Well despite the best efforts of Major League baseball, and the help of the baseball gods, the Tampa Bay Rays will go back to St Pete’s empty handed. The Phillies played great, they out-pitched and out hit the hapless Rays, and the Phillies have now earned thier first World Championship in 28 years. Congrats to the Phillies and thier fans.
After a string of lucky breaks, the Rays head back to Tampa with thier tales between thier legs. The Rays were embarassed in this World Series, and will have to examine if they really have what it takes to win bigtime baseball games. The Rays were the clear favorites, make no mistake about, they had home field advantage throughout the playoffs, and they clearly were the superior team, except where it mattered…on the field.
This all may sound like bitterness from a Sox fan, and in small part it is, however the facts are what they are. The Rays did not play the same schedule the Red Sox did over the course of the season, thier schedule was by far one of the easiest in MLB. With that great advantage, they still only barely won the American League East, in a year where the Yankees did not contend. The Sox sustained massive injuires to every facet of thier game, and yet they still managed to finish two games back of the Rays for the season, and one game short in the ALCS.
The Sox drew the best team in baseball in the ALDS, while the Rays drew a gassed White Sox team that had to exhaust every resource they had just to make the playoffs. The White Sox had to use thier top three starters just to get to game one of the ALDS, where they faced a rested Tampa team. Clearly this was advantage for the Rays, as they never faced the top of the White Sox rotation. In the ALCS the Rays faced a Sox team that was sans Mike Lowell, and a healthy Josh Beckett, and an ailing JD Drew. Despite all the Sox set-backs, they were still able to force a game seven, after being down 3-1. The Sox won 2 out of four games in the Trop, or the house that Wade Boggs built.
Before everyone proclaims the Rays the next dynasty in waiting, lets take a breath and really look at what they have accomplished. Not a lot in my book, they almost gagged an ALCS they clearly had against a team that was wounded. Then they get destroyed in the World Series against a National League that boasted Jamie Moyer and American League cast-off Joe Blanton in thier rotation. Whenever a team clearly better than the other fails to win it has to be considered a failure. There are no points for second, no honorable mention, especially not for teams that gag away thier advantages.
So now that the electric feeling of watching the Red Sox win thier second World Championship in four years has soaked in, its reflection time. For me the elation of watching the Sox win this year was unbelievable, however it was not quite as sweet as 2004. By comparison it’s the difference between Christmas Day and Christmas Eve, so not much of a difference. However the beauty of that year, was we got to stick to the Yankees, in historic fashion no less. That year had so many heroic moments, so much tension, it was almost too much too watch. There were so many moments along the way that season, and in the post-season, it’s hard to name them all. The two walk-off winners in Fenway on back-to-back nights in extra innings is a good place to start.
So many things had to go right for the Sox in the ALCS against the Yankees, it just seemed so mathmatically impossible for them all to happen in the same series. I’m not quite sure what was more fun, watching the Beantown Bombers win those games, or watching the Yankee fan base squirm. Watching the Sox clinch, and dance around like the idiots they were, in the house that Ruth built was to surreal for words to express.
No matter how many titles the Sox go on to win (it’s going to be alot), none will take the place of that first one in 86 years. Nor will all the heroes from that team, that may be gone, but not forgotten. The Mark Belhorn’s, the Keith Foulke’s, Dave Roberts, or Bill Mueller and Kevin Millar. Players who played far beyond their wildest expectations that fateful October. No matter how far we are from that World Series, it will never be forgotten, not by Red Sox fans, or Yankee fans. It was the October that the Red Sox re-wrote baseball history, and turned the Yankees into one of the most disappointing franchises of the new century. It was also the October that forever tagged the Yankees with the "greatest choke in the history of sport". No matter what the Yanks go on to do, they can never take that back, nor can any Yankee fan escape the constant jokes at thier expense due to this historic collapse. Oh yeah, and no matter how much time passes, I will never get tired of telling the tale of the 2004 Boston Red Sox !
So it seems we are back to the business of baseball, wow it sure didn’t take long. Between A-Rod opting out and the national drama that was the Yankees search for a manager, it seems the talk of the Sox 2nd title in four years was just another 24 hour news cycle story. Today on WEEI Curt Schilling said he did not expect to be back in a Boston uniform, if that true, it is supremely disappointing.
We all knew that Schilling was pitching for his job this year, but all he was looking for was a one year deal, at MLB wal-mart type pricing. To me, Schilling earned this deal in spring training, but Red Sox brass saw it differently. Schilling was hurt some this year, but when he pitched he was just as effective as every Red Sox pitcher not named Josh Beckett. ****, have we forgotten it was Schilling that stopped a three game slide in Oakland by pitching 8 and 2/3 innings of perfect baseball. A game, that at the time, ended a funk that the Sox had been in, and got them started again.
The thing about Schilling is that he has that X-factor, that you can’t coach. He has the ability to man up, when he and his team needs it most. This post-season was a great example of that. Schilling started four games for the Sox this postseason, going 3-0, with an e.r.a. right at 3.00. Schilling again bailed the Sox out of a jam, by shutting down the Indians in a loser go home match in the ALCS. Schill also pitched great in the World Series this year, in a crucial game two, where two runs of support was all he got.
Of course we can’t forget what Schilling did for us against the Yankees in 2004 and 2005. We all remember the bloody sox in the ALCS and the World Series, but alot of people forget it was Schilling who pitched the last regular season game of the 2005 season. It was a game the Sox had to have to get into the wild-card that year. It was a game against the Yanks, whom were fighting for home field advantage in the playoffs that year. Theo Epstein has made alot of great moves as G.M. of the Red Sox, he has also made more bad ones. His best move was 4 years ago, when he brought a brash pitcher back from the Arizona desert. Funny thing, the Red Sox had not won a World Series in 86 years before the arrival of Curt Schilling, and they have won 2 in four years. For once I hope a team rewards a player who has said and done the right things, and honored the game with his play everytime he takes the mound.
There have many points along the way this season that Dice-K has been called upon to be the 103 million man that he is. For the most part Dice-K has not lived up to those expectations. He has been real average this post-season, to go along with his helter-skelter season. I know Dice-K won 15 games this season, however had he pitched for about 25 other teams in baseball, we would be looking at a guy that had a record of around 10-16 or something in that range. There has been many starts that Dice-K could not offer much more than being a long reliever. This was never more evident than last Sunday in game seven of the ALCS, when the Sox were thrilled Dice-K had gone five innings. His game seven victory last week was very much like most of his wins, the Sox won despite him, and the team pretty much had to do all the heavy lifting.
Tonight Dice-K has a chance to be the man, show the Sox, and Red Sox Nation, that thier pitching tonight and for the future is secure in his unsure hands. Dice-K could go a long way tonight to erasing the sting of his crappy and mediocre season, much like J.D. Drew did with one swing of the bat in game six of the ALCS. I don’t expect much tonight from Dice-K, I hope he can go five or six and leave the Sox a chance to win. The funny thing about Dice-K is, the word HOPE is used an awful lot about a guy the Sox spent a small fortune to attain.