Keeping the Faith
It's so different from 2004. No underdog status, no great unburdening, no tears for those who lived their whole lives never seeing a championship. All we have now is...a tremendous accomplishment. The Boston Red Sox are 2007 World Series champions.
It's very different from 2004. Then, we had several players we knew wouldn't be here the next year. Many of the key characters in that unprecedented postseason did indeed move on: Derek Lowe, Dave Roberts, Pokey Reese, Orlando Cabrera, Doug Mientkiewicz, the Certain Former Red Sox Pitcher Whose Name Shall Not Be Spoken. Now, we are looking forward to years of success built around young guys named Papelbon, Ellsbury, Pedroia, Delcarmen, Lester, not to mention Beckett and Matsuzaka.
WRKO's Joe Castiglione just pointed out that the Red Sox are the first baseball team in the 21st century to win multiple World Series championships. All those years when we thirsted for success, when we would have practically given our right arms for just one victory, seem like so very long ago. If 2004 represented our liberation from angst, 2007 represents the maturing of our new role as fans of a team that expects to contend every year.
I'll have more to say about all this after I get some sleep. For now, I'll mention that Glen Gefner is reporting that an announcement about a victory celebration in Boston will be coming from the Mayor's office later today. Rumor is the parade will be Tuesday. I hope my boss doesn't mind my taking some time off.
Sweet championship dreams, Nation.
Tru says, nicely stated!
What a team!
1) Someone should tell Manny to remove that white diaper from his head...it makes him look like Aunt Jemima.
2) Do you think Papelbon could have looked more gay in his jump after the final pitch? Sox fans and detractors alike now have to endure that faggy visual.
"Sox fans and detractors alike now have to endure that faggy visual."
Yep...and in beautiful, victory-soaked HD...
Well stated, BSB! Even stupid comments like those of "anonymous" can't piss me off this week :)
I took some nice photos and video from the parade: http://www.panraven.com/visitor/VisitorViewStory.epage?sp=Sview&sp=103625
Oops...here is the URL...
Sweet stuff Andy!!!
I can't believe I have gone almost a full week without blogging. The most momentous week of the season, no less, and I was AWOL. I blame it on Allan, my English pen pal, who was visiting Boston with his family, so naturally I had to be the gracious hostess with the mostess and spend quality time with them. I couldn't say no; international relations were on the line. And besides, Allan is a Red Sox fan.
Anyway, it has been quite the surreal week. After game 7 against Cleveland, I noticed with mild amusement that I didn't feel the unbridled ecstasy I felt after we beat the Yankees in 2004. It was obviously very satisfying to come from behind, but it was just another step in the road. The ultimate prize, a World Championship, still had to be fought for. That was true in 2004 as well, but there were really two stories: going to the World Series, and dishing out a big dose of abject humiliation to the Yankees in the process. This year, that sub-plot doesn't exist.
The World Series, on the other hand, is like déjà vu all over again. The highly touted hot team with the great pitching thought they were going to continue to steamroll their way through the postseason. What they didn't count on is the superior caliber of American League baseball. All that great young starting pitching that was supposed to shut down the Red Sox offense (and did, actually, in game 2, won by the Sox only thanks to our own even better pitching) just hasn't panned out. You have to feel sorry for them. They were like lambs led to slaughter.
We have our own lamb going tonight in game 4, so I'm not taking anything for granted. This is baseball and anything can happen, even with a 3-0 series lead. Just ask the Yankees; they'll tell you all about it. But let's just say that if we win tonight and complete the sweep, I won't be surprised. This team got hot at exactly the right time. If they do win it all, it will be the perfect ending to the best regular season this team has seen in a very long time.
So without further delay, here are a few of my random thoughts heading into the fourth and possibly final game of the 2007 World Series:
Enjoy the game folks. Think good thoughts.
Enjoy it while you can Red sox trash!The curse of bambino lives!I feel a 200 year red sox drought starting in 2008!You just got lucky enogh to face a young inexperienced team.Cant wait to see your team fall apart next year!!!!
Ah, another desperate Yankees fan crawls out from under a rock. Love it!
