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Top Boston Sports Stories of 2013, No. 3: Red Sox go from worst to first, win World Series 12.30.13 at 9:24 am ET
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Over the final days of the year, WEEI.com will count down the top 13 stories of 2013 in Boston sports. This is No. 3: Red Sox go from worst to first, win World Series. To see the previous entries, click here.

As John Farrell sat in front of the Boston media on Nov. 22, 2012, for his introductory press conference as manager of the Red Sox, it became apparent that expectations were not necessarily at an all-time high for the 2013 campaign.

Sox reliever Koji Uehara and catcher David Ross celebrate after closing out Game 6 of the World Series.

Red Sox reliever Koji Uehara and catcher David Ross celebrate after closing out Game 6 of the World Series. (AP)

Boston had just come off of a nightmare of a season, as the Bobby Valentine-led Sox finished in last place in the American League East with a 69-93 record. It was the first time that Boston had finished a season with less than 70 wins since 1965.

Despite the pessimistic atmosphere surrounding the once-proud Boston franchise, Farrell maintained a positive outlook on the upcoming year, even hinting at a possible playoff berth.

“There’s a lot of quality players that are currently here, and yet the won-loss record doesn’t reflect that. It’s my job and my intent — and I’m eager to get started — to identify what took place and how do we best address it and correct it,” Farrell said. “I think this has got an opportunity to be a fairly quick turnaround and get to the point of contending next year.”

While Farrell was optimistic about his team’s chances going forward, not even he could he have predicted what was about to transpire in 2013. Less than a year after that press conference, Farrell celebrated a World Series win, Boston’s third title in 10 years, in front of over 37,000 rabid fans at Fenway Park on a chilly October night.

“You know, still trying to take all this in,” Farrell said after the series-clinching victory. “When the fireworks went off at the presentation of the trophy out there, when the ballpark was filled with smoke, it was completely surreal. To be in this position, given where we’ve come from, reflecting back a year ago at this time, there’s been a lot that’s happened in 13 months.”

The groundwork for Boston’s incredible season was established during the 2012 offseason, as Sox general manager Ben Cherington stuck to a conservative, albeit very crafty game plan during the hot stove season. Rather than pursuing big-name free agents such as Josh Hamilton and Zack Grienke, Cherington instead focused on bringing in low-risk, high-reward players such as Mike NapoliKoji Uehara and Shane Victorino. Cherington, looking to reverse a toxic atmosphere that permeated through the Sox clubhouse over the last few seasons, also made it a point to sign players known for their positive influence in the locker room, inking contributors like Jonny GomesRyan Dempster and David Ross to short-term deals.

While the new-look Sox started off hot out of the gate, posting an 11-4 record over their first 15 games, many still doubted the legitimacy of the team. The team showed its resolve on April 20, as the Sox played their first home game since the Boston Marathon bombings and the subsequent manhunt and capture of suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

After two straight years of rolling out a collection of players who seemed like they could care less about each other, let alone the city they play for, the 2013 Red Sox adopted the “Boston Strong” movement, as David Ortiz‘s rallying address to the Fenway faithful prior to the game against Kansas City still reverberates throughout the entire city to this day.

The Sox also showed off their flair for dramatic in the game, a reoccurring theme for the entire season and subsequent playoffs, as Daniel Nava slugged a go-ahead three-run home run in the eighth inning to give Boston a thrilling 4-3 win. After such a stirring victory over the Royals, it became apparent that this season would be very, different from 2012.

The Sox steamrolled through the regular season thanks to a resurgent pitching staff and a balanced lineup, finishing the year with a 97-65 record, improving their 2012 win total by 28 games.

Offensively, the Sox were once again carried by Ortiz, as the 37-year-old designated hitter led the team in batting average (.309), home runs (30), RBIs (103) and on-base percentage (.395). Ortiz continued to add to his already impressive resume during the year, as the slugger passed Harold Baines for most hits by a DH (1,689) on July 11 against the Mariners.

On the mound, the Sox pitching staff was anchored by Jon Lester, whose post All-Star break stats (7-2, 2.57 ERA) were a far cry from his disappointing 2012 splits (9-14, 4.82 ERA). Out of the ‘pen, the Sox received a huge boost from Uehara. Signed as a free agent in 2012 with the purpose of pitching in the seventh inning and supporting Andrew Bailey and Joel Hanrahan, Uehara was thrust into the role as closer after both Bailey and Hanrahan went down with season-ending injuries.

