the job done. And in the MLB, that is all that matters. I wrote an article last week listing in detail the eight characteristics a team needs to come as close as possible to guaranteeing a World Series. Of the eight attributes, the 2013 Red Sox can check off seven. The only thing they are in need of is a bonafide ace and an elite slugger. Fortunately for them, they do have an owner with giant sized pockets, so those should not be too hard to find. The dilemma is making sure they stick to the Boston blueprint. They need to stay away from Adrian Gonzalez and John Lackey, but rather find players like Manny Ramirez and Curt Schilling. No, it is not necessary to own all eight characteristics, but I don’t trust the current Boston pitching rotation to go deep in October. I give the Red Sox one offseason to transform into a legitimate World Series contender again. By: Matt Levine Twitter: @Matt_TFJ
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