During The '07 ALCS On FOX, "The Tim-inator" made this memorable comment "I Think That Youkilis Would Make a Good Number 8 Hitter with the pitcher's spot due up." In June with SF Giants, Tim came up with this gem "The last time the Giants had a runner on, was in the 4th Inning with YOUKILIS."
Remember the days when the Red Sox could be counted on to take us to the brink of ecstasy, only to crush our hopes at the last minute? Neither do I. The new and improved 21st century Sox may have the same ability as their predecessors to give us all mild heart attacks, but in the end, they find a way to leave us feeling quite satisfied. I like this better.
That said, I realize there is still lots of work to do. The ultimate goal, after all, isn't to be merely the American League Champion. Over the next couple days, I'll be looking back on the series just completed and looking forward to the matchup against the band of unknowns called the Colorado Rockies. But first, I have to get some work done. Crap, I'm tired this morning. But it's a happy tired.
A win is a win, and that's what we got last night thanks to Josh Beckett, or as I like to call him, God. Still, there are a few things worth venting over. Making another appearance to do just that is friend and co-worker Matt:
Please refrain from using Coco's last name when discussing him.
For the rest of the playoffs, please refer to him as Coco Crap.
Also, if you see Lugo playing SS tomorrow night without a glove...yes, I stole it. He did nothing with it last night, and he doesn't need it, as evident by the play of Lowell where he charged in front of Julio for the Blake groundout.
UPDATE FROM MATT:
I'm sorry, I can't take credit for 'Coco Crap' - that was from Angry Bill this morning on WEEI.
As far as Lugo, I just thought it was hilarious how he kept on trying to get into every play for no reason. And then Lowell just cuts him off and makes a great play. Lugo doesn't bother me as much as Crap. He is so out of it that his swings don't even look like swings. Ellsbury is more of a spark plug than Alex Cora at this point and Cora is not a better player than Lugo. I don't think you can worry about losing Crap because…well, he's gone. He has that same look on his face of no hope each AB and NO ONE talks to him in the dugout.
This weekend is going to be special for three reasons...1, Schilling is one of the best big time pitchers of all time, 2, Cleveland does not have that killer instinct, and 3, I look forward to a Daisuke masterful performance on Sunday night with him ending it with the Derek Lowe crotch thing that Lowe did to Oakland in the 2003 ALDS…HA HA HA!!
By the way, saith Matt on the phone just now, "I'm a true blue Red Sox fan who had no worries about last night." Well said.
I have figured out the cure for what ails this team. Four words:
Kevin Millar, motivational speaker.
Or how about this: "Nothing is over until we decide it is!"
And just in case that isn't enough, think of it this way. All the Red Sox have to do is win one game. Forget about the rest of the series. Forget about being down 3-1 going into game 5 of a best-of-7 series. What we have before us is a best-of-1 series. They need only to win one game, something they've done 100 times since spring training ended, so it's really no big deal when you think about it. So put it all out there tonight. Which means, in case you're listening Tito, hitting Jacoby Ellsbury in the leadoff spot. Please. I'm begging you.
Terry Francona was eviscerated on WEEI's Dennis and Callahan show yesterday morning. Some of it was the usual Tito-bashing that people engage in if he commits such egregious bungles as, say, ting his shoes wrong, but there was actually quite a bit of substantive critique, such as WHY THE HELL WASN'T BOBBY KIELTY IN THE LINEUP AGAINST PAUL BYRD IN GAME 4? Kielty's career numbers against Byrd are reportedly slightly better than his numbers against C.C. Sabathia, against whom Francona played Kielty over J.D. Drew in game 1 and will presumably do so again tonight. And God knows we could have used more offense in game 4, with the pitching stumbling yet again.
But that was yesterday. The brunt of this morning's D&C bitchfest appeared to be Theo Epstein for some of his less successful free agent signings (Drew topping a list that also includes Julio Lugo, Edgar Renteria, and Matt Clement). Cynics might also point to the Eric Gagné trade, except that everyone thought Gagné was a good pick-up at the time. Not that such historical fact isn't subject to revision, and can't you just see that trade being the baseball equivalent of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, with big mouths trampling each other to be the first to change their minds after the fact?
