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WS: Just Another Ring
The Boston Red Sox are now just another team that wins championships.
Professional sports teams are defined by winning titles. Boston was one of baseball's first premier organizations, winning five of the first 15 World Series. Its 2004 title erased the so-called curse and restored the Red Sox to normal franchise status. The wearied jeers of "19-18!" disappeared in '04 because, after all, 1918 suddenly signified nothing more than another year Boston won the a title.
And the 2007 World Series win places Boston firmly atop 21st century baseball.
The Sox aren't used to being the best at anything, save chokes, heartbreak, men left on base and that season in 1989 when John Dopson balked 15 times. Last night proved that '04 wasn't a feel-good fluke: the Sox are a great baseball team. Two championships in four years can change a lot.
While the '04 team was built to win that year, with hungry, aging veterans like Mark Bellhorn and Bill Mueller playing key roles, the '07 squad might be around for a while. All four starting pitchers earned wins, and only one is older than 27. J.D. Drew, Julio Lugo and Daisuke Matsuzaka, who many think underperformed their big contracts, all played well in the World Series and are locked in for several more years. Curt Schilling has repeatedly said he wants to return for one more season, and that's all Manny Ramirez has left on his deal, so the Sox can still make another run with them before finding new veteran cogs.
Priority No. 1 needs to be re-signing Mike Lowell. Excuse me, World Series MVP Mike Lowell. GM Theo Epstein has done well in not offering contracts with too many years to past-their-prime veterans like Johnny Damon and Pedro Martinez, but Lowell might have just reached his prime, as odd as that is for a 33-year-old. He was an essential part of that lineup this year, even if he was originally a trade throw-in. That's changed. As one friend quipped in jest last night, "Remember when the Sox got Josh Beckett in that Lowell trade?"
I can already predict the major theme of 2008 spring training headlines: Can the Red Sox win another and become a dynasty?
The Boston Red Sox? A dynasty?
Labels: Rockies-Red Sox
WS: It's Over Before It's Over
Your World Series champions might just be the Pawtucket Red Sox.
Maybe Manny Ramirez was onto something when, as reported in a great New Yorker feature this spring, he demanded a trade from Boston to Pawtucket.
A youth movement? In Boston? It’s true: The story of last night’s game was undoubtedly the contributions of Boston’s kids, leading off with the leadoff hitter, Jacoby Ellsbury. Just 24 years old and with only 116 major-league regular season at bats under his belt —he spent most of the year at Triple A Pawtucket —Ellsbury went 4-for-5 with three doubles, two RBIs and two runs in setting the table for fellow 24-year-old Dustin Pedroia, who chipped in a 3-for-5, double and two-RBI night.
It was too fitting that Game 3 was played on the three-year anniversary of Oct. 27, 2004, the night that changed lives of Red Sox fans forever.
The remaining stalwarts from the ‘04 team didn’t do much last night. David Ortiz, Ramirez and Jason Varitek were a combined 2-for-12 with two RBIs, two runs and four strikeouts. Mike Timlin yielded two earned runs in two-thirds of an inning of relief.
Otherwise, the difference-makers were fresh faces like Ellsbury, Pedroia and, of course, Daisuke Matsuzaka. Hideki Okajima, dependable if not spectacular all season and playoffs, did allow a three-run homer but there were few other faults with the newcomers. Dice-K got the quick hook from Terry Francona but exceeded expectations not so much with his pitching (a solid two runs in 5.1 innings) but with his hitting, jumping on a first-pitch fastball for a two-RBI single. High comedy was the surprised look on first-base coach Luis Alicea’s face when he greeted Dice-K on the bag.
Undoubtedly – and deservedly – a major part of tonight’s story will be on Jon Lester’s return to baseball after beating cancer last year, even if the attention is a bit unwanted. When I chatted with Lester in July about his comeback for the magazine’s First Person interview series, all he hoped was this: “I want to go back to being normal.”
Certainly Lester seems to understand that the high-profile nature of his occupation grants him a credibility to help with the cause and give hope and inspiration particularly to children fighting cancer, but he earnestly wanted to be known as just another young pitcher in the Sox organization.
And, if his compatriots are any indication (see above), Lester shouldn’t have any problems.
Labels: Rockies-Red Sox
WS: It's still a Series
Was Game 1 proof that Boston will roll to a World Series crown? Are the Red Sox really that much better than the Rockies? Is the National League that much inferior to the American League?
No way, absolutely not and, well, maybe.
The NL certainly doesn't have the depth of teams and players as the AL currently enjoys -- and last night's series opener was played in Boston because the AL won the All-Star Game -- but the Rockies are as much a threat to win this series as they were yesterday.
