October 22, 2007

The Red Sox Did It Again

The great teams, in any sport, have a switch they turn on when their backs are against the wall, when they are facing elimination, when there is no tomorrow. The Boston Red Sox have that switch. Down three games to one to the Cleveland Indians in the ALCS, they turned it on.

The Boston Red Sox are a great team, and they’ve gone and done it again. For the Fenway faithful, it’s another monumental comeback that sends their beloved Red Sox to their second World Series in four years.

Another great op-ed by Will Leitch in the New York Times about how the Red Sox are no longer a tragic baseball team forced to deal with curses and condemned to forever be the loser (that would be the Toronto Maple Leafs). No, the Boston Red Sox are just winners.

Must be nice.

As special and remarkable as the Sox’s comeback was in 2004, this one was right up there with it. Just like 2004, I didn’t see it coming. This year’s version of the Red Sox didn’t look like a team that was going to make it happen. They didn’t look like the loosey-goosey “idiots” from 2004 who staged one of the greatest comebacks in baseball history. They didn’t have the characters like Johnny Damon and Kevin Millar, guys who were going to “cowboy up” and get the job done. Although Big Papi and Manny Ramirez were hitting the lights out of, well, everything, there seemed to be too many questions in regards to everyone else.

After another dominant effort from Josh Beckett in game five to send the series back to beautiful Fenway Park, there seemed to be life in the Red Sox yet.

But the questions, they were still on my mind.

Was Curt Schilling going to paint blood on his sock and win another crucial game six with his team facing elimination? Was he ready to accept that he must change his approach because he doesn’t have the stuff to dominate anymore? Was J.D. Drew ever going to do anything to justify that mammoth contract? Was Coco Crisp finally going to be forced to grab some pine? If they did force game seven, would Dice-K have enough gas in the tank?

Well, all of those questions were answered. With an emphatic yes.

Schilling got the win and improved to 4-0 with a 1.37 ERA in five starts when his team is facing elimination. J.D. Drew hit a grand slam to make sure there was going to be a game seven. Terry Francona finally benched Coco Crisp. And Dice-K, although not dominant by any stretch of the imagination, got the win, and therefore got the job done, with some help from his countryman Hideki Okajima. Okajima’s been so huge for the Red Sox all year. As if getting Dice-K wasn’t enough, geez.

As a Jays fan, seeing the Red Sox advance is tough. If it’s not Evil Empire #1 the New York Yankees, it’s Evil Empire #2 the Boston Red Sox. Other than spending a gazillion dollars, what’s a team got to do to make the playoffs in the American League East? Bud Selig, throw me a freaking bone here.

What made it even more infuriating was seeing that little weasel Royce Clayton, the former and might I add super-pathetic Blue Jay, celebrating in the Red Sox dugout and clubhouse like he’d been with Boston all year and contributed anything at all to their success (or was even on their playoff roster). Clayton's useless. What a tool.

But I digress.

It’s a Boston Red Sox and Colorado Rockies World Series and if you saw that one coming, well, you’re just lying. So stop it.

A lot was made of Manny Ramirez’s comments after the Red Sox went down 3-1, and how he said it “wasn’t the end of the world” if Boston lost the series. I agree, it wouldn’t have been the end of the world, but I wasn’t too pleased with Manny’s comments. He was chastised for not caring enough but you wouldn’t know it when he stepped to the plate with his .400 batting average.

In the aftermath of the comeback, some are saying that it was Ramirez’s comments that loosened up the Red Sox. It was Manny who got them to stop worrying about their situation. It was Manny who got them to go out on to the field and just play baseball.

Give me a break - Manny isn’t that smart. It was, and I can’t believe I’m saying this, just Manny being Manny.

Wow. I feel all cheap and dirty.

A telling stat from games five, six and seven – the Red Sox outscored the Cleveland Indians 30-5, and Big Papi and Ramirez drove in only five of those runs. It was the other guys who stepped up – the Pedroia’s, the Youuuuuuuuuuuuuuuukilis’s, and, unfathomably, the J.D. Drew’s.

What can you say about the Cleveland Indians? They’ve got a heck of a ball club, but their big boys didn’t show up when it mattered most. Grady Sizemore, Casey Blake and Travis Hafner, especially, are going to have a long off-season. Like the CBC Hockey Night in Canada song goes – “for the chance may never come again.”

And how about that poor idiot Ryan Garko? After game five a confident Garko had a severe brain cramp and told the media “the champagne tastes just as good on the road as it does at home.”

That lovely little quote ended up taped on the back of Boston’s clubhouse door at Fenway.

Way to go, Garko! I wonder how the champagne's going to taste in his basement.

It was a fantastic series, and the 11-2 final in game seven does not tell the story of how close the game really was.

I can’t find it in me, however, to say that the Cleveland Indians choked. The Boston Red Sox, like all great teams do when pushed to the brink, simply turned on the switch…