Monday, October 29, 2007
Talking to some fellow Sox fans the past few days, a few of them mentioned their desire to see the Red Sox win at Fenway. They actually wanted the Rockies to win two games in Denver just so the Sox could celebrate winning a World Series at home. These people are stupid, and very forgetful. Could you imagine going back in time to 1986 or 1975 or 1967 or 1946 or 1932 and telling a Red Sox fan "I won't be 100% happy unless the Sox win it in Fenway." You'd get slapped in the face.
This is the first time the Red Sox have won multiple World Series in the same decade since the 1910s. That is also the only decade during which the Sox won it multiple times. The three year gap in between the 2004 title and this one is the shortest title gap since the two year gap between the 1916 and 1918 championships.
This is unreal. It just doesn't feel like it actually happened. It's not supposed to happen. A fluke World Series in 2004 was maybe possible, but to win two out of four? That can't happen, right?
But then one looks at how this team was built, and one realizes that it is very possible. Josh Beckett was a failure last season, but he still had amazing stuff. He became more of a pitcher this year, and if he doesn't win the Cy Young it will be a joke considering the performances of Carmona and Sabathia in the playoffs (I know that awards are voted on before the playoffs, but it will still be funny if Sabathia or Carmona get it). Behind Beckett were question marks, but they were deep in question marks. Matsuzaka, Wakefield, Schilling, Bucholz, Lester, and Tavarez all had impressive stretches of starts.
Then there was that bullpen. The best bullpen in baseball. It wasn't the deepest, and there were lots of guys in there who should seriously consider playing percussion instruments as their first job instead of playing baseball. However, the back end of it was extremely good.
Moreover, the bullpen was managed beautifully by Francona and Farrell. After Papelbon ran out of gas last season, the Sox used him carefully throughout 2007. They never had him pitch more than 2 days in a row, and they tried to keep his workload as regular as possible. Okajima was a huge help in this matter, as he was able to close out games when Papelbon was unavailable. Okajima also allowed the Sox to keep Papelbon in the pen until the 9th inning. Mike Lowell was the MVP of the team, but Okajima was a very close second. Dollar for dollar, Okajima was the best investment on the Sox. The amount of energy Papelbon still had in October is a credit to Francona and Farrell.
When the Yankees came surging back, many fans in Boston moaned about the Red Sox resting Okajima, Youkilis, Manny, and Ortiz. But the post-season performances of these guys more than justified the rest they were given.
The Red Sox offense also deserves a great deal of credit. It was not the best offense we've seen in Boston, not by a longshot. But it still had the potential to score sufficient runs to win any kind of game. Mike Lowell's contributions behind Manny and Ortiz were invaluable. Youkilis' hot stretch in May fueled the Sox for more than a month. Pedroia was the Rookie of the Year. And even though Drew and Lugo sucked in the regular season, they are still good players, and both came through in the post-season, Drew more than Lugo.
Then there were the youngsters. Pedroia, Bucholz, Papelbon, Delcarmen, and Ellsbury were phenomenal. Lester was also very solid. And these guys will be contributing to the Sox for years to come.
After tomorrow's parade, and a few weeks of afterglow, an interesting off-season will begin to draw the attention of Red Sox Nation. Mike Lowell and Curt Schilling will both be free agents. The aging Tim Wakefield has an option that may or may not be renewed. Alex Rodriguez will be a free agent. Coco Crisp will probably be traded after the emergence of Jacoby Ellsbury. The Red Sox bullpen needs a serious overhaul in middle relief.
But I have faith. This ownership group has built two championship teams. The '04 and '07 squads have very little in common. New first-baseman, new second-baseman, new short-stop, new third-baseman, new center fielder, new right fielder, new closer, new set-up guy, new #1 pitcher, new #3 pitcher, new #5 pitcher(s). But both teams had similar professional attitudes of going to the ballpark and just playing the game. That is a credit to the manager and the general manager.
The Red Sox are champions again! Go nuts, people!