The Improbable Dream: The Story of the 2013 Boston Red Sox (Part I)

The Sox won’t make the playoffs; there’s too much ground to make up and the rotation remains suspect.

Pete Abraham, The Boston Globe

You would be forgiven if you thought the above quote referred to the 2023 iteration of the Old Towne Team. The 2023 Boston Red Sox aren’t projected to be very good, and many pundits predict that a postseason berth might be a stretch.

However, if you did think that this quote was about this year’s team, you would be wrong. This quote was in reference to the subject of my next series, the 2013 Boston Red Sox. 

The 2013 Boston Red Sox entered the year with a rag-tag roster and low expectations. They were coming off of a horrendous year that ended with the dismissal of manager Bobby Valentine.

General Manager Ben Cherington had made some off-season acquisitions, but none were especially flashy or considered game-changers. 

The rotation had question marks. Could Jon Lester step up and be the ace the Sox needed? Could John Lackey overcome the injury bug and perform at the level expected when he signed with the Sox just a couple of seasons prior? 

We all know how the story ends – with the first World Series celebration at Fenway Park since 1918. The 2013 team was hardly the first Red Sox team to overperform, though.

When I read the predictions for 2013, my mind drifted back to 1967. This was another team that pundits projected to finish poorly, but who overperformed expectations. They nearly defeated the St. Louis Cardinals in the 1967 World Series, falling just short of bringing Boston its first World Series title since 1918.

Carl Yastrzemski was the star of the 1967 Red Sox on the road to the World Series. Photo by Sports Illustrated

That team revitalized baseball in Boston and quite possibly saved Fenway Park. I also think about the 2021 team, which made it within an eyelash of the World Series. That run to the ALCS in 2021 came after a year where Boston missed the playoffs entirely. Fighting against the odds is in the DNA of the Boston Red Sox. 

The Birth of “Boston Strong”

2013 was also a different type of year – it was the year of the tragic Boston Marathon bombings. It was the year that the Boston Red Sox lifted a mourning city on its back and brought it a glimpse of joy. It was the year that David Ortiz reminded the world that Boston was his f’n city. 

The year the Red Sox showed the world what “Boston Strong” meant. The odds were against the 2013 team, but overcoming the odds is what the Red Sox have done on many occasions. 

1967 was the “Impossible Dream” that taught us that nothing is impossible. In that same spirit, I have dubbed the 2013 team the “Improbable Dream.” A World Series win was improbable, and the season seemed like a dream that followed the horrific nightmare of the Boston Marathon.

The 2013 Boston Red Sox were a special team with a special purpose. 

However, the story didn’t start in 2013. It began on a New England fall night in 2011, when the Red Sox realized they had blown the division lead and missed the playoffs. That was the catalyst for the series of events to come.

It was the epic collapse in 2011 that lead to Terry Francona and Theo Epstein being dismissed, Bobby Valentine hired (and dismissed), the dismantling of the core that Epstein had put together in the late 2000s, and the emergence of the players that would lead the 2013 team to glory.

This series commemorates the 10th anniversary of that team and tells its story. Join us for a 4-part celebration and discussion of the 2013 Boston Red Sox. 

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