Despite only accumulating 14 saves in his career prior to signing with Boston, Uehara put together one of the most dominant seasons for a reliever, as the 38-year-old closer recorded 21 saves while posting a microscopic 1.09 ERA and punching out 101 batters in 74 1/3 innings of work.

By the time the regular season had concluded on Sept. 30, the Sox had wrapped up the best record in the AL while winning the AL East for the first time since 2007.

Boston opened up its first entry into the postseason since 2009 by taking on its division rival, the Rays, in the American League Division Series. The Sox outscored Tampa by a 19-6 margin to get out to a commanding 2-0 series lead, but the Rays would not go quietly, as the Joe Maddon-led squad forced a Game 4 after Jose Lobaton crushed a walk-off home run in Game 3 off of Uehara.

Game 4 was a bizarre affair, as Maddon utilized nine pitchers during the contest after pulling starter Jeremy Hellickson in the second inning. While Tampa held a 1-0 lead in the sixth inning, the Sox once again put together some late-inning magic, scoring two runs in the seventh and one more in the ninth to win, 3-1, and advance to the American League Championship Series, where they faced off against the Tigers.

After almost being no-hit in Game 1, the Sox seemed well on their way to being down 2-0 in the series, as Detroit built a 5-1 lead in Game 2 going into the eighth inning. However, in what was perhaps the turning point of the postseason, Ortiz stepped to the plate with the bases loaded and drove the first pitch he saw from Joaquin Benoit past a leaping Torii Hunter and into the Sox bullpen, tying the game in dramatic fashion.

Boston evened up the series at one game apiece just an inning later, as Jarrod Saltalamacchia drove in Gomes with an RBI single in the ninth inning to complete the 6-5 comeback.

While Boston took a 2-1 series lead after John Lackey outpitched 2011 AL MVP Justin Verlander in a 1-0 Game 3 win, Detroit would answer back with a convincing 7-3 victory in Game 4. After the Sox put themselves on the brink of a series victory with a 4-3 victory in Game 5, Shane Victorino delivered his biggest hit of the postseason in Game 6, crushing an 0-2 curveball from Jose Veras over the Green Monster for a grand slam, giving Boston a 5-2 lead in the bottom of the seventh inning. Uehara closed out the game with a perfect ninth inning, sending the Sox to the Fall Classic for the first time since 2007.

Boston’s final opponent in 2013 was the NL champion Cardinals, who, like the Sox, led their league in wins with 97 on the year. It was the first time since 1999 in which both teams in the World Series finished the regular season with the best record in their respective leagues.

“We’€™re going up against a very complete team,” Farrell said. “They have very good young pitching, they have good pitching in general. Just what I’ve looked at so far, they are well-balanced, they hit with runners in scoring position like no other and they look to put guys in motion with the hit and run quite a bit. They are a complete team.”

The Cardinals certainly did not make a good impression in Game 1, as St. Louis committed three errors while their ace Adam Wainwright was spotted for five runs over five innings of work. Meanwhile, Lester was superb, shutting out the Cards for 7 2/3 innings en route to a 8-1 victory.

Boston’s hot start would not transfer over to the next day, as St. Louis’ pitching corps of Michael WachaCarlos Martinez and Trevor Rosenthal held the Sox to just two runs and four hits while striking out 12 as the Cardinals evened the series with a 4-2 victory in Game 2.

Game 3 was a back-and-forth affair, as the Sox came back to erase a two-run deficit in the eighth inning to tie the game at 4 heading into the ninth inning. What followed next was classic postseason baseball, as a controversial obstruction call on Will Middlebrooks in the bottom of the ninth sent home Allen Craig, giving St. Louis the 5-4 win and a 2-1 series edge.

Game 4 followed the same format as the previous two games, as Boston and St. Louis spent most of the game deadlocked at a 1-1 tie, until the Sox broke the game open in the sixth inning with a clutch three-run home run from Gomes. The game once again ended on a bizarre note, as Uehara picked off Kolten Wong at first for the final out, sealing the 4-2 win for Boston. It was the first World Series game to end on a pickoff.

The Sox were lifted once again by Lester in Game 5, as the southpaw held the potent Cardinals offense to just one run over 7 2/3 innings as the Sox won, 3-1, setting the stage for Boston to clinch the World Series title at Fenway Park for the first time in 95 years.

