Gentle readers, your gracious (and I use that word generously) host, SR has requested that I put down some thoughts about the recent Red Sox victory. What follows is an assortment of thoughts, feelings, and general rants about the improbable season of the 2004 Boston Red Sox, and what lies ahead for us and Theo Epstein, our numbers-crunching, boy-wonder GM....
On Wednesday, October 27, 2004, the Boston Red Sox pulled off what I consider to be the greatest sports victory I have ever witnessed in my young 29 years of life on this earth. With a simple throw from Foulke to Mientkiewicz (my hands hurt writing this last name), 86 years of pain was wiped away. Generations of Red Sox fans have lived and died, without ever seeing this day, yet I was able to see it. How I wished I was in Boston, reveling with the throngs of fans that crowded Yawkey Way, crying, laughing, hugging each other, and screaming at the tops of our lungs. Such is the power of Red Sox Nation (RSN), and while I was unable to be in Boston, here's a brief run-down of my life starting when we were down 3-0 to the MFY (use your imagination and figure out what this acronym stands for) to that final out to finish our sweep against the Cards.
Game 3 of the ALCS was particularly painful to watch, given the fact that we were playing within the confines of that hollowed ground known as Fenway Park. Not only did we lose, we got our butts handed to us, and our only hope was Derek Lowe, a starter who had been demoted to the bullpen, and really had not made much of an appearance for us in the playoffs. Lowe and behold, he came through for us, and Big Papi (David Ortiz) absolutely crushed the ball in the 12th. The minute that ball sailed into the bleachers, RSN's collective emotions soared high again, as we had Pedro "I want to be like Rick James" Martinez and Curt "What the hell, just suture my tendon and let me pitch while soaking my sock with blood" Schilling slated to appear in Games 5 and 6. If only we could get to Game 7, perhaps we had a chance.... Certainly history was not on our side, yet with every victory, one could feel the momentum shifting, and the Yankees breaking apart like Kevin Brown's hand. Those marathon games sucked the life out of the Yankees bit by bit, yet you could see the bitchiness rise in them, especially starting with A-Fraud's pansy-ass, bitch-slap incident. The whole "What Did I Do Wrong?!?!?" look on his face, when the world clearly saw the incident was the epitome of the New York Yankees. A team that was crafted to win a world series was now acting like a spoiled child who just found out that he wasn't getting jack squat for Christmas. Do I consider the 2004 ACLS the World Series of 2004? Simply put, yes. Without disrespecting the Cards, the juggernaut that arose from Papi's blast in Game 4 was just too strong. I don't care which team the NL put up against the Sox, I'm convinced that the same fate would have occurred to them, but of course, this is speaking after the fact. Getting back to the fact....
Game 4 of the World Series was a gut-wrenching experience for me. Memories of Bucky "Bleeping" Dent, Bill Buckner, and a whole plethora of Red Sox collapses swam through my head the entire game. Frequent imbibing of Budweiser was certainly not helping my mood, despite the fact that we held a lead going into the 9th inning. Predictably, my mood became darker and darker, to the point where I was absolutely convinced that The Satan of Swat was going to raise his head anytime now and just give us all the shaft. My only consoling fact was the simple thought that if we lost, we'd have another 3 games left to at least try to win, or continue to get shafted which would be par for the course. Fast forward to three outs left, Foulke (by the way, thank you Oakland for letting him go last year) on the mound, runner on second, two outs....
It all happened in slow motion:
The weak dribbler by Rentiera straight to Foulke (oh, shit, he's going to bobble it.... he doesn't!), the throw to first (jeez, he's going to throw it somewhere other than to Mientkiewicz.... he doesn't!), the catch (oh, Lord, just let the mother@#$er catch it, I swear I'll do anything you ask of me... HE CATCHES IT!)
I just stood there in silence, with a small smile on my face, and my immediate thought was of my father. He was somewhere in Los Angeles with my family celebrating like he had never celebrated before. For a brief insight on the meaning of the Red Sox to their fans and to me, check out the Sons of Sam Horn thread at http://p086.ezboard.com/fsonsofsamhornsoshboneyard.showMessageRange?topicID=83.topic&start=701&stop=720 and scroll down to "lurker BoSoxFaninDC" I had always said that more than anything, I wanted just one World Series victory for my dad during his lifetime. Once I realized that this wish had been granted, I quite frankly started tearing up, while receiving congratulations from my friends who were watching the game with me. Suffice to say, it truly felt like a tremendous weight had been lifted from my shoulders, and the beer really started to flow like never before. Hell had indeed frozen over, and every member of the Nation could sleep well that night.