Hey, have you heard that game 5 is tonight? That's right, people, we get another Beckett vs. Sabathia pitching matchup. I was thinking that Josh Beckett had never lost in the postseason, which had me a little nervous that the law of averages might decide to catch up with him at this most inopportune time. But I looked it up and was reminded that he actually lost game 3 against the Yankees in 2003 despite allowing only two runs in 7 1/3 innings pitched. He also had a lousy ended up winning 9-8. The moral of the story is that anything can happen. But I'm still banking on Beckett.
Over on ESPN.com, Jim Caple has a thought-provoking column about MLB's elongated playoff schedule.
The intent is worthy -- start the World Series in the middle of the week to increase ratings (which, after all, means more viewers). But the method is wrong. Rather than pushing up the playoffs by ending the regular season a few days earlier (which could be done by starting it a couple days earlier in warm-weather cities), baseball chose to extend the postseason by adding several off-days. That includes a layover between Games 4 and 5 of the ALCS even though the teams aren't traveling.
And that's not even to mention the two days off between the last game of the regular season and the first game of three of the divisional series (the fourth series started after a ridiculous three days off). Sure, you need an extra day if a tie-breaking playoff is needed, as was the case this year for the National League wild card, but that circumstance is an historical rarity and will continue to be so.
Here's how I think they should do it: Take a day off after the last regular season game played, whenever that is. If you need a playoff on Monday, take Tuesday off and start the series on Wednesday. But let the games not involving the playoff teams start Tuesday. Then start the league championship series the second day after the last divisional series for that league ends. Then have one day off after the last league championship series ends before starting the World Series. And don't schedule any days off that aren't travel days. If there's a rainout, push the rest of that series out a day.
Makes sense, doesn't it? If they did it that way, the Indians and Red Sox would have already played game 5 last Saturday and the World Series would begin, at the latest, tomorrow night. Instead, we're stuck waiting for another five days for the so-called Fall Classic. That means that if the Indians win tonight, the World Series won't begin until we've had nine gameless days in the month of October. And even without a World Series rainout, game 7 will be played on November 1. NOVEMBER 1. That may be necessary in the unlikely event that a deadly earthquake or monumental terrorist attack forces major delays, but otherwise, it's insane.
The problem was created, of course, by money. MLB wants the big postseason TV contract, so they defer to what the networks want. The networks want lots of viewers, so they insist on a schedule where there are virtually never two games going on simultaneously. Never mind that very few people actually care to watch all the games, and even if they wanted to, the schedule isn't conducive to it (an afternoon game followed by an evening game, or an early evening game followed by a red-eye).
The baseball executives and the network big wigs might think they've won, but the rest of us are left twiddling our thumbs wondering why in the wide world we're in the middle of October and there is not a postseason ball game to be found. And that translates into less interest, which in turn means—you've got it—fewer viewers. Which is, come to think of it, exactly what the greedy S.O.B.s deserve.
It's the nightmare that never ends. Talk that Alex Rodriguez may soon be coming to Boston after he dumps the rest of his Yankee contract are again alive, now that agent Scott Boras has gone on the record as suggesting that free agency may be in his most famous client's future. That isn't a surprise, considering that after the Yankees' 6-4 loss to the Indians on Monday night, Rodriguez sounded like a man intending to walk away:
"It's been a tough ladder for me," he said, meaning the fall and climb from MVP to target to MVP. "It's too bad it has to end like this. ... The reason I came to New York first and foremost was to help this team win a championship. I must say, I have failed at that."
Not, "I have failed so far." Not, "I have to figure out how to be more productive so I can help them win next year."
Naturally, this has tongues wagging throughout New England, fan tongues and sports radio tongues alike, about how the Sox should go after Rodriguez now that Mike Lowell's contract is up. Lowell will surely want more money than the $10 million a year he makes now, and probably for four years guaranteed, which is a long time for a guy who turns 34 in February. A-Rod is a better player, the argument goes, so the Sox should go after him as an upgrade.
Clearly, A-Rod is the better player, but is he that much better? According to his player page on ESPN.com, this year Rodriguez made $27,708,525, which is just over three times Lowell's salary. As you would expect, Rodriguez beats Lowell in all offensive categories: his batting average this year was 24 points higher, slugging average 180 points higher, and strikeouts-to-walks ratio slightly better (though in past years, it has been worse). Most notably, Rodriguez had 54 home runs, approaching his career high of 57 in 2002. But Lowell had 21, which is third best among qualified American League third basemen. Lowell was also second to only Rodriguez in RBI.