Boston made sure that Game 6 would not be a tension-filled contest, as the Sox scored six runs in the third and fourth innings to give themselves a comfortable cushion. Uehara was brought into the ninth inning with a 6-1 lead and easily retired the first two batters, bringing Matt Carpenter up to the plate.

With a packed house at Fenway standing as one, Uehara struck out Carpenter to end it. As the Fenway Faithful roared, an ecstatic Uehara jumped into the arms of Ross before being swarmed by their teammates.

“In the first two minutes I was in the clubhouse, the words, ‘€˜We’€™re going to win the World Series’€™ was spoken by both [Gomes and Saltalamacchia] — on August 1,” said Sox pitcher Jake Peavy after the game. “When those words came out of their mouth, instantly I believed. … It’€™s what I’€™ve played for since I’ve played [as a kid] — to be a champion. To do it here, in this city, with this group of guys, with this fan base. It’€™s unbelievable.”

Ortiz, who posted an incredible line of .688/.760/1.188 with six RBIs during the Fall Classic, was named World Series MVP. Ortiz is the first non-Yankee to win three World Series titles with one team since Jim Palmer did so with the Orioles in 1966, 1970 and 1983.

Three days later, the world-champion Sox loaded onto the ducks boats and paraded in front of thousands of fans from Fenway down to the Charles River. The highlight of the parade undoubtedly had to be the a touching moment near the Boston Marathon finish line on Boylston Street, as Gomes and Saltalamacchia placed the Commissioner’s Trophy at the line and draped it with a Red Sox jersey that read “Boston Strong — 617.” The emotional tribute was capped off with a stirring rendition of “God Bless America” by tenor Ronan Tynan.

Jonny Gomes places the Commissioner's Trophy and a "Boston Strong" Red Sox jersey at the finish line of the Boston Marathon.

Red Sox outfielder Jonny Gomes places the World Series trophy and a “Boston Strong” Red Sox jersey at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. (AP)

It was a fitting, if not symbolic ending for this determined and lovable Sox team. Despite having many doubters at the start of the season, the Sox remained focused throughout the long 2013 campaign, keeping their clubhouse loose while maintaining excellent play on the field.

After the devastating Marathon bombings, the team recognized its importance and connection to the city and took up the role as a savior, an escape for people of a shaken community who needed to get their minds off the dreary news surrounding their city.

It likely still seems like a dream to most, but yes, despite how improbable it was, the Sox are champions once again, proving to both their fans, their city and to themselves that they truly do embody everything it means to be”Boston Strong.”

 

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Mariano Rivera to David Ortiz in documentary: ‘No desire anymore’ for baseball 10.16.13 at 11:27 am ET
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Mariano Rivera

Mariano Rivera

A documentary detailing Mariano Rivera’s final year as a major leaguer will reveal a surprise to some when it airs on Sunday on Fox: Rivera couldn’t wait for the season to be over.

The legendary Yankees closer was videotaped airing his anticipation for the end of the season when he and David Ortiz went out to dinner in Boston during a Red Sox-Yankees series in September.

“I can’t wait for the moment when this is over,” Rivera tells the Red Sox slugger in Spanish in the documentary, as reported by the New York Post. “I’m ready for it already, brother. I’m ready for it. Mentally and physically, I’m ready for it. There’s no desire anymore.”

The documentary, titled “BEING: Mariano Rivera,” follows Rivera throughout 2013, chronicling his life both on the playing field and at home.

Rivera announced before the start of the year that the 2013 season would be his last. Opposing teams at every ballpark he visited honored him and left him with parting gifts.

His career was put in doubt last season when he tore his ACL shagging fly balls during batting practice in early May at Kansas City. But Rivera was determined to avoid making the image of him clutching his knee in pain on the warning track of Kaufmann Stadium the last.

He looked like vintage Rivera this season, as he posted a 2.11 ERA, a 1.047 WHIP and 44 saves, but the Yankees failed to make the playoffs.

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LEEInks List: Top 10 Red Sox All-Star moments since 2000 07.16.13 at 9:46 am ET
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Baseball’s biggest names and top talent — including David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia and Clay Buchholz — are descending upon The Big Apple in preparation for the 84th annual MLB All-Star Game at Citi Field. As your own prep for the exhibition that counts, take a walk down memory lane with a look at the top 10 Red Sox All-Star moments since 2000.

