Sappenfield? Without a doubt.
After spending more than a decade trying chase the success of the Evil Empire (a.k.a. Yankees), this seemed as close to capitulation as the Red Sox could get. Gone was the obsession with OPS and WHIP and WAR – stats known only to baseball geeks and venerated by the previous regime. Instead, the 2013 Red Sox did something that, by the measure of the advanced stats revolution ushered in by “Moneyball,” was extraordinary.
They built a team based on character. They brought in Shane Victorino and David Ross and Ryan Dempster and Jonny Gomes – none of whom made the front page of The Boston Globe, but all of whom simply loved to play baseball the right way.
Of course, there is no way to measure character. In the stat-obsessed world of modern American pro sports, “intangibles” has almost become a four-letter word. True greatness can always be triangulated by pioneering new ways of looking at data, the advanced stats revolution suggests. By that measure, the idea of “intangibles” is just a crutch for analysts too lazy to dive into the numbers.
...If the Red Sox teams of 2004 and 2007 were built in the image of slugger Manny Ramirez, enormously talented and among baseball’s elite, then the Red Sox of 2013 are made in Gomes’s image. They are a team of “glue guys” – players whose contributions come as much off the field as on. How they conduct themselves. How they put in the extra work. How they have a deep passion for the game.
In short, they are a team built on “intangibles.” The 2004 and 2007 versions had their share of character guys, too. But this team is defined by them. And after eight remarkable days in October, it is undeniable that those intangibles were vital in bringing a flawed Red Sox team to the World Series again.