Maybe the Boston Red Sox won the 2007 World Series back in 2005, when general manager Theo Epstein, holding four of the first 42 picks in the draft that June, wrote inspirationally on the front-office whiteboard, IMPACT! and DOMINATE THE DRAFT! Maybe they won it the following year, when their first pick of the '05 draft, outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury, sat down for his spring-training employee assessment and was told to hone his skills as a leadoff hitter. Maybe they won it at a three-hour meeting on the eve of Game 1 of the World Series, when advance scouting coordinator Kyle Evans spelled out exactly how to neutralize Troy Tulowitzki and Matt Holliday, the biggest bats in the Colorado Rockies' lineup. Maybe they won it in the eighth inning of Game 2 when bench coach Brad Mills, remembering from that same meeting the intelligence that Holliday typically runs on first pitches when he tries to steal a base, called a successful pickoff, which wiped the potential tying run off the bases.
Or maybe, just maybe, they won it when a very large, angry man cleared the clubhouse of everybody but Red Sox players after Game 3 of the American League Championship Series in Cleveland, which Boston had lost to the Indians to go down 2--1.
"Listen," designated hitter David Ortiz began, "we're not just a good team. We're a great team. And don't you f------ forget that. And let's go play one at a time and go prove that. Because let me tell you something...."
Ortiz pulled on the sides of his gray road jersey. "There's a reason why you wear this Red Sox uniform...."
Ortiz paused for a beat, letting the suspenseful silence fill the rapt room.
"Because you're a bad mother------."
The world championship is all of it: the commitment to player development, the obsessive devotion to detail, the fluorescent-bathed nerds who break down statistics and video as if they were the Dead Sea Scrolls, the small army of scouts, the bad dudes—yes, especially the bad dudes—who wear the Boston uniform and strip the will from their opponents one grueling at bat after another. The entire thing is a giant Jenga game; remove any one of the interlaced blocks and the whole damn tower might topple.
The Red Sox would lose the night after Ortiz held his players-only meeting, but that was the last time in 2007 that they would be defeated. Beginning with Game 5 of the ALCS, Boston ran the rest of the postseason table with seven consecutive wins in one of the most emphatic October rampages of all time. The Red Sox outscored the Indians and the Rockies 59--15 in those seven games, trailed after only three of the 63 innings, became the first team ever to ring up double-digit runs in three straight postseason games, knocked out every opposing starter before any of them could get an out in the seventh inning and saw an average of 18.4 pitches per inning.
In a postseason format overrun in recent years by flukes, wild cards and Cinderellas, the Red Sox restored order to the baseball universe. They became the first team since the 1998 Yankees to win the world championship after winning the most games in the regular season. The best team won. More tellingly, the best organization won.
At 10:05 Mountain Time on Sunday night, the time of the last out of the 4--3 Game 4 clincher, as closer Jonathan Papelbon heaved his glove in the air, ripped off his cap and let out a shriek that must have set off every car alarm in Denver County, Boston had four homegrown players on the Coors Field playing surface and four acquired by trades and free agency in the past 24 months. "It's an organizational triumph because everybody played a part in it," Epstein says. "The reality is that a Red Sox Way is being cultivated."