David Ortiz won the Home Run Derby in 2010. (AP)

David Ortiz won the Home Run Derby in 2010. (AP)

10. 2002: Johnny Damon voted in as 30th man

In his first season as a Red Sox, Damon was elected as the “The All-Star 30th man,” the inaugural version of what has become the “Final Vote,” for his first of two All-Star appearances. Damon, who joined Manny Ramirez to land two-thirds of the Sox outfield in the Midsummer Classic, started a four-run, seventh-inning rally when he singled and stole second before scoring.

9. 2007: Hideki Okajima gets in on Final Vote

The Red Sox brought in two Japanese pitchers prior to the 2007 season, but only one of them was an All-Star. Okajima, a left-handed reliever known in part for his unorthodox delivery that featured him looking away from home plate, beat out Roy Halladay and three other pitchers in that year’s Final Vote to join fellow Sox hurlers Josh Beckett and Jonathan Papelbon.

8. 2006: With all-Red Sox/Yankees infield, AL wins again

With Yankees Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter starting on the left side of the infield, Ortiz was voted the AL’s first baseman (the game was played under NL rules at PNC Park in Pittsburgh) and Mark Loretta, in his only season as a Red Sox, played second. Jeter, Ortiz and Rodriguez were 2-3-4 in the batting order, but the foursome went hitless.

In the fifth, Loretta gave way to the Rangers’ Michael Young, whose two-run triple in the top of the ninth was enough to earn him MVP honors and give the AL a 3-2 win.

7. 2005: Four Red Sox voted in as starters

A year after winning the World Series, four Red Sox — Jason Varitek, Manny Ramirez, Ortiz and Damon — were selected by fans to be starters for the AL squad managed by Terry Francona. (Right-hander Matt Clement also made the team after a 10-win first half.)

The Red Sox crew went a combined 4-for-8 with two runs scored, an RBI and a walk. Ortiz drove in Damon with a line-drive single to right in the third as the AL won, again, 7-5.

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Kevin Youkilis on PEDs: ‘I never even thought about it’ 02.28.13 at 10:39 am ET
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During his nine major league seasons (8½ with the Red Sox), Kevin Youkilis said he’s never been tempted to use performance-enhancing drugs.

Kevin Youkilis

“I never even thought about it,” he said from Yankees spring training (via the New York Daily News). “I was always secure with myself. I was just trying to make it to the major leagues, and if I couldn’t do it, I couldn’t do it. I take more pride in the fact that I’ve done what I’ve done without all that stuff.

“I’ve always been of the mindset that you have to be secure within yourself about about what you’ve done in your career. You have to live with what you do for the rest of your life. You have to live with it. I know I’ve been clean my whole life, and I feel fortunate that I never felt like I had to go that route.”

Youkilis signed a one-year deal with the Yankees to fill in for injured third baseman Alex Rodriguez, who has admitted past steroid use and this year was linked to a reputed PED-peddler in South Florida. Youkilis also played in Boston with Manny Ramirez, who has been suspended twice by Major League Baseball since departing the Sox.

“If guys are going to cheat, they’re going to cheat,” Youkilis said. “They’re also going to get caught now more than ever. Some guys believe in stricter rules, some believe that what’s working is working. I never really think about it other than when guys get caught. It’s crazy to think guys are still trying to get away with it, because the testing is unbelievable.”

Seven players were suspended last year, which Youkilis said shows that the league is having success monitoring the situation.

“With the testing now, if you do it, you’re getting caught,” Youkilis said. “If you think about how many guys are in the big leagues, that’s a very small percentage. Less than 1 percent? That’s not bad. I don’t think any sport will ever be 100 percent clean. It’s life. Everywhere you go, there’s a flaw. If less than 1 percent are doing it, that’s a great thing.

Youkilis expressed no anger toward offenders, although he said he doesn’t like the lack of honesty after they’ve been caught.

“It never bothered me that other guys were taking it,” Youkilis said. “The only thing that bothered me is when people deny it over and over, then finally come out and say they did it. We live in a forgiving society. If you come out and say you made a mistake, so be it.”

