It?s fun to make comparisons, and comparing any team — whether it?s baseball, football, bag toss or darts — to the 2004 Red Sox is the ultimate compliment. No team has ever featured the same mix of chemistry, passion, looseness and overall uniqueness. There?s clearly something special brewing in Boston this season, though, and we?re reminded of the ?04 squad each time these Red Sox grind out an improbable win.
The Red Sox? latest magic act came Friday, when Boston overcame a five-run deficit in the seventh inning to earn a 12-8 win over the Yankees in New York. The relentless rally was highlighted by a game-tying grand slam from Mike Napoli in the seventh, and it was capped by a four-run eighth inning that included a two-run, go-ahead homer from Shane Victorino.
?Even inside of tonight, it was almost two different games here tonight,? manager John Farrell said following Friday?s come-from-behind win. ?Felix [Doubront] obviously scuffled with his command. The number of walks issued are a concern. But offensively, we continue to grind, we continue to build innings. Obviously, Nap?s grand slam that looked like it went off the top of the wall to tie things up furthered the momentum, and then Vic once again from the right side of the plate against right-handed [pitching] just doing an outstanding job.?
Friday?s victory is simply the latest on a long list of dramatic wins for this year?s Red Sox. One doesn?t have to look any further back than Thursday — when the Red Sox rallied against Mariano Rivera in the ninth inning and eventually won in 10 innings — to find another instance of Boston defying the odds. And as the impossible starts to look more and more possible, it?s hard not to immediately think back to 2004?s rag-tag bunch.
?Absolutely,? David Ortiz said when asked if he notices similarities between the two teams. ?We have guys that, even myself, I?ve been super impressed with the way that they?ve been handling business. That?s good, though. That?s unexpected as far as anybody who counted us out before even spring training started. Just like in ?04, nobody expected us to be that good and it happens.?
The 2004 roster had its share of superstars, so to say the World Series title was solely a product of chemistry or an inexplicable string of events would require overlooking the abundance of talent in that clubhouse. But at the same time, the ’04 Sox were not the most talented team in baseball, and it took something extraordinary for them to accomplish what they did.
There?s a similar look to this year?s team — albeit with hair relocated to faces.
“It’s very similar,” former Red Sox ace Pedro Martinez said before Friday?s game. “The two teams are very similar in that aspect — everybody’s loose, everybody’s going along together, everybody’s minding their own business when they have to. It’s a very, very professional team. That’s what you’re seeing out there. Everybody out there is trying to look as professional as they can and they’re trying to do it the right way.
“And it’s not only on the field. Off the field, you see that the behavior of those guys is different. I think, in that aspect, this team is even above the one in ’04.?
The 2013 Red Sox will ultimately be defined by how their season ends. That?s simply how it goes in Boston. But Martinez — intentionally or not — raises another good point. The current team, while similar to ?04, is writing its own story.
Dreadlocks and Jheri curls have given way to beards, beards and more beards. A dirt dog has been replaced by a Flyin? Hawaiian. And a bloody sock this October might not go unnoticed amid a field of red knee-highs.
The quirks are there, but it?s a whole new ensemble that?s been ushered in.
Yes, there are absolutely similarities between this year?s Red Sox team and the 2004 squad that gave Boston its first World Series title in 86 years. Just don?t forget to enjoy the current ride, however long it lasts. It could become special in its own right.