This Red Sox team reminds David Ortiz of one he won a title with
David Ortiz spent 14 seasons in a Boston Red Sox uniform. He’s been a part of many different variations of this roster, including three that captured a World Series championship, but there’s something about this year’s team that he finds familiar.
During an interview with Boston.com, Ortiz was asked if the 2021 Red Sox reminded him of any of the teams he played for during his tenure in Boston. One team stood out among the rest.
"“Probably 2013,” said Ortiz. “A lot of young, talented players. We had a down year the year before, and nobody thought we were going to bounce back and be that good the following season. These guys had a year last year that was bad, and look how they’re playing this year. It’s hard to change in baseball from one year to another.”"
The 2012 season was one of the darkest memories in recent franchise history. Boston’s ship sank to the bottom of the AL East under the misguided direction of manager Bobby Valentine. A toxic clubhouse was on the verge of a mutiny as the losses piled up. It was an expensive roster with plenty of talented veterans but you can’t win in this league with so many miserable players spoiling the team’s culture.
Last year wasn’t quite as grim but the end result was even more dismal. The Red Sox finished last in their division with the fourth-worst record in baseball. Spring training was interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, leading to a rushed summer camp to prepare for a shortened season. Several players felt the consequences of having their routines drastically altered during a frustrating year where everything seemed to go wrong.
The Red Sox turned their fortunes around in 2013 with a massive overhaul. It started with a blockbuster trade in August 2012 that shipped about a quarter of a billion dollars in salary to the Los Angeles Dodgers. The deal rid the roster of several malcontents to instantly improve the clubhouse chemistry while paving the way to reshape the roster around high-character veterans the following season.
The addition of guys like Shane Victorino, Koji Uehara, Mike Napoli and Jonny Gomes paid instant dividends. They weren’t superstars with the high profile of the players who were dealt to the Dodgers but these role players were key contributors. Boston mixed in these veterans to supplement an emerging young core led by Xander Bogaerts, Jacoby Ellsbury and Jackie Bradley Jr. It also helped that Big Papi remained in the center of the lineup.
The Red Sox were expected to be entering a rebuilding phase in 2013 but with their combination of youth, veteran leadership and productive role players, they shocked the world by rising from the basement of the division to the top on their way to capturing a championship.
Is history repeating itself for the Red Sox?
We can draw some parallels between that 2013 team and this year’s quick turnaround.
The methods used to stack the 2018 roster for a historic championship run ultimately left the Red Sox with a bloated payroll and thin farm system. It was worth it to take home another World Series trophy but their path wasn’t feasible for sustainable success.
Boston desperately needed a change and once again, the Dodgers came to the recuse. Many fans will never forgive the Red Sox for trading Mookie Betts but parting with the former MVP and dumping half of David Price’s remaining contract was the first step toward getting their payroll under control and rebuilding the farm system.
It was difficult to see Chaim Bloom’s vision as the team stumbled through the 2020 season while their best player switched his uniform to Dodger blue but his plan is unfolding to perfection this year. The Red Sox used the savings from the Betts trade to allocate resources to multiple positions and create a deeper roster.
This time it’s Enrique Hernandez and Hunter Renfroe filing the role of under the radar signings who are proving themselves indispensable. Rafael Devers, Alex Verdugo, Bobby Dalbec and Garrett Whitlock are among those leading the youth movement.
The Red Sox were projected to finish fourth in their division while trying to climb out of the pit they fell into last year. The revamped roster exceeded expectations by clinching the top Wild Card spot and dispatching a pair of division rivals on their way to the ALCS. Now the Red Sox are two wins away from a trip to the World Series.
Massive payroll cuts and the departure of star talent paving the way for a roster overhaul. Young players emerging and savvy free-agent bargains carving out a role. Sound familiar?
It’s extremely rare for a last-place team to make the leap to World Series champions one year later. Ortiz was a part of one of those worst-to-first turnarounds. Can this year’s team repeat what we saw in 2013? That remains to be seen. Considering the resemblance between how both rosters were built, it shouldn’t surprise anyone if this team follows in those footsteps.