NEW YORK — The Red Sox clubhouse was the happiest place on earth before Friday night’s game at Yankee Stadium.
Wearing their American-flag, Jonny Gomes-issued boxer shorts, players strolled about exchanging pleasantries and jokes. Even lowly media members were greeted with a smile.
David Ortiz took note of Jake Peavy’s good-luck, 3-foot-tall cigar store Indian and said, “That’s Jacoby’s uncle.’’
Newcomer John McDonald smiled and talked about the beauty of being able to drive home to Scituate after Fenway games. Longtime traveling secretary Jack McCormick filled out ticket requests, noting that the Sox have a lot of friends and family in New York this weekend.
Adding to the good mood, Pedro Martinez burst into the room, had hugs for just about everybody, then looked at me and said, “Shaughnessy, you evil maniac!’’
Life is good when you can laugh at an 8-3 deficit and beat the Yankees, 12-8, as the Sox did Friday night. Life is good when you are a season-high 29 games over .500 and own a 7-game first-place lead (pending Tampa Bay’s late game at Seattle) with only 19 games left. The 2013 Red Sox are a lock for the playoffs. They just scored impressive series victories over the vaunted Dodgers and Tigers. Thursday’s conquest of Mariano Rivera was a nifty achievement, followed by Friday’s astounding comeback, which stands as the latest in a season of signature moments. They may never lose again.
So good. So good. So good.
I’m not saying all this stuff just because John Henry is buying the Globe, either. It happens to be the truth. Imagine how good things can get when Clay Buchholz returns next week?
It was hard to absorb all this hakuna matata without thinking about how bad it was for the Sox in this place just one year ago. It’s no secret that the 2012 train wreck was Boston baseball’s worst season in 47 years, but it’s striking to remember how much of the bad stuff happened right here in New York.
This is where the immortal Kelly Shoppach allegedly used Adrian Gonzalez’s phone to send a text to Sox management, triggering the no-manager-invited coup d’etat at the team’s hotel headquarters in Manhattan.
Shoppach, the Cooler, and Bobby Valentine are all gone, but the Sox are in the same hotel as they enjoy life in first place this weekend.
The visitors’ clubhouse at Yankee Stadium is where Terry Francona pulled up a chair and talked to his ex-players and coaches while Valentine seethed in the corner office during the implosion of August.
Yankee Stadium is where Valentine invented a phony schedule of “days off” for Carl Crawford. It’s where he said he was undermined by his coaches. It’s where only three players stood on the top step of the dugout for the national anthem before the final game of the season. It’s where Daisuke Matsuzaka got the ball to start that final game.
The 2012 Sox lost their final three in New York by an aggregate score of 28-7. Game 162 was a 14-2 beatdown. The Sox went out with a whimper — three up, three down, all strikeouts, in the ninth.
After that game, Valentine sat in his office and said, “I think the Boston Red Sox will look different from what you see today.’’
Bobby was fired about 14 hours later. And the Sox do indeed look very different.
They have tossed away all the doubts. They still haven’t lost four in a row. After winning only 69 games, they have an outside chance to win 100 for only the second time since 1915. They have a very good chance to win the division for only the second time since 1995. They have won 11 of their last 13 games.
“They had a rough year last year, but they traded a lot of guys and had injuries,’’ said Derek Jeter. “These are all things that people don’t take into consideration. They weren’t going to have back-to-back years like that.
“They have good players and they have good pitching. They were probably going to have a good team.’’
Jeter said he couldn’t remember playing the sorry Sox at the end of last year. Good for him. We’re still trying to forget.
The last four days have been a highlight reel for Red Sox Nation.
Jon Lester outpitched Max (19-1) Scherzer on Tuesday — perhaps the best game of the season. And the Red Sox hit eight homers in a 20-4 win over the powerful Tigers Wednesday. Then came Thursday’s 9-8, 4½-hour win against the Yankees — a game with so many angles and threads to the past it should have been covered by James Joyce. Friday’s comeback seemed to be stuff of pure fiction.
They are a turnaround team like the 1967 Red Sox. They are a team of unmade beds like the 2004 Red Sox. And here on the big stage, where so much went wrong in 2012, the 2013 Red Sox are emerging as a trendy team to win the whole thing.Dan Shaughnessy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.