But that's the regular season. It's the postseason in which Rodriguez has appropriate earned a reputation as a non-performer. In four playoff seasons with the Yankees, his batting average plummets to .245 and slugging to .436. And those numbers are inflated by a stellar 2004 postseason in which he hit .320 and slugged .600. He has a total of only nine RBI in 94 postseason at-bats, eight of which came in 2004. And he strikes out a lot. Compare that to Lowell's one postseason with the Red Sox, which so far features a .333 batting average and .556 slugging average with 3 RBI and no strikeouts.
That's not even to mention the oft-overlooked realm of defense, where Lowell stacks up quite well, thank you very much. He had a slightly lower fielding percentage than Rodriguez in 2007 but a much better one in '06. His range factor and zone rating are also notably better, meaning that he manages to field balls that A-Rod doesn't get to.
With that comparison, which you'll notice excludes any talk of clubhouse chemistry or being a team player because Rodriguez wouldn't have a prayer there, I find it hard to justify $18 million a year more for some extra hitting. It isn't as if the Red Sox have nobody else who can hit. Besides Lowell's 21 dingers, David Ortiz had 35, Manny Ramirez in a sub-par year had 20, Jason Varitek added 17, and Kevin Youkilis 16. Dustin Pedroia hit .317, joining Lowell and Ortiz in the over-.300 club. And even with such good hitters around him, Lowell still led the team in RBI.
So that leaves the age question. Isn't the four-year contract Lowell will probably want a bit long for someone who will be 34 next year? Perhaps. But you can bet that Boras will be looking for at least twice, contending as he has that Rodriguez, who is already 32, could play for another 12 years. Call me silly, but I would think the Sox could do without a gargantuan mega-contract that will someday have them paying about $50 million a year to a guy just 5 years shy of an AARP membership.
I know nothing will be done on this until after the World Series, but since I know Theo Epstein is thinking at least that far ahead, I'm begging him to banish the A-Rod thoughts from his head once and for all. We have an All-Star, Gold Glove caliber third baseman who by all accounts likes playing here, hasn't shrunk under the playoff spotlight, and will likely command a salary, even with a nice increase, that will leave the organization with enough money to sign, oh let's say, another pitcher or an additional bat.
And come October, we won't have to deal with the mysterious disappearing A-Rod.
What about A-Rod returning to his "golden" short stop position?
That only works if you can move Lugo, whose trade value is questionable right now. The Sox would most likely have to eat some of his salary, which would make A-Rod even more expensive. And the fact remains that he doesn't come through in October.
A-Rod being acquired by the Sox would be grounds for divorce, for me. I've been a Sox fan since '64, but I'll hang it up if they go after him. He is the flesh-eating bacteria of baseball. He is always a distraction and not worth the price, 3B -or- SS.
Count me among those who chuckled at the observations that the Indians defeated the Yankees on Columbus Day. But more importantly, count me among the relieved that we won't be suffering through any of the infamous Red Sox vs. Yankees marathons that kept so many of us sleep-deprived back in 2003 and 2004.
It is said that Red Sox vs. Yankees games run longer than your average major league baseball game, but I got wondering last night if that is really true. So I did a little research on game lengths during the 2007 Red Sox season (read: looked at 162 box scores, just because I could) and found that it isn't just an urban legend.
That's right folks, it takes an average of 28 minutes longer to play a regulation game against the Yankees than against other teams. Interestingly, the next longest games were played against Arizona (three games averaging 3:24 in length, including one 10-inning game), which doesn't bode well for my sleep schedule should the Sox and D-backs meet in the World Series. The Rockies series went much faster, 2:56 on average. Games against Cleveland were close to par for the season, 3:07. And just in case you were wondering, games against Minnesota were the quickest at 2:46.
So what were the team's fastest games in 2007? Funny you should ask, as I happen to have that information right here:
You may have noticed that Clay Buchholz' September 1 no-hitter isn't on the list. That one took 3:02, but only because the Sox scored 10 runs. Surely you remember your annoyance when our guys wouldn't stop hitting in that interminable bottom of the 8th.
