How the Red Sox Got Their Groove Back

By the time the Yankees arrived at Fenway last August to deliver a shaming, historic five-game sweep, our most paranoid fears seemed to have been confirmed: Rather than a harbinger of decades of bountiful victories to come, the Red Sox’s glorious 2004 playoff run had been dumb luck, a mere hiccup in the never-ending series of soul-crushing indignities that is every Sox fan’s fate. The black plague of injuries that swept through the clubhouse in the final weeks of the season served only as a further, humbling reminder of what life used to be like, and what it looked to be becoming once again. At the end of the day, the second highest payroll in baseball bought us nothing except for third place in our division. (Behind a team from Canada!) We were right back where we had started: holding on for dear life…to the shit end of the stick.

Except now, we weren’t just upset. We had tasted victory, and it was sweet. What right did anyone have to take that away from us? What happened to the enlightened front office, the men and women who were going to lead our exultant march to the Promised Land?

Nothing, it turns out. After two seasons in which the ceaseless chatter that surrounded the team so often centered on what was going wrong—on the field, in the front office, wherever—we’re now talking about the epic potential of a lineup whose number three, four, and five hitters combined to hit 109 home runs and drive in 339 runs last season. And then there’s Daisuke Matsuzaka, baseball’s newest international idol, who judging from the hype should turn out to be a combination of Cy Young, Sandy Koufax, and God. Oh, and we did it all without giving up any of the team’s much heralded prospects. It’s a far cry from last year, when the biggest news was the addition of a man who shared his name with a breakfast cereal.

Surely it’s no accident that these moves are occurring during a time in which Theo Epstein and Larry Lucchino appear to have reached the kind of uneasy truce that allows them to focus on the team and not each other. The two men aren’t, to be certain, about to take any vacations together. What they have proved, though, is that they can work together when they need to—and their combined firepower can be pretty damn impressive. If all you’ve been focusing on are the individual headlines, you might have missed the bigger story. Put the pieces together, though, and there’s no denying it: The Red Sox have got their groove back.