The Boston Red Sox 2004 Championship Run

It’s hard to believe it’s been a full decade since the Red Sox broke the dreaded Curse of the Bambino. Maybe two more titles in the decade made it seem as time went by quicker. I’m sure if you ask any White Sox fan, they’ll tell you it’s felt like 15 years since they last won, but for them it’s been just 9 years. The Boston Red Sox have won more World Series titles than anybody else since the turn of the Millennium, but if it wasn’t for the 2004 team, they may be going on year 97 of the curse.

St. Louis Cardinals Albert Pujols (R) exits the field as the Boston Red Sox celebrate

It was October 2003, I was certain the Red Sox were heading to the World Series for the second time in my life as they had just 5 more outs to get. Then Grady Little came out of the dugout. Pedro Stayed in. Aaron Bleepin’ Boone in the 11th inning ripped every heart out of every member of Red Sox Nation. That was it. The Red Sox might never get that close again, but when spring came, hope was renewed, and the thought of “Why Not Us?” came to Red Sox nation.

The team had a new skipper in Francona, a 2nd ace to pitcher after Pedro with Curt Schilling, and a top of the line closer with Keith Foulke. They started the season hot, then fell down to earth, and played mediocre baseball for the first half the season. The Yankees were once again running away with the division, and the Red Sox would have to fight with everything they had to get the Wild Card spot. Then Theo Epstein made the most important trade in franchise history since Babe Ruth was sold to the Yankees. He shipped star Shortstop Nomar Garciaparra off for some role players. Nobody, not even Epstein himself would realize how big of a move this was until October.

The team played great baseball over the final two months, clinching the Wild Card, and even giving the Yankees a run for their money for the division. They were in the playoffs and that’s all that mattered. First came the Angels. It was an easy 3 game sweep, with David Ortiz hitting a walk off homerun to clinch the series. The only downside to the series was Schilling injuring his ankle during a game in Anaheim, but everybody figured he’d be just fine.

The Yankees were next. This was the time for the Red Sox to get revenge for what happened the year before. And as quickly as it started, it looked to be over. Schilling was hurt, and tried to pitch. He gave up what seemed to be a 1,000 runs in 2 innings of Game 1. In Game 2 Pedro only gave up 2 runs, but the offense was M.I.A. As a Yankee fan at that time, I thought “the Yankees had this series. My concern was that the next two games were at Fenway Park.” But Game 3 came, and it was the most embarrassing thing I had ever seen from a pro sports team. 19-8. At home. In the Playoffs. Then I said to myself that the Yankees are going to the World Series.

Game 4 was on a Sunday. I remember it was a typical Sunday at the Ferreira household watching soccer, and The New England Patriots won a 30-20 game over the Seattle Seahawks (or the Seabags as Anthony Florio likes to call them).

 

At home that night, I turned the game on. For some reason I had stated that I was going to watch the entire game no matter what, because it could be the clinching game for the Yankees. I wouldn’t admit it out loud, but there was a part of me that thought if the Red Sox could win this game, something magical could happen. It’s the 9th inning and Mariano Rivera is in for the Yankees with a 1 run lead. This had to be it. The Yankees were going to another World Series. The Kevin Millar showed Patience by drawing a walk, and here came Dave Roberts to run, a guy who came in the Nomar deal. Rivera kept trying to pick him off, but on his first throw Roberts went. Posada made a great throw to 2nd, but Roberts just beat the tag. I thought he was out at first.

Then Muller tied the game with a base hit, and a few innings later Big Papi came through again, and kept the Sox alive. For some reason, I had this iffy feeling on the Yankees. I thought maybe they could choke this series. The next day, same thing. Trailing late, they tie it up, and once again Big Papi came did what Big Papi’s do best. Game 6 was filled with Drama thanks to Schillings sewn ankle, A-Rod Bitch slapping the ball out of Bronson Arroyo’s glove, and Foulke getting out of a ninth inning jam with the potential winning run on base.

