In 2004, with a miraculous comeback against the rival New York Yankees, a beat down of the St. Louis Cardinals and one last pitch, stab and toss from Keith Foulke, the Boston Red Sox exorcised 86 years of frustration by capturing the World Series title and the hearts of a nation.
With another comeback against the up and coming Cleveland Indians, a slaughtering of the Colorado Rockies, and one last 94 mph fastball from Jonathan Papelbon, the 2007 version of the Boston Red Sox captured their second title in four years and put the final bit of icing on that 2004 cake.
With the curse of the Bambino erased from memory, these Red Sox played with confidence and a refusal to believe that they were anything but the best.
Most of us grew up thinking we would never witness one, much less two titles in our lifetime. The cynical Sox fan was a staple in sports just as much as the brash Yankees fans who hid behind the fact that their teams were the only ones that could really afford a World Series. I guess it’s a new era to live in, this team has the making to be a contender for a long time. Bill Buckner, you were forgiven after 2004, now we’ll actually let you back into Fenway.
Even after being down three games to one against the Indians, you just had a sense that this team wasn’t going to let you down like the Sox of old. You just knew that Josh Beckett couldn’t lose game five. And after J.D. Drew belted out $14 million worth of a grand slam in the first inning of game six, well … quite frankly when J.D. Drew hits anything you know the bounces are going your way.
From April 18 on, this team had the look of champions. And not that old, beat-up champion coming back for one more shot at glory (or money, I’m looking at you Sylvester Stallone). These Sox had the look of well groomed contenders. They never stumbled, never gave way to the Yankees, never really gave the Red Sox Nation a reason to panic … which for a change, was actually kind of nice.
Straight through to Papelbon looking like a deranged psycho as Jason Varitek sprinted toward the mound on Sunday night, these weren’t the Idiots we loved of 2004. They were the rebels that gave their fans a reason to believe that maybe Hell could freeze over twice in a lifetime. (And just for bragging purposes, I would like to state that the Sox have more titles this millennium than the Yankees, just throwing it out there. Now who is cursed?)
It’s a new feeling in Beantown, and in the immortal words of Chazz Michael Michaels, this victory was as sweet as the cream pies the city is known for.
How they did it:
Well for starters, let’s throw these names that were acquired/ developed over the past two seasons.
Mike Lowell. The MVP protected Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz while they were slumping with his 21 HR, and more importantly his 120 RBI to solidify that middle part of the lineup. Simply put, Lowell made pitchers in the playoffs look even more ridiculous than a Britney Spears comeback attempt. (P.S. kids, her new album “Blackout” drops today.)
Josh Beckett. That was the most impressive playoff performance I have ever witnessed. This is why teams wanted him, he is even more unfazed by pressure than anyone.
Daisuke Matsuzaka. He got better as the playoffs went on. Remember, this guy was an MLB rookie this year. The makings of a dominant ace are all in order. He just needs to work on that whole air humping bit he does before he delivers a pitch.
Jonathan Papelbon. Does the guy even need caffeine? I swear you could power an entire city if he had an electrical output. He reminds me of Al Pacino in Scarface, So calm and composed, but then just goes freaking crazy. I honestly want him to start saying “SAY HELLO TO MY LITTLE FRIEND!!!” before he delivers every pitch. Also, name another player that is of non-Irish decent to have a river dancing Irish jig DVD coming out. (Chugs does not count)
J.D. Drew. For nine months I really wondered why we would pay $14 million for a career punchline like Drew. Then in October, it clicked. Pay attention A-Rod and Yankees fans alike, I would rather pay a guy $14 million to be average in the regular season and actually PERFORM when it counts in the postseason, than have it the other way around.
Now the staples from 2004:
Manny Ramirez. Sure his nonchalant attitude towards the Indians series might have ticked off more than a few people. But he’s just proving time and time again that Manny being Manny leads to postseason dominance. Also, I’ve come to the conclusion that I never want Manny to cut those dreds.
David Ortiz. The guy is just fun. Big Papi literally (and figuratively) ate up the competition, and drank more than a few bottles of champagne. Anyone see the guy get on top of the table in the clubhouse and douse everyone in there?
Curt Schilling. The old timer in perhaps his last go round with the Sox in the playoffs showed why he’s worth every penny. When it comes to the playoffs, Curt throws fire like Star Jones throws down anything edible.
Terry Francona. The Don. The Godfather, never leave Boston.
Top five things that annoy me in sports this week:
5. Joe Buck. After having to listen to his insufferable delivery through 11 Red Sox games, I am praying that ESPN gets the rights to the playoffs at some point in the near future.
4. Scott Boras. Was that really necessary? You are just showing that you and Alex Rodriguez have about as much class as Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out.” (Side note: I have a new theme song)
3. No squirrels. Still haven’t seen a squirrel water skiing on the news in about three and a half years, someone needs to change this.
2. New Era. Can anyone make a regular baseball hat anymore? By the time I finally realize what team is on the hat, I get a weird look from someone because I’ve been staring at their head for about five minutes, which is always fun to explain.
1. New England Patriots. Yup, two weeks in a row. Plain and simple, don’t really want any of your games televised anymore.