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They're a made-for-TV bunch, a motley crew of misfits that make any Real World cast look dull. Pedro and his Mini-Me, Johnny Damon clipping his toenails in the dugout during Game 3 of the ALCS, Manny simply being Manny: Even Mark Burnett couldn't have put together the 2004 Red Sox.
Boston players sat around Yankee Stadium's cramped visitors' clubhouse before Game 7 of the ALCS watching Miracle, the Kurt Russell movie about the 1980 U.S. men's gold-medal hockey team. Years from now, what teams will be watching the movie about the 2004 Red Sox for similar inspiration? And who would make a better Johnny Damon: Jim Caviezel or Captain Caveman?
A friend of the Blog's (F.O.B.) wondered this last week, which got us thinking: What would the cast of Papi & the Idiots: The Story of the 2004 Red Sox look like?
MEL GIBSON as Curt Schilling
If you just want a straight-up lookalike, Jeff Daniels is your guy. But Mad Max has played Mad Max, William Wallace, Martin Riggs and the angry dad in Ranson. No one knows how to portray pain and anguish better.
BRUCE WILLIS as Terry Francona
No hair and makeup crew needed here.
SAMUEL L. JACKSON as Pedro Martinez
Just because there hasn't been a more memorable character with a jheri curl since Pulp Fiction's Jules Winnfield.
BERNIE MAC as David Ortiz
B-Mac did great as the fun-lovin', left-handed swinging superstar with tons of personality in Mr. 3000.
RUPERT FROM SURVIVOR as Johnny Damon
If Rupert's booked, Captain Caveman will do.
DREW BLEDSOE as Nomar Garciaparra
Who better to play the superstar the Red Sox were better without?
KRUSTY THE CLOWN as Manny Ramirez
Similar goofiness, though Krusty is the slightly superior fielder.
HALEY JOEL OSMENT as Theo Epstein
The Sixth Sense was a while ago -- Osment must be about Epstein's age by now.
BEN AFFLECK as Ben Affleck
Shouldn't be a problem with availability here. Have you seen the trailers for his new movie, Surviving Christmas? This was the best he could come up with after Gigli?
Submit a comment or question for Albert.
As oddball and different as each player is, the Red Sox genuinely seem as if they get along like no other team in baseball. There are more hugs in the dugout after a sacrifice fly than in an hour of Dr. Phil. In late July, when the Red Sox were trailing the Yankees by double digits in the standings and had a worse record than the White Sox, I asked Kevin Millar what reason there was to believe that his team would turn things around. "I believe in this team because I believe in the guys here. We've got a great bunch of guys here that are just going to keep playing hard," he said. "We've got the right chemistry to turn this around."
I've never been a real believer in chemistry and have always thought that winning breeds good team chemistry, not the other way around. As Dennis Rodman once said about the Bulls' championship teams, "Chemistry is a class you take in high school or college where you figure out two plus two is 10 or something." In some cases, good chemistry can be easy to identify -- the cast of Seinfeld had it; the cast of Coupling didn't -- but what exactly does it mean in sports? The Red Sox hug a lot when they hit home runs -- does that mean they have good chemistry?
But if by good chemistry people are referring to a grouping of similar-minded personalities, then perhaps there is something there. While the Red Sox clubhouse have more hairstyles than in an episode of Queer Eye, most of them seem to be fairly like-minded spirits. They are a loose, carefree bunch that like to hug.
Team chemistry shouldn't be used as a reason why a good team failed. The Dodgers' trade of catcher Paul Lo Duca to the Marlins was met with harsh criticism from baseball cognoscenti who cited the trade as a serious disruption to the team's chemistry. Lo Duca's leadership and motivational skills were suddenly referred to so often that Lo Duca seemed like baseball's version of Deepak Chopra. The Dodgers, of course, still made the postseason -- for the record, the Dodgers were 60-42 (.588 winning percentage) before Lo Duca's departure and 33-27 (.550) after he left -- but ultimately stumbled not because of Lo Duca's absence but mostly because Brad Penny, one of the pitchers they got from the Marlins, missed the postseason with a right biceps injury.
The Red Sox, of course, traded purported clubhouse cancer Garciaparra to the Cubs and improved after his departure. The Red Sox were 56-46 (.549) when the deal was struck, and was 42-18 (.700) post-Nomar. As we saw from the dysfunctional L.A. Lakers from this past playoffs, poor chemistry can make what should be a great team merely good; the 2004 Red Sox may turn out to be proof that good chemistry can make a good team great. On paper, the Red Sox are as good as anyone, with as relentless a lineup as any other team. But to do what this team did against the Yankees required something a little more extraordinary.
Which brings us to some thoughts on Game 3. If you're a Red Sox fan, don't start casting your Red Sox movie just yet. Two reasons to like the Cardinals tonight:
1) Cardinals pitchers have looked badly overmatched against Red Sox hitters. (Most amazing stat from Games 1 and 2: Cardinals pitchers threw 356 pitches in the two games. Red Sox hitters swung and missed at just 18 pitches.) But tonight the Cards are starting Jeff Suppan, their most reliable pitcher in the postseason with a 2.84 ERA in three starts. He was the winner in the clinching victory in both the division series and NLCS, where he beat Houston's Roger Clemens, and should be able to give St. Louis at least six decent innings and keep the offense within striking distance of the Red Sox.
2) The Cardinals should rediscover their mojo at home. Albert Pujols, Scott Rolen and Jim Edmonds won't go 4-for-23 with one RBI over a two-game stretch during this series again. If there is truly a ballpark that offers home-field advantage, it's Busch. The Cardinals were an NL-best 53-28 at home, and 6-0 there in the postseason. Because of the city's terrific fans, Busch Stadium is one of the most thrilling places to watch a baseball games. With most of the Cardinals faithful in the crowd donning red sweatshirts and jerseys, Busch glows at night like an oversized Christmas ornament and rocks like a Springsteen concert.
So the Series shifts from one great baseball town to another. How can St. Louis top Steven Tyler? The Red Sox served lobster and steak in the media dining room -- what will the Cardinals offer ... ribs? Will the Red Sox be coming back to Fenway? A Sox fan, in the checkout line at my hotel Monday, said, "I hate to say it, but I kind of hope they lose two out of three in St. Louis so they can come home where they can party the right way."
Another overheard conversation, on a T in Boston over the weekend: "This guy I know, rich guy, paid 20 grand for his ticket." "Nice." "Yeah." Pause. "If you think about it, that's actually worth it."
I was about to offer the guys $20,000 for my media credential (We can walk over to the Staples near the ballpark and easily white out my name, I'd tell them) but then I quickly realized there actually wasn't a place I'd rather be on Sunday night than Fenway Park.