Arod bitch slap

The day of Game 7, I don’t think I ate anything. I was nervous as scenes from 2003 just kept flashing in my head. Once the game started my nerves were at a all time high, thanks to Big Papi’s homerun in the 1st, then Johnny Damon’s Grand Slam the next inning. I couldn’t believe that the Yankees collapse. Before the season started we got the biggest fish in the sea in A-Rod, and all of a sudden he was the main reason why the Yankees gave up in that series. The next day, I didn’t want to attend my college classes and have Red Sox fans shoving this lost down my throat.

The World Series began in Boston, and there was little trouble for the Red Sox except in game 1, when they allowed the Cardinals to get back into a game they shouldn’t have. After taking 2 in Boston, things were looking good for the Red Sox, but still nobody could celebrate until the 4th win was sealed. The day of game 4 I was at the hospital because I suffered a bad case of pneumonia. I remember on that night watching the game from my hospital room, I had this feeling that the Red Sox were winning the World Series.

There was no question in my mind that they were taking the Trophy to Boston that night, and they didn’t disappoint, as they scoring got off to an early start with Damon’s leadoff homerun. Derek Lowe, one of the unsung heroes of 2004 pitched another brilliant game, and when Keith Foulke came into the 9th, I felt nervous. How were Red Sox supposed to feel? This feeling was new to everybody in Red Sox nation.

As Foulke fielded Edgar Renteria’s groundball cleanly, and threw to first for the final out, a wave of relief hit everyone, and joy and excitement for Red Sox Nation ensued. Watching the team celebrate on the field, the crowds outside Kenmore Square, and even members of the military serving in Afghanistan and Iraq was something special. It was a feeling you only get once.

Since 2004, we’ve had two more World Series wins. 2013 was the year that I became a Red Sox fan after the tragic events that happened at the Boston Marathon that April. Not to mention the Boston Bruins losing to the Chicago Blackhawks in 6 games of the 2013 Stanley Cup Finals. They were all special in their own way, but nothing will ever compare to the magical run of 2004. They were just a cursed team that would never win anything, but they shocked the world, and it’s a team that people will never stop talking about.

2004 banner

 

Time to Standardize the DH

Baseball has been around for a very long time. One of the great things about baseball, however, is that over time it has been receptive to change and evolution in the interest of making the game better. A good example of this change came in 1973, when the American League decided to adopt the Designated Hitter for the good of the game, something that the National League has refused to do to this day. The time has come to change that. There is a window of opportunity for that to happen, as Rob Manfred will be replacing Bud Selig as Commissioner in the offseason and can impose a new vision on the game. There needs to be one rule for both leagues, and it needs to include a DH.

Last night’s Red Sox-Pirates game in Pittsburgh clearly highlighted the need for a universal DH. Due to the host being a National League ballpark, and therefore playing without the DH, David Ortiz was left out of the starting lineup entirely. This led to Daniel Nava hitting third (Daniel Nava!!!!!!!) and the lineup predictably suffered, failing to score a run or put up really a credible threat or rally. In addition, starter Anthony Ranaudo was forced to go up and flail at three pitches every few innings as the price he had to pay to stay in the game. Unfortunately Red Sox fans should get used to such a phenomenon, because it will need to happen for the remainder of the current series in Pittsburgh.

But beyond just the Red Sox, the lack of a DH throughout baseball presents nothing but problems. With the move to balanced leagues holding fifteen teams each, almost every night some American League team will be at a disadvantage while playing in a National League ballpark. American League rosters are constructed with the thought that they can carry an extra bat that might be a defensive liability, or that they can rotate a bunch of players through the DH spot to keep them fresh for an entire season. Does it really make sense to create a disadvantage for an American League club playing in a National League park, when that same National League team gains an advantage while coming to an AL park?