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Top Stories of 2012, No. 2: Bobby Valentine leads woeful Sox to 93 losses, gets fired 12.31.12 at 11:30 am ET
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Over the final week of 2012, WEEI.com will count down the top 10 stories of the year in Boston sports. This entry in the countdown is No. 2: Bobby Valentine’s nightmare season as Red Sox manager.

Check out our previous entries:
No. 10: NHL lockout
No. 9: Wes Welker’s up-and-down year
No. 8: Bruins’ early playoff elimination
No. 7: Ray Allen’s departure from Celtics
No. 6: Tim Thomas’ political controversy and sabbatical
No. 5: Celtics’ Eastern Conference finals loss to Heat
No. 4: Red Sox’ megatrade with Dodgers
No. 3: Tom Brady’s MVP-caliber season

Bobby Valentine

In a forgettable season, the 2012 Sox finished 69-93, their worst record since 1965, and in last place in the American League East for the first time since John Henry and Tom Werner bought the team.

According to multiple reports, Bobby Valentine was not the preferred choice of first-year general manager Ben Cherington, but team president and CEO Larry Lucchino made the hire to replace Terry Francona.

As Valentine was formally introduced to Boston, nobody could have foreseen the outcome of the season.

“I am honored, I’m humbled and I’m pretty damn excited,” Valentine said at his introductory press conference. “This day is a special day, and it’s more than a special day. It’s the beginning of a life that I think is going to extend beyond anything else that I thought of doing. The talent level and the players that we have in this organization, I think, is a gift to anyone. And I’m the receiver of that gift.”

Valentine, 62, would become the first Red Sox manager since 1934 (Bucky Harris) to be fired after just one season with the team.

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Top Stories of 2011, No. 2: Red Sox’ September collapse 12.30.11 at 12:00 pm ET
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For the final 10 days of 2011, WEEI.com will count down the top 10 stories of the year in Boston sports. Our next entry in the countdown is No. 2: The Red Sox’ September swoon.

Check out our previous entries:
No. 10: NBA lockout
No. 9: NFL lockout
No. 8: Celtics’ playoff loss to Heat
No. 7: Patriots’ acquisitions of Albert Haynesworth, Chad Ochocinco
No. 6: Jacoby Ellsbury’s MVP-caliber season
No. 5: Patriots’ playoff loss to Jets
No. 4: Celtics’ trade of Kendrick Perkins
No. 3: Red Sox’ manager/GM turnover

Mike Aviles looked back at the celebrating Orioles after the Red Sox' collapse was completed on Sept. 28. (AP)

In the ninth inning of the Red Sox’ 4-3 loss to the Orioles on Sept. 28, the ticking time bomb that was Boston’s season finally blew up. In just three plays, the Red Sox watched a 3-2 lead turn into a 4-3 walk-off loss with closer Jonathan Papelbon on the mound.

Just minutes later, the Red Sox saw their season end when, down in Tampa, Evan Longoria hit a walk-off home run to cap a seven-run comeback against the Yankees for an 8-7 Rays win. The Rays won the wild card, shocking a Sox team that just 28 days before had been nine games up in the wild card race.

“This is one for the ages, isn’t it?” said Sox general manager Theo Epstein on the night the season ended. “What was going on with those two games, how poorly we played in September. We can’t sugarcoat this, this is awful.

“We did it to ourselves, and put ourselves in a position for a crazy night like this to end our season. It shouldn’t have been this way … 7-20 in September. We go 9-18, we’re where we want to be, and 9-18 is what, winning a third of your games? The worst teams in baseball win a third of their games. There’s no excuse, we did this to ourselves.”

So how did the Red Sox, a team that in June and July was the best in the major leagues, fail to win even a third of their games in September?

It started innocently enough, when the Sox lost the first game of the month in 4-2 fashion to the Yankees in a game that held hints of what was to come. Starter Jon Lester lasted just five innings, but his pitching line looked OK. He allowed one run on seven hits with six strikeouts and three walks. It was a mediocre outing, but certainly not a disastrous one.

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Wednesday’s Morning Mashup: Michael Vick reportedly on verge of another endorsement deal 07.13.11 at 7:13 am ET
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Welcome to Wednesday’s Morning Mashup. For the latest news, start at our WEEI.com home page or click here for the top stories from our news wire.

