HOUSTON - Sister Mary Catherine stood in back of the Minute Maid press box so excited. The nun had just thrown out the first pitch prior to Game 6, tossing in a little panache along the way thanks to a simple tap of the wrist.
"This is the Astros' time. This is our time," she said, simulating the watch-tapping gesture made famous by Carlos Correa (and Eduardo Rodriguez) throughout the American League Championship Series. "This is it."
She couldn't have been more right. It was the Astros' time. The 5-0 win, gold and blue confetti, and midnight middle-of-the-field celebration could attest to that.
But in many ways, the Red Sox couldn't have had better timing. In hindsight, this is a group that won't be defined by those few Friday night hours - or even those last three uncomfortable games.
This was about the big picture. And in that realm, the Red Sox were like clockwork.
It was the far-from-perfect team that offered Boston sports fans the perfect seven-month dose of jubilation. Little did we know at the time, but it was exactly what the doctor ordered.
"I told them how proud I am," said Red Sox manager Alex Cora after his 2021 team officially landed at 98 wins. "It's an amazing group. It's a group that we will always remember. In the offseason trying to recruit players and trying to buy into the concept that we were going to be good, it was hard. But at the end of the day, we did an amazing job to have that meeting. Not too many teams can say that they're in the League Championship Series, and I know it doesn't sound great, to have that meeting it means something, right?
"And we did an amazing job throughout the season. We just got beat at the end, but when we look back and everything that we went through, the thoughts of this team early in the season, it's just amazing. It was a great year. Obviously, very disappointed that we didn't win this series, but we're going to look back and we're going to be very proud of the group, the organization, and everybody that got to be part of this operation on a daily basis."
In the minutes after the final out it was easy to pick apart what transpired after the Red Sox took that 2-1 series lead. When you get outscored 23-3 in the final 27 innings, that's fair.
It was likely the feeling when Bob Gibson finished off the 1967 "Impossible Dream" Red Sox. The sting of that final out doesn't give way to the memories and appreciation until at least the sun comes up the next day. There will be songs or poems this time around, but you get the idea.
Here we are, and now it can be declared how important this collection of hoping-for-better baseball players were to a community that was starved for good news.
Without most of us seeing it coming, the Red Sox made Fenway Park the staging area for the resurfacing of sports-induced joy. Such a statement might be viewed as somewhat hyperbolic, but it shouldn't be. Anybody who stepped in that ballpark throughout this team's unexpected run should understand that very real reality.
As co-host of the "Ken and Curtis Show" Chris Curtis pointed out, all that was missing was Alex Cora channeling his inner-Bill Belichick.
“It was fun, man. It was fun," said Xander Bogaerts. "Obviously, a lot of guys are familiar with him, a lot of guys would have loved to have him back. So I think it was some times that were hard during the season, but for the most part, we came together, especially towards the end of the season when everything started clicking for us and we were able to write a great story this season. It didn’t end the way we wanted but it was great.”
"I think we're definitely disappointed right now. We obviously wanted to win this game and win the series and go on the to World Series. No one expected us to be here. We proved a lot of people wrong," Nathan Eovaldi added.
"We believed in ourselves as a team. We were able to overcome a lot of obstacles together and get to this point. I mean, obviously, the end goal is the World Series, but, you know, when you don't get there, you got to look back at the season and realize everything that we were able to accomplish. We were able to accomplish a lot of good things."
This sort of feel-good conversation might not have much of a shelf life, especially considering how - whether unexpected or not - Red Sox fans now have a taste for what be.
Decisions, decisions, decisions. J.D. Martinez. Eduardo Rodriguez. Rafael Devers. Xander Bogaerts. The list of roster-building forks in the road is a long one. The page is already in the process of turning. This isn't going to be an offseason of Chris Farley-esque, "Remember when you won those games in 2021 ... That was awesome."
But we should understand this: Boston sports fans have rediscovered a spring in their step. For that, they can thank the very imperfect 2021 Red Sox who somehow found a very palatable path.
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