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Peter Abraham | On Baseball

David Ross, Mike Napoli bring lessons learned with beloved 2013 Red Sox to the rebuilding Cubs

Cubs first base coach Mike Napoli (right), who joined another former Red Sox, manager David Ross, in Chicago, is having fun teaching the game to the Cubs.Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

CHICAGO — Winning the 2004 World Series will forever be the moment all others are compared to in Red Sox history. It’s not often a team breaks an 86-year-old curse, after all.

But what the 2013 Red Sox did, in a different way, still lives in the hearts of so many fans.

Those Sox won a championship a year after finishing in last place while at the same time rallying a city that had been staggered by the terrorist bombings at the Boston Marathon.

A year later the Sox were back in last place again, which only underscored just how incredible the ‘13 season was.


The spirit of that team lives on with the Chicago Cubs, who are managed by David Ross and have Mike Napoli as their first base coach.

“There aren’t too many days that go by when I don’t think of that season,” Ross said Saturday before the Cubs beat the Red Sox, 3-1. “We have a team here that’s learning what it takes to win and I give them examples all the time about how we came together.”

Ross still remembers the Sox players visiting victims of the bombing in the hospital and the effect it had on them.

“We weren’t just playing for ourselves. I realized what the Sox meant to the city,” he said. “There was a purpose to our fun. The emotions were real.”

It’s an exaggeration to paint that team as a bunch of scrappy underdogs. The Sox had a $177 million payroll that season and the roster included David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, and Jon Lester.

But there were plenty of bruised apples in the basket. John Lackey was coming back from Tommy John surgery. Shane Victorino had been traded by the Phillies the year before.

Napoli was playing for his third team in four years and Ross was a 36-year-old veteran backup who signed for $3.1 million.


But it worked. They won 97 games under rookie manager John Farrell and were 11-5 in the postseason.

Napoli had one of the biggest hits in October, a seventh-inning home run off Justin Verlander to beat the Tigers, 1-0, in Game 3 of the American League Championship Series.

“I’ll never forget that,” Napoli said. “But Shane had that grand slam in Game 5. It felt like we all did something.”

The Sox were 6-1 in the games Ross started in the 2013 postseason. A concussion limited him to 36 games during the regular season but he took on a big role at the end.

“It was the most adversity I’d ever been through in my life,” said Ross, who at one point that year thought his career was in danger. “I learned a lot from that group. The personalities we had were so much fun but I learned what it takes to win.”

The Sox beat the St. Louis Cardinals, 6-1, to clinch the Series at Fenway. Michael Wacha, who has pitched so well for the Sox this season, took the loss for St. Louis.

Ross, Napoli, and the rest partied deep into the night. Napoli was photographed walking the streets of Boston shirtless while smoking a cigarette.

“I’ve signed that photo a lot,” he said. “We had a good time that night and for a few days after.

“Even then we used to say there would never be another team like this, the way our personalities meshed together. A lot of crazy dudes who loved the game. It was special.”


Ross and Lester went to the Cubs in 2015 and helped win a historic championship for Chicago in ‘16.

Ross became manager in 2020 and hired Napoli soon after.

“I love it. But I want to manage one day myself. Just taking the steps to learn how to coach and get your message out,” Napoli said.

Napoli, 40, retired after the 2017 season having hit 267 home runs over 12 seasons. But there was only so much fishing he could do.

“I found out quickly I needed the game. I was kind of lost a little bit,” he said. “It’s nice that I get to do this with Rossy.”

Ross and Napoli aren’t the only members of the ‘13 Sox affiliated with the Cubs.

Lefthanded reliever Craig Breslow, works for the team as an assistant general manager and vice president of pitching. Righthander Ryan Dempster is an analyst for Marquee Sports Network.

Righthander Clayton Mortensen, who appeared in 24 regular-season games, is a minor league pitching coach.

Vice president of player development Jared Banner was assistant director of player personnel with the Sox in ‘13.

“It’s nice to be around guys you’ve gone through the grind with and won a championship with,” Napoli said. “Now we’re trying to lead this group of guys. It’s fun. We’re teaching the game.

“Hopefully this group will have their moment like we did.”


Peter Abraham can be reached at peter.abraham@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe.