Thursday, October 28, 2004
I Hate to, BUT I Guess I've Gotta...
Give the credit where the credit is due. Congratulations to the Boston Red Sox, their players, management, Theo Epstein, all the players, and to all of the real Boston Red Sox fans. And I'm not talking about those fans who only show up during the playoffs. I'm not talking about the fans who show up when things are good. I mean those fans who don't miss a regular season game and haven't for five years. I mean the 50 year woman who has been a fan since 1960. I mean the 80 year old who can still tell you that Ted Williams is the best player he's ever seen. Those are the people that I feel really happy for. And those are the people I congratulate! Guys like Ben Jacobs! The people who frequent the Sons of Sam Horn message board! (And yes, people like Peter Gammons too!)
But even I, a guy who makes no bones about the Sox being my least favorite team in baseball (yes, I probably like the Red Sox less than the White Sox!), have to admit that the best team in baseball this year won the World Series. They won it! They went out and swept a very strong St. Louis Cardinals game.
How did they make things look so easy against the Cardinals? Sure, everyone talks about their offense, and rightfully so. It was a solid lineup one through nine with some quality depth. They had arguably the best leadoff hitter in baseball. The middle of their lineup is strong. And there is no easy out in the lineup. Guys take a lot of pitches and make the pitcher work hard to get them out. The offense is awesome!
Some will say that the offense is what overcame their eight errors in the first two games. I will agree that their offense out slugged the four errors they committed in Game 1. But after that, it was their pitching that won the World Series for them. In Game 2, Curt Schilling (who should not have been pitching) gave the team six four-hit innings and allowed just one unearned run. In Game 3, Pedro Martinez went seven three-hit shutout innings. In Game 4, Derek Lowe continued his impressive postseason with seven three-hit, no-run innings. Yes, you can win games with a strong offense, but you win playoff games and more importantly series with strong pitching.
I told a few people in the last few days that the Cardinals had four very good starting pitchers in Matt Morris, Jeff Suppan, Woody Williams and Jason Marquis. But they are not 'aces.' They are probably all #3 and #4 types of pitchers. I also believe that Danny Haren showed that he will be a key pitcher for the Cardinals in 2005. Those kinds of pitchers will get hit by a lineup the caliber of the Red Sox. I would still contend that the Cardinals lineup is every bit as good as the Red Sox. The difference, however, was that they had to hit against two ace-like pitchers (Schilling and Martinez) and a former ace who pitched like one in the playoffs (Lowe).
The Cardinals do deserve a lot of credit for their incredible season. Sure, Scott Rolen was 0-15 in the World Series. Yes, Jim Edmonds was almost as bad! But both had MVP-caliber seasons that should not be overlooked because of a small-sample four game series against these pitchers. Albert Pujols is their best player and he proved it again. I was immensely impressed by his play at 1B. The addition of Larry Walker added another level to the incredible Cardinals lineup! But then the likes of Tony Womack, Reggie Sanders, Mike Matheny, Yadier Molina, John Mabry, and more all contributed mightily to the team that led the Major Leagues with 105 regular season wins. So, don't forget just how good this team was.
But now it's all about the Red Sox. I am very happy for David Ortiz. He got the World Series going in the right direction for the Sox when he hit a 3-run homer in the first inning of Game 1. He continued to hit well.
Johnny Damon is awesome and what a great year he had. His game-starting home run again set the stage for the Red Sox in Game 4.
Manny Ramirez, my least favorite star in baseball... OK, I don't want to write about him either. But I do have a lot of respect for what this man can do with a baseball bat. He has such a sweet right handed swing. He doesn't have an upper-cut, just a technically perfect swing. And he hits for average, and he hits for power. Yes, he is aloof and seemingly doesn't know the magnitude of anything that is going on except in his own little world, but maybe that's a good thing. Maybe he doesn't realize how big the World Series is, and maybe that's why he always looks so calm at the plate. (unless a pitcher throws one within about 4 feet of his head) I have had a couple of people tell me that I am too hard on his defense... I can't back down from that now. As a few more people asked me, "Why do they use Gabe Kapler as a defensive replacement for Trot Nixon? Why don't they replace Manny Ramirez instead?" I can't answer that. But I do have to give Manny his due. He hit over .400 in the World Series and was named the series MVP. He is one heck of a great hitter!
How about Jason Varitek? Good hitter. Great defensive catcher!
How about Orlando Cabrera? As I've said, maybe he's not Nomar Garciaparra, but maybe for the Red Sox, that's a good thing. Cabrera solidified the most important defensive position in the infield. He also hit a little bit.
How about Bill Mueller? After winning the batting title last year, Mueller came down to earth. And sure, he had the three errors in Game 2, but he came back with some great plays in Game 3 and Game 4.
How about Mark Bellhorn? Yeah, he strikes out a lot, but does that really seem to matter to anyone any more? He is decent on defense. And, look at Game 4. Three walks. He gets on base, and that is very important to a team, specifically the Red Sox.
How about Trot Nixon? He was hurt much of the season with a bad back, but he came back and contributed mightily in the playoffs. And, in Game 4, Nixon had three big doubles.
And how about those right-side defensive replacements? (Gabe Kapler in RF, Doug Mientkiewicz at 1B and Pokey Reese at 2B) Those guys are almost as important as a closer. When those guys come in, the defense becomes strong and can help protect a lead.
And speaking of closers... how good was Keith Foulke again in this series. Fastball. Changeup. Both great pitches. He was able to pitch in three games in this series and close the door! The Red Sox whole bullpen pitched great after Game 1. Alan Embree, Mike Timlin, and Bronson Arroyo. And don't forget how important Arroyo was to the Red Sox success during the regular season!! He went into the playoffs as the team's number three starter. He struggled and Derek Lowe started pitching like he can.
Theo Epstein deserves a lot of credit (along with Bill James and his other advisors). It was gutsy to move a player with as much talent as Nomar Garciaparra. But because of that move, the team got Orlando Cabrera, Doug Mientkiewicz and Dave Roberts. Epstein brought in Curt Schilling. He took a shot with Mark Bellhorn and Pokey Reese. And, if we're being honest, a lot of the success this year was brought in by Epstein a year ago and he kept the right players this year. Guys like Bill Mueller, Kevin Millar and David Ortiz were signed and retained. Epstein deserves a lot of credit and it will be very interesting to see what he does this offseason as so many of this team's players will shortly become free agents.
Terry Francona, like every manager on good teams with caring fans, faced a lot of criticism and second guessing throughout the year and even more throughout the playoffs. His job is probably fairly easy. I mean, you and I could figure out how to put that lineup together. But he kept this team together well. He used his role players perfectly. Managers take too much heat for some of their decisions (ask Ron Gardenhire or Grady Little), but when a team has this many players (and this many players with such huge egos!), a manager deserves a lot of credit.
Is it just me, or is this Red Sox team very similar to those Yankees championship teams in the late '90s? Each team had its fair share of stars in the lineup and on the mound. Both teams had a dominant closer. But each team has those guys that fit a team concept and are thrilled to be fulfilling their role. They may not be All-Stars, but they give everything to team. Guys like Bill Mueller, Kevin Millar and Trot Nixon compare favorably to the likes of Scott Brosius, Paul O'Neill and Tino Martinez.
Oh, there is one positive to come out of this result in the World Series. Maybe we will finally stop hearing so much about the stupid 'Curse of the Bambino.' I never bought or believed in it anyway, but I know a lot of people truly did. However, now that the Red Sox have won the World Series for the first time since 1918, talk of the Curse should be gone! For good! Forever! And for that, I will be happy!
So yeah, I hate the Red Sox! I certainly wanted the Cardinals to win the World Series. But, if nothing else, it does make me look smart. Take a look back at my preseason World Series prediction from Opening Day! I got the winner right, and I was one game from getting their opponent right too.
10.) World Series? Boston Red Sox over the Houston Astros
One final thought... I just don't understand fans taking it to the streets when their city's team wins a championship. I don't get it! Yes, they're happy that their team one. And, in this case, their team won for the first time in 86 years. But what right does that give them to do illegal things? Why does that make arson and looting suddenly OK? I understand being happy, but why do alleged "fans" feel the need to do stupid things because of this?
First, the fans had absolutely nothing to do with the win! Sure, they were sitting at a bar watching the game and cheering. But they did nothing to help the team win. So why do they feel that they can make idiots out of themselves? Why can they start burning cars and making a mess of their city. Alcohol? Certainly it plays its role. But I know not everyone out there is drunk, and yet they feel somehow entitled to do these illegal acts.
Anyway, enough of that! Congratulations to the Boston Red Sox. To David Ortiz. Even David McCarty. And yes, even to Doug Mientkiewicz.
Any thoughts on the Red Sox World Series championship, your thoughts on the players, the team, the organization or anything, please e-mail me.
Red Sox Blogs
Sons of Sam Horn message board
Curse of the Bambino
Boston Dirt Dogs
El Guapo's Ghost
The Joy of Sox
The Remy Report
Red Sox Haven
East Coast Agony
And that is it for today! Pretty short and to the point. Have yourself a great day! If you have any questions, comments or ideas for future topics, please e-mail me.
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