A few random observations from the ALCS.
1.) There were 105 half innings in this series. MVP Koji Uehara played in 6 of them. It’s not how much face time you get; it’s what you do with it.
Winners make a difference and leave footprints regardless of how much playing time they get.
2.) The Detroit Tigers pitchers were dominant—unhittable, literally, for much of the series. Yet the Boston Red Sox found a way to beat them, over and over again.
Winners believe that the giants they face aren’t invincible. They don’t give themselves permission to lose. They don’t make excuses or give themselves an out. They find a way to win.
3.) It doesn’t matter that you’re 2 for 23 (.087) in the series, that you blew a play earlier in the game that cost your team dearly, or that you’re behind in the count 0-2. As Shane Victorino stood at the plate in that very situation, late in the biggest game of the season to date, he didn’t allow previous failures to affect his performance in that moment. He hit a Grand Slam home run that turned out to be the difference in the game and sent his team to the World Series.
Winners embrace their next opportunity to write a new story, right the ship and win.
4.) Nobody received more criticism than Stephen Drew, much of it deserved. He got only one hit, went 1 for 20 (.050) with 10 strikeouts. Drew’s defensive prowess kept Game 1, a no-hitter at the time, a one-run game. In the decisive Game 6, a major defensive stop ended a Tigers rally that saved a run.
Winners who are struggling in one facet of their game stay focused and find other ways to contribute to their team.
5.) 21-year-old Xander Bogaerts spent most of the season in the minor league. With two outs and two strikes in the 5th inning of ALCS Game 6, he ripped a double and ended up scoring the first run in a 0-0 game. But it was his poise under pressure with his team trailing 2-1 in the 7th inning that’s remarkable.
Facing likely Cy Young winner, Max Scherzer, with the tying run in scoring position, Bogaerts battled back from a 1-2 count to earn his second walk of the night and scored on Victorino’s grand slam.
Winners don’t try to do too much. They’re less concerned with being the hero and make an impact any way they can.
[Side note: Bogaerts turned 21 years old just this month, he was the youngest player to start a post season game for the Red Sox (eight months younger than Babe Ruth, who previously held that distinction.)]
6.) In a series where his team hit only .202 and almost half of their outs were strike outs, rookie Xander Bogaerts was an offensive stand out. Bogaerts, who got his first start in Game 5, hit .500 with three doubles and three walks, striking out only once. He got on base two out of every three times he stepped to the plate and scored 4 runs in 6 official at bats. More than twenty percent of the Red Sox ALCS runs were scored by the 21 year old, despite playing less than half of the series.
Winners are ready to perform when they’re called on. Regardless of age or experience level, they aren’t intimidated by the circumstances or the size of the stage. Fierce opposition may be dominating the battle, even against seasoned veterans, but they don’t blink. They take advantage of opportunities and reward those who believe in them.
7.) Jonny Gomes didn’t have a stellar series. He batted .188 and had no RBI. His presence in the club house and his leadership there and on the field, had a certain “X-factor” quality to it. This guy was a driving force for this team. He scored 3 key runs and several great defensive plays, but it was his role as a team leader, conscience and motivator that made the most impact. There’s a reason so many of the teams he’s been a part of have gone to the post season.
Winners contribute beyond stats. They lead in good and bad times. It’s not about them. If the goals of the team are being achieved, they’re good. Never happy with poor performance, they never quit. More importantly, they encourage, motivate and cheer on their teammates successes even during their own personal slumps.
8.) Red Sox great David Ortiz had one of the worst post season series of his career. Struggling Tigers first baseman, Prince Fielder‘s batting average during the series (.182) was twice that of Big Papi (.091). Ortiz had only 2 hits in the series, but one of them was decisive in keeping the Red Sox from losing the second game of the series and having to travel to Detroit for Games 3, 4 and 5, trailing 0-2. The Grand Slam he hit in Game 2, which accounted for all 4 of his series RBI, very likely saved the season. The greatest DH to ever play the game and one of the most clutch post season hitters ever, struggled in the series, but still made a contribution that mattered.
Winners excel in the clutch. They don’t shrivel in the big game, they WIN. When the game is on the line, they’re who you want at the plate (or on the mound.) Failure bothers them, but they don’t dwell on it. They persevere through the valleys and when they reach the mountain top, they often do so with half of their teammates on their shoulders.
The 2013 American League Champion Boston Red Sox are opening the team’s third World Series in ten years tomorrow night at Fenway Park, in large part, because they embody the characteristics described above.
Gamers. Fighters. Warriors. However you choose to describe them, they are winners, because they’re winners.
Note: The Red Sox starting pitchers were amazing. The bullpen was spectacular. It’s worth noting that pitching won this series. Congrats to the 2013 Red Sox on an unbelievable season!