Monday, October 29, 2007

Queen


World Series – Game 4

Red Sox 4, Rockies 3
Red Sox win, 4-0
2007 World Series Champions


My 3 ½ year-old daughter has now been alive for 2 Red Sox World Series championships. So have my grandparents, all born in 1920 and 1921. If that doesn’t convincingly illustrate this brave new world, I’ve run out of ideas. The simple, indisputable fact of the matter is that the Boston Red Sox are the gold standard by which all major league franchises will be measured in the near term. How the hell did this happen?

The final frame of last night’s series-clinching win over the game but overmatched Rockies offers an example. Dustin Pedroia fielded Yorvit Torrealba’s grounder to second and flipped to Kevin Youkilis to record the first out. Jacoby Ellsbury raced to the wall to glove Jamey Carroll’s drive to left to bring the Sox to the brink. Finally, and fittingly, Jonathan Papelbon threw a fastball right by Seth Smith to kick-start the second delirious celebration in my living room in 3 years. Among other places. The 3 9th-inning outs were recorded by 2 rookies and 2 young standouts, all of whom were developed by the Sox’ system and all of whom are likely to be wearing Sox uniforms for the foreseeable future.

Combine an increasingly efficient player development machine with an increasingly deep-pocketed ownership group, and the total effect must be more than a little bit unsettling for the rest of the major leagues. I suppose I’m going to have to come to terms with my team being hated because they’re beautiful. I’ve already received my first “Sox = Yankees” email from a friend. (And another one that read simply, “I never want to hear another Red Sox-related whine out of you for the rest of your existence”. I’ll make that deal.) While I can’t argue that the Sox have well and truly taken advantage of baseball’s fucked up economic system, I’d differentiate the 2 colossi like this: the Sox are rich and smart. The Yankees are rich.

The stakes were higher on an emotional level in 2004, but the apprehension and exhilaration of the final out last night didn’t take a back seat. I was exhausted from a weekend of ridiculously misspent time travel, but I still leapt from my couch, arms thrust in the air. The final 8 games of the 2004 season represented an unexpected rocket ride of catharsis. The last 7 of 2007 were more a fulfillment of potential, a living up to expectations.

I’ve danced around this subject here at MLC, fearing that the act of committing it to public view would somehow change reality (old superstitious insanity is, indeed, hard to cast off), but this team was the best in baseball from the very beginning of the season. Despite the fact that it’s a dusty old canard, the Sox really did get contributions from every corner of their roster – and then some. Julian Tavarez gave them meaningful early-season innings before Jon Lester was fully recovered from his bout with cancer. Alex Cora channeled Barry Bonds for 6 weeks in April and May while Pedroia struggled. Bobby Kielty had the series-winning RBI in the World Series, for chrissakes. Clay Buchholz threw a no-hitter in the middle of a pennant race. Kevin Cash started a half-dozen games or so at catcher. Eric Hinske made one of the season’s great defensive plays in right field, and nearly wore out his jaw from smiling at his good fortune. And Terry Francona, brilliantly cast as the Sox manager, kept his team loose and rested and together the entire way. His contributions will forever be underestimated.

I’m still processing the entirety of the season, an activity probably best left for a time when I’m less drained and have more opportunity to think. Like 2004, I’ll stop back in here over the next several days as the memories come back. Just a handful of impressions from the past few days of the indelible marks from 2007:

Jonathan Papelbon is rapidly becoming my favorite player of all-time, for both his on-field performance and his genuine off-field childlike lunacy. His exhausted post-game interview last night revealed just how much he put into his role.

Watching Jason Varitek struggle with his emotions after the game was the first time I did the same with this team. The Sox’ foundation stuffed the ball from the final out into his pocket before embracing Papelbon. I hope they let him keep it.

J.D. Drew and Julio Lugo had their share of well-documented troubles during the season, but both made meaningful contributions in the postseason. I hope that shuts people up (present company included) as the 2008 campaign dawns.

Josh Beckett. Wow.

Hideki Okajima’s first and last pitches of 2007 were hit out of the park. The stuff in between was spectacular.

Curt Schilling may not throw another pitch in a Red Sox uniform, but I’ll be damned if I’ll root against him.

Oh, and Theo, do us all a favor and re-sign Mike Lowell, mmmkay.

Manny Ramirez said it wouldn’t be the end of the world if the Sox lost to Cleveland. I guess we’ll never find out.

6 comments:

Whitney said...

A hearty congratulations to Rob and the Red Sox from the guy who has actually taken the "Misery" part of our moniker to heart.

I'd be lying if I said that I wasn't disappointed in the lopsided victory, though. For baseball fans outside of Boston, St. Louis, and Chicago, the last four Fall Classics have been amazingly void of drama. (Okay, I'll grant Sox fans that seeing them win in '04 was pretty intense, even in the fashion in which they accomplished it.)

The Series losers have mustered one win in 17 games. The excitement is mostly Fox-created in results like this, and here's hoping the 2008 World Series takes me somewhere closer to the edge of my seat.


Oh . . . and maybe the Mets could get there?

rob said...

the mets failing to make the postseason this year was one of the biggest disappointments i've ever felt for a team that's not one of my "teams". was really hoping we'd see them square off with the sox. there's always next year.

TJ said...

I'm holding you to the "whine" statement.

Mike said...

Quite an effort all season. The big difference for these playoffs was the lack absolute and utter angst. I actually enjoyed watching the games unlike '04 when I really couldn't enjoy it until it was over. My Dad used to say to me all the time growing up that ownership is everything. I have to admit it seems like there is something to that.

Whit, I hope the Mets can make a run for you next year.

F

Whitney said...

The Braves just traded away Edgar Renteria. Oh... crap. Guess what team just became a likely landing spot for ARod? Cripes.

TJ said...

There is no way in hell the Braves pay Boras and Rodriguez what they want.