What a difference a year can make.
Just ask the Boston Red Sox.
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Boston somehow managed to squander a 9-game playoff cushion in the span of just 25 days.
The late-season meltdown cost manager Terry Francona his job, but the stench of the epic collapse carried over into 2012. Boston was abysmal, going 69-93 and finishing dead last in the division, easily making it the worst season the franchise had suffered through in a half-century.
To no one's surprise, Bobby Valentine, Francona's replacement, was sent packing at season's end.
Fast-forward to this past Friday. With a 6-3 win over the Blue Jays, the Red Sox clinched the AL East title for the first time since 2007, and a club that lost over 90 games a year ago entered the homestretch with the best mark in all of baseball.
To say this is a pretty impressive feat would be an understatement.
Obviously this team has undergone some changes over the last few seasons, but the biggest move was probably the hiring of John Farrell as skipper.
After one season at the helm in Toronto, the 51-year-old returned to Beantown where he had spent four years as the team's pitching coach from 2007 to 2010 and instantly provided a boost to the damaged team chemistry inside the clubhouse. Farrell had already forged a strong relationship with the veterans during his first stint with the organization, so they had the utmost respect for him from the start. He also assisted the younger guys along in their development, helping them play to their full potential.
The decision to ship off several big name players is one that has worked greatly in Boston's favor as well. Guys like Josh Beckett, Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford were traded away, and veterans such as Shane Victorino, Mike Napoli and Jonny Gomes have stepped in as leaders both on the diamond and in the dugout.
Lastly, the play of the faces of the franchise, David Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia, has been nothing short of stellar all season long.
Even at 37, Big Papi has provided huge pop in the middle of the lineup, batting .307 with 29 home runs and 98 RBI in 133 games. "Laser Show" might be the littlest guy on the entire roster, but he provides the biggest spark, inspiring teammates with a tenacity matched by few in the game today, while putting together one of the best all-around years he's had since his MVP season of 2008.
Add it all up and you have the 2013 American League East champs, and one of the favorites to win the World Series as we near postseason play.
Again, pretty impressive feat, given where they were this time last year.
It took a rocky 12-month patch for Boston to hit rock bottom. However, in essentially the same amount of time, they managed to reboot, reload, and reclaim their rightful spot among baseball's elite teams. If resiliency is the mark of a champion, the 2013 season may very well be capped off with the Red Sox driving down Boylston with the Commissioner's Trophy in tow.