Editorial: Postseason’s Greetings; Joy Returns to Red Sox Nation

No one can predict with assurance how the Major League Baseball playoffs will unfold, but there is one certainty: The Red Sox team that takes the field at Fenway Park Friday night to begin postseason play is the most satisfying one to watch in a couple of generations, perhaps since Boston and all New England dreamed the Impossible Dream in 1967.

This is not only because the Sox won 97 games, and tied the Cardinals for the best record in baseball this season. It is also because this edition has played every game with grit, providing an abundance of late-inning heroics that have deprived fans from Providence to Portland and Concord to Burlington of many a full night’s sleep. What also made it special was what preceded it: the ignominious and ugly September collapse in 2011 and the 2012 opera bouffe starring then-manager Bobby Valentine, which resulted in the worst finish for the Sox in 47 years. For a town and a team that had grown accustomed to winning, this 13 months of infamy was a sorely needed reminder that in baseball, as in life, you can’t take anything for granted. Hubris, meet nemesis.

It was in the midst of that tragi-comedy, however, that the seeds of rebirth were sown when new general manager Ben Cherington, (yes, a local boy who has made very good) pulled off one of the most astounding trades in baseball history. Last August, he dumped $260 million in salaries on the Dodgers while unloading three increasingly unproductive and disaffected stars — Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez — and obtaining a bucketful of plausible prospects in return. This proved to be addition by subtraction writ large.

In the off-season, Cherington brought in a handful of veterans from elsewhere such as Shane Victorino, Mike Napoli, Jonny Gomes and Ryan Dempster, who not only knew how to play the game right but also took visible pleasure in doing so. In combination with a core of returning stars such as Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury and David Ortiz, and under the practiced eye of new manager John Farrell, they formed in 2013 Boston’s band of bearded brothers, the hirsuteness of which called to mind for one national broadcaster the Smith Brothers of long-ago cough drop fame (by which he dated himself squarely in the Paleozoic Era to a current generation of fans). There were many equally satisfying subplots. To our mind, one of the best was the emergence of Daniel Nava, the rights to whom the Red Sox acquired for a dollar in 2007. His example of persistent effort to improve over the past few years is inspiration to people in any endeavor who believe that all they need to succeed is the chance to do so.

Yes, Red Sox Nation has reason for a certain amount of trepidation as Boston enters the post-season. On paper, at least, the starting pitching does not stack up well with the game’s elite. And one of the strongest suits in the Red Sox game this year has been its depth, which produced consistency over the long haul of a 162-game season. But that is a strength that is sometimes trumped in a short playoff series against a hot team. No matter how it turns out, though, fans can be assured that their guys will give nine innings of honest effort and appreciate the opportunity to do so. Who could ask for more?