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This Red Sox Team Was Special, And Just What I Needed02:20
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The Boston Red Sox celebrate after Game 5 of baseball's World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018, in Los Angeles. The Red Sox won 5-1 to win the series 4 game to 1. (Jae C. Hong/AP)MoreCloseclosemore
The Boston Red Sox celebrate after Game 5 of baseball's World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018, in Los Angeles. The Red Sox won 5-1 to win the series 4 game to 1. (Jae C. Hong/AP)

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Any true Red Sox fan will tell you that rooting for Boston this year is no different than any other. Unconditional love knows no bounds.

But pressed, most will admit that there is something different about this year’s team. This team that just won their fourth world championship in 15 years. This team that only lost three games in their playoff run to ultimately dismantle a very good Los Angeles Dodgers squad — #damagedone. The team with the best record in the regular season rarely wins the World Series — but the Red Sox beat the odds. They were the best team from start to finish.

As the child of a long-suffering Cubs fanatic, I get it. We Cubs fans also count down the days until pitcher and catchers report; take the afternoon off on opening day; ride a buzzy feeling the first few weeks of the season, in early spring, when anything seems possible.

The Sox have been something to behold this year. They’ve had a record-setting season — posting 108 wins, the best in the majors this year and the most in franchise history. Their road to the World Series wasn’t guaranteed. They had to beat the Yankees, who won 100 games this season, and last year’s champions, the Houston Astros, who snagged 103 victories this year.

... most [fans] will admit that there is something different about this year’s team.

They’re a tight-knit group of nice guys, who are fun to root for. The “nice guy” factor was the thing I heard talked about most among the diehard Sox fans I know.

It’s not just that most people would be happy to bring Mookie Betts or Jackie Bradley, Jr. or really any Sox player home for dinner (though that it is true). It’s how they’ve played the game all year long.

They hustle out of the batter’s box on routine ground balls. They catch flies with two hands (just like they teach you to do it in little league). They don’t strike out very much. They can beat you with the long ball or the short game; they steal bases. And, as one super fan pointed out to me, they are incredibly athletic, especially the outfield trio of JBJ, Andrew Benintendi and Betts — covering a ton of ground to chase down balls most guys can’t catch up to.

And, most importantly, they get along, like teammates are supposed to, on the field and off. In game 3 of the World Series, when Nathan Eovaldi gave up a walk-off home run in the 18th inning (after 97 pitches in six heroic innings of relief), his teammates gave him a standing ovation. Rick Porcello, the 2016 Cy Young winner who started that game, told reporters, “After the game was over, I started crying because that was — I mean, he’s grinding, every pitch. He literally gave everything he had on every single pitch, and it was special.”

The Boston Red Sox celebrate after Game 5 of baseball's World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018, in Los Angeles. The Red Sox won 5-1 to win the series 4 game to 1. (David J. Phillip/AP)
The Boston Red Sox celebrate after Game 5 of baseball's World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018, in Los Angeles. The Red Sox won 5-1 to win the series 4 game to 1. (David J. Phillip/AP)

And then there's Mookie Betts, who fed two dozen homeless people, in the middle of the night when no one was watching, because, as his best friend from seventh grade Cam Lewis said, “It’s the right thing to do.”

And manager Alex Cora, in contract negotiations, didn’t demand millions of dollars or fancy options — he asked for a plane full of supplies and aid for his hometown of Caugaus, Puerto Rico to help survivors of Hurricane Maria. As Inc. Magazine wrote, “Cora showed what sort of human being he is. You can still win by being a human being, you know.”

Imagine that.

My friend Kris Herman has been coaching women’s college softball since the 1980s and rooting for the Sox even longer than that. She doesn’t know Cora, but she feels a connection to him. To how he knows his players, and respects the game, but gives them the space to do it their own way. She thinks he’s the perfect coach for this #letthekidsplay era of baseball, when America’s favorite pastime “doesn't need to be old school, yessir anymore — how you celebrate does not need to be dictated but what old white guys have said for decades,” she said.

Worrying about the velocity of Chris Sale’s fastball should be way down my list of worries these days, but dammit if it wasn’t a good distraction.

A kid on the street in Dorchester is still more likely to say he wants to be a football or a basketball player instead of a baseball player, but maybe with Alex Cora at the helm, times are changing?

In his postgame interviews, Steve Pearce (the Series MVP), Betts and Chris Sale all said that the key to the team’s success was working hard, sticking together, being humble, knowing that a teammate is there to pick you up when you fall down.

Isn’t that refreshing?

Worrying about the velocity of Chris Sale’s fastball should be way down my list of worries these days, but dammit if it wasn’t a good distraction.

I’m counting down the weeks until spring training.

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Cloe Axelson Twitter Editor, Cognoscenti
Cloe Axelson is an editor of WBUR’s opinion page, Cognoscenti.

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