Now, it's almost two weeks later, and questions have to be answered by management and the Nation with regards to the 2005 season. Certainly, one of the things that drove the Nation was The Curse, and now that it has been lifted, what does RSN have to keep us together? In all honesty, the thing that keeps fans together as a team is simply the fact that any fan base has something in common. What the Nation had in common was not just the Curse, but the fact that we were Boston Red Sox fans. We still hate the MFY, and we still will crowd Yawkey Way before and after every home game. Dads will still bring their kids to Fenway for that glorious experience, and the crack of the bat will still resonate among the chants of "LETS GO RED SOX". Screw the curse, the Nation isn't going anywhere as long as the Red Sox are still around.
On a much more complicated matter, what do we do with our free agents? Certainly, some would argue that we owe it try and bring back the whole team for another go at the World Series. Unfortunately, the feel-good reasons do not outweigh the practical reasons, and baseball is certainly a business. In short order, we need to do the following:
· Re-sign Varitek, there is no question that he's the leader of the clubhouse (think back to him clocking A-Fraud), and he works very well with the pitchers
· Make a reasonable offer to Pedro, and by reasonable, I mean he's going to have to take some kind of pay cut. He is not the same pitcher he used to be, and I don't think he'll last another 5 years. He wants a long term contract, but the Red Sox shouldn't give it to him. A two year contract, with an option for the third year looks good to me.
· -D-Lowe will probably get a huge contract offer from a team considering his recent playoff performance. Should we match it? Nope. He's been very inconsistent, and while he certainly came through big for us, he could have also imploded in a huge way. Sometimes it's best to say good-bye, this is one player whose time has arrived.
· Trade Trot Nixon for pitching. Trot has been a valuable member, but he's expendable. Getting a Carl Pavano type pitcher, while losing Trot would not hurt us at all.
· -Let Orlando Cabrera go. We have Hanley Ramirez, one of the top prospects at shortstop in the minors. He's not ready to come up yet, but predictions are that he'll be ready to go in 2006. If we can get Barry Larkin for cheap, it'll be a good deal in our favor.
· -The bullpen is fine, but we need to shore up our starting pitching. Clearly, if anything is to be learned from the 2004 playoffs, it's that good pitching will almost always beat good hitting. Rumors have it that the A's are dangling their Big Three, I'd take a close look at all three of them and would probably take either Zito or Hudson.
I'd certainly like to see a repeat of 2004 next year, and the year after that, and so on and so forth. However, I DO NOT want to see us become like the MFY, and just throw money all over the place for old, overpriced free agents. We need to cultivate our home-grown talent, and make smart, well thought out moves which address the team's needs, not the needs of a meddlesome owner. Let the Boy-Wonder do his work, he hasn't fucked up yet, and I doubt he'll make any really bad moves. The Sox will be major players for years to come; it's how we do it that will dictate the rest of MLB's perspective of us.
In closing, a few items must be addressed.... First of all, now that Johnny Damon has won, what will he do?!?!?! All indications point toward him getting married, and patrolling centerfield again for us next year. I have absolutely no complaints with that. Secondly, does my lovely fiance' get a reprieve, or will she have to endure year after year of my ranting and raving? Unfortunately, as the future wife of a devout Red Sox fan, she'll have to put up with my antics for as long as I live and breathe. However, I suppose I could tone it down for the next year, but after that, anything goes. If SR allows me to continue to contribute to this website, I'll keep you posted on this. Thirdly, if you look to SR's rant dated 9/7/04, you'll note that he says that: "I believe that Fenway Park is the most beautiful building I have ever seen." Yes, it was I who brought SR to Fenway and introduced him to the joys of going to a Sox game in Boston. Could it be a mere coincidence that SR's first time at Fenway also leads to the Sox winning it all??? Let's just say that I hope to go back there with him next summer, and if we win it all again, then he's got no choice, but to keep going every year. Let all Fenway Franks be forewarned!
Lastly, screw all these chants of "1918", I can't wait to walk into Yankee Stadium next year, with all my Red Sox gear on, and scream "2000" at them. This year belonged to RSN, and to its legions of fans. I'm damn proud to be one of those fans.