As he prepared to begin his 12th Major League season this past winter, Jake Peavy had his eyes on one thing: a World Series title.
Peavy and the Chicago White Sox were both coming off successful seasons. The veteran right-hander had a 3.37 ERA, 1.09 WHIP and averaged 8.0 K/9 and 3.96 K/BB. He was an All-Star and took home a Gold Glove.
The White Sox finished just three games back of the Detroit Tigers in the AL Central, adding much optimism to the South Side of Chicago.
"The longer you play and you come up short and come up short, you think gosh," Peavy said. "This winter when I was trying to decide which team I was going to go to that was the deciding factor. Where do I think I can go win a World Series? I certainly felt we had a good group assembled in Chicago, we came close to knocking off Detroit last year, but this is what I've played for since I've played – to be a champion."
Ironically enough, Peavy signed a contract extension with the White Sox -- two years, $29 million with a player option for 2015 ($15M) if he reaches innings requirements – on Oct. 30, 2012, exactly a year to the day he would finally win a championship.
"There are no words for what this moment means to me, to my family, to so many people that have helped along the way," he said. "This is the culmination. This is it. There is nothing any more gratifying than the feeling I have right now."
We now know that things didn't work out for the White Sox. They won just 63 games, fewer than only the Houston Astros and Miami Marlins. The reversal of fortune was enough for Rick Hahn to move Peavy at the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, nine months after he labeled him as one of the top pitchers in baseball and someone Chicago hoped to keep "at the top end of our rotation and his influence in our clubhouse for at least the next two years."
The Red Sox gladly took on Peavy in a three-team deal that also included the Tigers, who acquired Jose Iglesias from Boston. Peavy turned out to be a perfect addition to this year's Red Sox team, who relied more on chemistry and grit than supreme talent.
Peavy won the National League Cy Young award with the San Diego Padres in 2007, but his stuff has diminished in the years since. Over his first six Major League seasons, he led the NL in strikeouts and ERA twice. He won the pitching Triple Crown the same season in which was took home the Cy Young.
He gets by with determination and perseverance. Much like his teammates.
"It's all about the attitude. This team had great players, but they fell on hard times. I was on a good team in spring training this year that fell on rough times," Peavy said. "We've got 25 guys in there that believe, we've got a front office that believes and in the city of Boston, you're never out of it. No matter how bad, or good, the year is before there is one goal here."
Peavy made 10 regular-season starts for the Red Sox, posting a 4.04 ERA and 1.160 WHIP while averaging 6.3 K/BB and 2.37 K/BB. He was far from dominant and allowed 10 runs in three postseason appearances, but made starts that John Farrell would have had to give to a less proven pitcher.
The Red Sox won just 69 games last season, but with a new manager (Farrell) and a host of mid-level signings (Mike Napoli, Shane Victorino and Ryan Dempster) they owed the AL East. Peavy helped push them over the edge.
"From the first time I walked into the clubhouse, I certainly didn't think anything else was going to happen but this. People say that's crazy, but there are 24 other guys that will tell you the exact same thing," Peavy said with a smile.
"When I stepped into that clubhouse on August 1 it became very evident to me that we had one goal and we were going to do everything we could to be here. Not to say that I guaranteed success, but I promise you this is what every guy expected to happen."
With far fewer baseball years ahead of him than are behind, Peavy has finally reached the top of his profession. As the Red Sox cruised to a Game 6 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals on Wednesday night, he relished the moment.
"I was in the dugout for the whole game. The feeling is something I'll never forget. We pretty much had it wrapped up there, especially with Koji [Uehara] on the mound. I cried during the ninth inning," he admitted.
"Those emotions came out of me and I had tears rolling down my face. You flash back to 12 years in the Major Leagues and all the years prior to that."