WHAT’S HAPPENING LOCALLY WEDNESDAY:
MLS: Manchester United at Revolution (CSNNE; ESPN2)

AROUND THE WEB:

Michael Vick

♦ Eagles quarterback Michael Vick, who recently signed an endorsement deal with Nike, is on the verge of a three-year, $1.55 million contract with MusclePharm, according to NFL Network’s Jason La Canfora. Said MusclePharm director of team development Joseph Lawanson: “We don’t have any problem considering him at all. And for us to consider him, we’re confident that he has rehabilitated himself.”

♦ Former Cowboys star and current NFL analyst Michael Irvin posed for Out magazine and talked about when he learned his older brother was gay and how that affected his behavior toward women. He said he’s waiting for an active player to declare his homosexuality, and he said he’ll support him 100 percent.

The Wall Street Journal looks at how Cincinnati taxpayers were stuck with an enormous bill for stadiums built for the Reds and Bengals in 1996 and how the deal was not a good one for the city — ”one of the worst professional sports deals ever struck by a local government.”

ON THIS DAY TRIVIA: On July 13, 2000, which Red Sox player was caught stealing for the eighth time in eight attempts on the season — and did not attempt another steal that year, leaving him with the second-worst mark in major league history?

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Obama, Hillary Clinton use Shaq’s shoes, Jeter’s bats as diplomatic tools 10.27.10 at 8:58 pm ET
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Derek Jeter may have had a career-low .710 OPS in 2010, but the government is hoping to use his bats to save the world. (AP)

A State Department spokesperson told the New York Daily News that Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter has “graciously donated a few bats” for the use of President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to use as gifts for foreign dignitaries. The article said that the Office of Protocol’s “gift vault” has a number of Jeter’s bats at its disposal to give out as goodwill gestures. For instance, President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama gave one of the Jeter bats to the 5-year-old son of former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown last year, prior to the start of an economic summit.

One government official, however, seemed troubled by the fact that it was a New York icon whose bats were being employed for diplomatic purposes. The article states:

State Department officials were mum on who might get the next Jeter bat as a gift, but a jealous Red Sox fan over at Foggy Bottom was whining, as usual.

“Next we need to stock the vault with some Big Papi (Sox slugger David Ortiz) bats,” said assistant secretary of state P.J. Crowley, who has yet to overcome his attachment to Beantown.

It would appear, however, that Boston is in fact represented in the gift vault. The article reveals that the repository features a signed pair of shoes from Celtics center Shaquille O’Neal.

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Trading After the Deadline 08.04.09 at 5:12 pm ET
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The Red Sox walked away from the trade deadline a better team.

They got an All-Star slugging catcher in Victor Martinez and a solid defensive first baseman in Casey Kotchman, and all it cost them was Justin Masterson, Adam LaRoche and two minor leaguers.

Buchholz, Bowden, Bard – all of them are still Red Sox.

Just because the trade deadline has passed, doesnt mean Theo wont still be dealing.

Just because the trade deadline has passed, doesn't mean Theo won't still be dealing.

But as former Sox player Lou Merloni points out on today’s Full Count Blog, there are still “a lot of questions about the roster.” The starting rotation, the shortstop position, and the bench are just a few of the impending issues the Sox face as they enter the tail end of the season, but all is not lost simply because the trade deadline has come and gone. Championships can sometimes be won and lost on the waiver-wire, and Sox GM Theo Epstein usually treats the waivers period just as he does the deadline: it’s yet another opportunity to improve his team.

History proves that waivers shouldn’t be disregarded. Some notable Red Sox have been born — and lost — through this post-deadline period:

Dave Henderson – On August 19, 1986 the Sox traded Rey Quinones, three players to be named later, and some cash to the Mariners for Spike Owen and Henderson. Henderson went on to hit the series-winning homerun in the ALCS against the Angels that year, propelling the Sox to the World Series against the Mets. What ensued wasn’t as great…

Tony Armas, Jr. – On August 13, 1997 the Red Sox and Yankees made a deal that sent Mike Stanley to New York in exchange for Tony Armas, Jr. and Jim Mecir. While neither of the two players Boston received ever became All-Stars, Armas was sent along with Carl Pavano to Montreal for Pedro Martinez. Needless to say, it worked out pretty well.

John Smoltz – On August 12, 1987 the Detroit Tigers made a mistake the franchise will regret for years: they traded away John Smoltz. Then only a 20-year-old prospect, Smoltz was dealt to Atlanta for veteran starter Doyle Alexander. (WEEI.com’s Alex Speier writes about the 1987 trade and how Smoltz, a Michigan native, reacted.)

