Monday, October 04, 2004

Games 159 through 162 - Red Sox
A (Very) Few Thoughts

Red Sox 8, Orioles 3
Red Sox 7, Orioles 5
Red Sox 7, Orioles 5
Orioles 3, Red Sox 2
Final Record: 98-64, 3GB NYY
AL Wild Card
3rd-best record in MLB

So it comes down to this: the Sox were 89-54 against all teams not from Baltimore, and 9-10 against the O's. If Boston had gone 12-7 - simply played to their level against the O's - they'd have won the American League East. That's super.

But enough with the O-bashing - Baltimore's a long way from the playoffs, and their owner gets to spend the rest of his tenure getting his nose rubbed in the Expos/Grays success. We come here not to bury Baltimore, but to praise the Red Sox. And complain about the postseason schedule. Briefly, because the people that sign my paycheck actually think I need to get some work done today - and if I'm going to bail on them early tomorrow, wander in late and bleary-eyed on Thursday morning, and then sneak out early on Friday, I suppose they're entitled.

The Sox were 45-18 from August 1 to the end of the season. After all the gnashing of teeth from this and other corners of the Nation, the Sox actually did perform to their potential. The Nomar trade, like it or not at the time, galvanized the entire roster. Theo Epstein is 8 feet tall and bulletproof at the moment. Curt Schilling won 21 games, Manny and Ortiz became the first teammates since Babe Ruth to both hit 40 homers and drive in 130 runs in one season, Kevin Millar carried the team for a stretch in August, and everyone else chipped in with critical contributions - even Derek Lowe and Tim Wakefield.

The 2004 Sox have now met baseline expectations. They were supposed to get to the playoffs. Do they have the horses to take the next step? As has been noted ad nauseum in the post-Moneyball world, baseball playoffs are a crapshoot, and predicting outcomes is about as useful as tits on John Kruk. Can the Sox win it all? Sure - they've got two very good starting pitchers (depending upon which Pedro Martinez makes the trip to Anaheim), the league's deepest offense, solid if not spectacular relief pitching, and a vastly improved defense. Could the Sox lose 3 straight to Anaheim and go home? Absolutely, especially if Schilling can't win Game 1 and Bartolo Colon steps up in Game 2. All the pontificating and prognosticating in the world doesn't amount to a hill of beans taller than Pedro's 27-inch buddy. All that's left is to hold my breath and watch the games.

Which are being played at 4:00 EST (Tuesday), 10:00 EST (Wednesday), and 4:00 EST (Friday). I could pick a worse set of times, but I'd have to work at it. So, I'll be leaving work early twice (or suffering through CBS Sportsline - a perhaps saner option) and staying up until the wee hours of the morning once. Whatever. It could be worse - I could be a Mets fan.

I was really hoping that the Sox would get to play Oakland, because it's fun to beat the A's, and the Sox have owned them this year. Anaheim scares me, because they don't beat themselves, they play the game the right way, they've got a lights-out bullpen, and they've got Vladimir Guerrero. If - and it's the single big if for the series - the Sox can get to the Angels' middling starting pitching early, I'd take the Sox in a walk. If the series comes down to the Halos' bullpen against the Sox', the Angels have a significant advantage, unless the Sox bullpen finds its 2003 mojo. To me, Pedro Martinez has a chance to be the single most important factor in this series - he could alternately be the stopper, soul-crusher, or life-giver, depending upon what happens in Game 1.

Enough blabbering. 11 wins to go. Stay on target.

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