Anyhoo, back to the original topic, which is that we're fortunate to have drawn the Indians in the ALCS, and if we advance, we'll get the most sleep facing the Rockies. The Diamondbacks would be a nightmare, between the long games and the time difference. Arizona, though situated in the Mountain time zone, forgoes Daylight Savings Time, so they're currently in sync with the west coast. My eyes are heavy just thinking about it.
Perhaps only in the Bronx are baseball fans as likely as they are in Boston to diss a winning manager. When the team loses, it's because "[insert manager's name here] did this or didn't do that or should have done something else". When they win, it's "in spite of [insert manager's name here]'s ridiculous decision to do such-and-such." To those who adopt this mantra, and I do know some of them (Ed, I'm talking about you), the Boston Herald's Tony Massarotti directs this morning's paean to Terry Francona.
The team's deconstruction of the Angels improved Francona's career postseason record to a sterling 14-6, a winning percentage of .700. Francona now has defeated Angels manager Mike Scioscia (twice), New York Yankees manager Joe Torre and St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa in head-to-head meetings.
[ . . . ]
To his credit, while sitting in his office following Sunday night’s clincher, Francona pointed out that all decisions look good when they work. Still, that is not the point. Managerial decisions usually are about the means rather than the ends, though emotional and often irate fans are usually too blind to see it that way in the wake of a plan gone awry.
[ . . . ]
"Before the game even starts, he's got a routine he goes through and he's ready," said [Red Sox bench coach Brad] Mills, noting that Francona typically plays out a full range of scenarios before any game starts. "Obviously, every game doesn't go as he plans for it, but he plans for that, too. What I'm saying is that he's ready for the situation."
It can be said that a good leader is someone who motivates his or her people to give their best and then is happy to let them take all the credit for it. If Massarotti thinks that sounds like Francona, he isn't the only one. Last week, Jon Harper of the New York Daily News tucked this observation into a column about Josh Beckett's outstanding ALDS game 1 performance on more than full rest:
... Terry Francona managed with an eye on the playoffs even while his team's divisional lead was shrinking over the final couple of weeks of the season.
People close to the team say Francona deserves credit for refusing to get caught up in trying to win the division at all costs, no easy thing when Red Sox Nation was in full panic mode over the possibility of being caught by the Yankees.
In other words, he's playing to win when it counts, not just when the screaming masses want a win to calm their nerves. After watching Grady Little make the boneheaded decision of the century in game 7 of the 2003 ALCS (was he saving Embree and Timlin for game 8?) I for one can definitively say that I like it better this way.
//was he saving Embree and Timlin for game 8?//
Amazingly, four years, three more years in the playoffs, humiliating the Yankees and winning the World Series...and this still feels like a punch in the throat.
Read that Mas article on the way into work today and was wondering who'd pick up on it. Good show!
Because there's still plenty of baseball left.
Far be it from me to play the we-get-no-respect card, but my panties are in a twist over this column, brought to my attention by one of my Red Sox girlfriends, in which Josh Peter of Yahoo! Sports warns against irrational exuberance by Red Sox fans after their ALDS sweep of the Angels.
Any Red Sox fan who remembers that ground ball rolling between Bill Buckner's legs, or Bucky Dent's home run, or anything else connected to The Curse purportedly broken with the 2004 World Series championship should have stepped inside the bedlam, shouted above the din and issued a word of caution.
So allow me:
"Put down the damn champagne bottles and cool it with the chants. You just beat a team so crippled it could've qualified for a handicapped placard."
He then goes on to point out that Gary Matthews, Jr., had a sprained ankle and Garret Anderson had conjunctivitis. He also helpfully points out that the Angels aren't "the Yankees [who had the exact same record as the Angels] or the Indians [who had the exact same record as the Red Sox]. Not the Rockies [five fewer wins than the Angels] or the Diamondbacks [four fewer wins]. But the hobbled, helpless and, ultimately, hapless Angels [who won their division by six games]." (Inserted comments mine.)
So naturally, I had to shoot off a thank you note expressing my gratitude for his insight.