David Ortiz – Before Ortiz was “Big Papi,” before he was belting clutch homeruns, and before he was surrounded by the recent steroid controversy, he was a Wisconsin Timber Rattler in the Seattle Mariners’ farm system. In 1996, the team dealt Ortiz to Minnesota for Dave Hollins. The rest, as they say, is history.

Jeff Bagwell – I bet the Sox wish they could have a mulligan on this one. In what has become one of the famous waiver deals in MLB history (infamous, if you hail from Boston), the Sox sent Bagwell to Houston for Larry Andersen on August 30, 1990. Bagwell ended up playing all 15 years of his major league career in Houston, hitting 449 homers along the way.

Last season, Theo traded for veteran pitcher Paul Byrd and outfielder Mark Kotsay, both of whom helped out during the team’s playoff push. But this year, the Sox GM isn’t so sure there will be much available pitching talent on the wires to address perhaps the team’s most pressing need:

“You’re always looking for an impact starting pitcher if you can find one, especially this time of year, but it didn’t come to pass,” Epstein told reporters on Friday. “I don’t think we’re going to see much impactful starting pitching move in August.”

To track the latest players to clear waivers, visit MLB Trade Rumors.

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Citizenship and Sports 07.03.09 at 1:33 pm ET
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As the Fourth of July fast approaches, Americans are heating up their barbeques, donning their star spangled banners, and heading down to the Cape. But this year, there will be at least one more celebrating the great American holiday: Red Sox slugger Jason Bay.

The 30-year-old leftfielder officially became a U.S. citizen Thursday in a naturalization ceremony at Faneuil Hall. Originally from Trail, British Columbia, Bay said he’s still proud of his Canadian heritage, according to ESPN.com.

Taking the oath of allegiance just before being sworn in as new citizens.

Taking the oath of allegiance just before being sworn in as new citizens.

“I don’t denounce being Canadian at any point, but I’m definitely proud to be an American,” he told reporters.

The Red Sox are certainly no foreigners when it comes to athlete citizenship. In 2004, Bay’s predecessor, the Dominican-born Manny Ramirez, missed a game against the Indians to become a U.S. citizen in Miami. The following day, he returned to Fenway waving a mini American flag as he ran out to leftfield.

Four years later, fellow Dominican and teammate David Ortiz swore his allegiance to the US of A, sporting a pin-stripe suit, dark shades, and his standard bling bling.

Still, others in the wide world of sports have never been too clear when it comes to their nationality – or, in the case of Alex Rodriguez, nationalities. Though he was born in the U.S., Rodriguez is also a citizen of the Dominican Republic and has constantly struggled with an identification complex. In 2005, while discussing which team he would play for in the World Baseball Classic, Rodriguez channeled his inner James Brown and declared, “I want to say it out loud: I am Dominican…and I am going to make the Dominicans feel proud.”

But come the 2006 WBC, the waffling Rodriguez was wearing a U.S. uniform and playing alongside fellow countrymen Derek Jeter and Jason Varitek.

In 2009, Rodriguez once again caused much confusion as he switched alliances and decided that it would be a “dream come true” to play for the Dominican team. But the Yankees third baseman was hampered by injuries and, tragically, his dream never came true. I guess no one told the advertising department.

All A-Rod bashing aside, there are some athletes who truly dream of making a better life for themselves and their families in the United States. They flee from the persecution of oppressive regimes in their respective countries, risking their lives to ultimately share in the democratic ideals our country values so much.

Take the Royals’ Brayan Pena, for example. On a tour with the Cuban Junior National team, the then 17-year-old catcher was forced to sneak out of bathroom window in Venezuela and go into hiding for several months in an attempt to defect to the U.S. He left behind his family, friends, teammates, and the life he had known for 17 years.

Today, Pena is not only the starting catcher for Kansas City – he is, most notably, a U.S. citizen. In an interview with MLB.com, Pena said: “I feel like the happiest man on earth now.

“I’m proud to be a Cuban, too, but I’m proud to be an American citizen because this is the country I live in, this is the country I respect, the country that really gave me everything I’ve got. It’s amazing. There are things that money can’t buy, and American citizenship is one of them.”

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