Sure, the margin of Boston's victory was unexpectedly emphatic, but in no way does this change the complexion of the series. Anyone who might have picked Colorado in six or seven games would probably have sat down before the series, looked at a Game 1 in Fenway with Josh Beckett on the mound and tallied the opener into the column for expected Red Sox wins.
It may be troubling to see Rockies' ace Jeff Francis struggle mightily, and for Beckett to have maintained his postseason aura of invincibility (which will likely return in Game 5 and in relief in Game 7) and, most of all, to see the entirety of Boston's lineup contribute. David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez have been superhuman all postseason, but suddenly everyone else in the Sox' order is contributing, too.
Every starter, save Jacoby Ellsbury, contributed a hit, including multi-hit games from Manny, Papi, Kevin Youkilis, J.D. Drew, Jason Varitek and Julio Lugo. Those last three players batted .270, .255 and .237, respectively, during the regular season. Dustin Pedroia led off the game with a solo homer, very reminiscent of 2004, when the Sox scored in the first inning of all four World Series games. The Sox have now scored 43 runs in their last four games.
Colorado sends Ubaldo Jimenez to the mound tonight, he of the 89.2 career innings, but he's allowed just two earned runs in his two postseason starts, spanning 11.1 innings. He's a true power pitcher, hitting 100 mph often, which isn't something Boston has this season (C.C. Sabathia and Fausto Carmona throw hard, but not that hard). That could be a challenge for the Sox to speed up their bats, but patience will be the key -- Jimenez has walked eight already in the playoffs.
And patience will be key for everyone else, too. This World Series is far from over.
Labels: Rockies-Red Sox
WS: This is a hot ticket
One team has history -- and a $143 million payroll.
The other has a $54 million payroll -- and a Rockpile.
Both teams have momentum.
Neither has an effective ticketing system.
While the Red Sox, who play in historic but cramped Fenway, sold their sparse single-game World Series tickets through an online lottery, the Rockies chose to sell theirs through Rockies.com.
Colorado's site was bombarded by some 8.5 million hits over 90 minutes on Monday morning, all seeking to gobble up the 60,000 available tickets for Games 3, 4 and 5. In what should have been the Rockies' finest hour -- a celebration of their first-ever trip to the World Series -- they instead had to shut down the ticketing system with fewer than 500 tickets sold, wasting time for so many fans who took time off work to try their hand at getting tickets.
The Rockies attributed the meltdown to the result of an "external, malicious attack" by ticket brokers and scalpers, and they rebooted the system for noon (mountain time) yesterday. This time, the system worked -- with plenty of fans angered. The reality is that not everyone was going to get tickets, but having to try twice in vain certainly didn't help customer relations.
I logged on for an hour yesterday, five browser windows open, watching each window's timer count down from 120 to 1. Half the time, the program would restart counting at 120; the other half, it'd freeze at one. There's a disclaimer not to refresh because you'll lose your place in line, but a frozen screen didn't seem to be in the online ticketing queue either. So I strategized: leave two windows at 1, with hopes they are still in line and would get in, and refresh the other three, so that I'd at least feel better about watching the ticker move.
Neither plan worked.
The Sox face a no-win situation with so many season tickets and so few available seats, but the e-mail lottery hardly seems to work. I know plenty of Red Sox fans who try with a dozen e-mail addresses a piece, and no one has ever gotten tickets in any of their postseason lotteries.
So I guess Major League Baseball is looking really smart with its StubHub partnership right now. And don't worry, I had an e-mail from MLB.com sitting in my inbox this morning reminding me that I can still buy tickets through StubHub. Convenient, eh?
The whole matter of whether Tim Wakefield's knuckleball would work in thin air is moot: he was left off the World Series roster with his ailing shoulder. Kyle Snyder takes his place on the roster, though I'm sure most Boston fans hope he never sees the pitcher's mound -- except as a last resort over Eric Gagne.
This sets up a bizarre Game 4 pitching matchup of Jon Lester vs. Aaron Cook. Lester, who I had the pleasure of talking to this season for a magazine profile, is a great kid who overcame anaplastic large-cell lymphoma last season to return to the majors. He hasn't started a game since Sept. 26, but threw four simulated innings at Fenway yesterday, which seems to suggest he's on track for Game 4.
Lester at least has pitched in relief since then -- Colorado's Cook, the Opening Day starter, hasn't pitched at all since Aug. 10 with a strained rib cage but will get the ball.
The big question for tonight is, if the Rockies were to lose, is their magical streak over and can they rally? My money's on yes, but I still think it's Boston in seven.
Features on tonight's starters:
Labels: Rockies-Red Sox
AL East blog (Monday)
NL West blog (Monday)
AL Central blog (Tuesday)
NL Central blog (Wednesday)
AL West blog (Thursday)
NL East blog (Thursday)
Wild Card (Friday)