Regarding yesterday's column ("Cruising Red Sox will need another gear"), I can certainly understand why you think the Sox sweep of the Angels was no big deal and nothing to get worked up about. After all, the Angels' season record was better than only a lousy 26 other major league teams, which hardly qualifies them as a real contender. They certainly aren't a legitimately good team like the Yankees, who had 94 wins in the regular season, whereas the Angels had only, um, 94. And thanks for reminding us that the Angels had two—count 'em, TWO!—players unable to play, whereas each and every Red Sox player was as fresh as the day they first took the spring training practice field last February, with not an ache, pain, strain, or sign of fatigue among them.
Nope, a sweep is certainly nothing for Red Sox fans to get excited about. Thanks for making that so clear to us.
I'd have inserted an eye-rolling emoticon if I could have, but unfortunately the comment submission form didn't allow for such embellishments. I hope he's sharp enough to find it between the lines.
When David Ortiz homered in the fourth inning of today's ALDS game 3 against the Angels, the Red Sox did more than take the 1-0 lead. They served notice that they were serious about moving closer to their ultimate goal: a World Series championship. So although there was much revelry in the clubhouse after completing the 3-0 sweep, everyone knows this is but another step on a journey that isn't over yet.
That attitude—that there is much more to be done—might explain why the Red Sox are unique among MLB's 2007 division winners in not having placed a "Division Champions" graphic on their web site.
Meanwhile, the Red Sox web site shows no signs of having won anything yet.
It's one thing to celebrate milestones. But celebrating a "championship" that really isn't one smacks of resting on one's laurels. Sure, it's fun for fans to run out and buy the AL East t-shirt MLB put out the day after they clinched first place. But the team, I suspect, realizes there is plenty more to be done. So they're congratulating themselves for a job well done against Los Angeles. And tomorrow, they'll start preparing for the next step.
"Meanwhile, the Red Sox web site shows no signs of having won anything yet."
Good catch. The Sox clearly have Belichick disease this year. Nothing wrong with that.
As the saying goes, you still have to play the games. But seriously, did anyone actually believe that the Red Sox weren't going to win last night's ALDS opener against the Angels?
History was overwhelmingly on Boston's side. I'm not talking about long-ago history, though that has certainly favored the Sox in series against California/Anaheim/Los Angeles (a 3-0 divisional series sweep in 2004 and the dramatic ALCS 4-3 comeback in 1986), as it has in recent regular seasons (30-21 in the last six years). I'm talking about the ever more important head-to-head matchups involving last night's starting pitchers.
John Lackey, he of the league-best 3.01 ERA in 2007, had an 8.38 ERA against Boston in two starts this season. In 11 starts over the last six seasons, it's 6.27 with a bloated WHIP (1.92) that's even higher than his strikeouts-to-walks ratio (1.85). They don't come much more "owned" than that.
Meanwhile, Josh Beckett has a 2.16 ERA in limited action (four starts all-time) against Los Angeles, with a WHIP of 1.08 and 2.75 strikeouts-to-walks.
So naturally, the Angels didn't have a fighting chance last night. Beckett—whom ESPN.com's front page this morning dubbed "a beast in October"—was stellar in pitching a complete game four-hitter, his third career postseason shutout, putting him behind only Christy Mathewson, is all. On the other side of the box score, Lackey was fortunate to have allowed only four runs, a Kevin Youkilis solo homer, a David Ortiz two-run shot, and a Mike Lowell RBI single.
If you were Mike Scioscia and the Angels, how would you feel about the prospect of having to face Beckett again in a potential game 4? If you're the Red Sox, what a confidence booster must it be to know that Beckett is close enough to a sure thing that, as WEEI's Gerry Callahan said this morning, you really only have to worry about winning one more game to move on to the next level?
It could be said that the definition of an ace is the guy who instills enough confidence in his team and enough abject dread in the other team so as to turn the game into more a mental contest than a physical one. Right now, Beckett is that kind of guy. Let's hope some of it rubs on on Daisuke Matsuzaka before tomorrow night's game.
I totally agree. There was never a doubt in my mind that the Sox would win the series. They have dominated the Angels in the past and were coming in with full congfidence.
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