In addition, there really is no value whatsoever to having pitchers “hit.” The National League team with the highest OPS from its pitchers (because sample sizes are too small for AL teams), is the Los Angeles Dodgers, with a .429 mark. That’s not their OBP, neither is it a typo; a .429 OPS. The triple-slash comes to .168/.214/.216. So that means that theoretically the team with the best-hitting pitchers in baseball still puts up a worse line than Will Middlebrooks (.520 OPS, .186/.253/.266). Conversely, the AL team (again for the sake of sample size) getting the least production out of its DH’s, the Seattle Mariners, has posted a .566 OPS (.189/.264/.302). The very worst of the DH’s in baseball are still significantly more effective than the very best hitting pitchers. This is an imbalance that needs to be corrected.

The bottom line is that there is no need to still have pitchers hit in the Major Leagues. It creates an unfair disadvantage for half of the league, and fans do not enjoy it. Fans want to see Victor Martinez face Felix Hernandez with the game on the line, not some backup utility infielder pinch-hit and get blown away by Clayton Kershaw. It creates problems for managers, who come to the point where they have to decide between killing a rally by letting their pitcher hit or pinch-hitting and losing their pitcher for the rest of the game. This is reflected in the numbers, as six out of the top ten teams in baseball in Complete Games reside in the American League. Major League Baseball says it wants to change the game to attract and keep younger fans. The first thing they can do is to end the nonsense, and take the bat out of pitchers’ hands.

Joe Kelly Makes Solid Red Sox Debut, Red Sox Defeat Cardinals 2-1

There was much anticipation before Joe Kelly’s debut with the Red Sox in St. Louis, in that he was facing both his former team and one of his best friends. St. Louis’s starter, Shelby Miller, was Kelly’s best man at his wedding and the two are reportedly very close, adding an interesting wrinkle to the second of three contests between last October’s World Series opponents. Kelly also received several standing ovations from the grateful crowd at Busch Stadium. Brandon Workman will oppose Adam Wainwright in St. Louis tonight to decide the winner of the three game series. Some more notes from last night’s 2-1 Red Sox win:

  • Joe Kelly made a solid start against his former team. Kelly’s final line on the night came out to 7 IP 3 H 1 ER 4 BB 2 K, while throwing 53 of 97 pitches for strikes. Kelly seemed to struggle with his command early on, as evidenced by the four walks, but he seemed to settle in as the game went on. Those command issues could certainly be reasonably explained by some jitters against facing his old team in their ballpark for the first time. The two strikeouts were also a bit low, especially since Kelly shows plus stuff most times, but he is not a pitcher that lives and dies with the strikeout. Kelly has a career K/9 mark of just 5.97, but his career 52.2% groundball rate (56.6% this season) suggests that he can still be effective without missing many bats, as evidenced by his start last night.
  • Xander Bogaerts had himself a pretty good night on both sides of the ball. Bogaerts made a nice diving play to help get Kelly out of a first-and-third jam and end the second inning, showing much greater comfort and skill at shortstop than he had at third base. Since the trade of Stephen Drew to the Yankees, Bogaerts has been much better defensively, which in turn has seemed to give him a much-needed confidence boost. Bogaerts also drove in both of the Red Sox’ runs in the game; the first on a two-out double to score Daniel Nava in the fourth inning, then he lifted a sacrifice fly to score Yoenis Cespedes and give the Red Sox the lead in the top of the ninth. A surge by Bogaerts would be a huge boost to the Red Sox lineup, as well as set him up for a breakout season in 2015.
  • Even though he wasn’t in the starting lineup, David Ortiz still left his mark on the game when he pinch-hit for Nava with runners at second and third and no outs in the top of the ninth. The Cardinals elected to intentionally walk Ortiz (who was promptly pinch-run for by Jackie Bradley Jr.) and pitch to Bogaerts instead. Looks like they learned their lesson last October about pitching to David Ortiz with runners in scoring position.
  • The Red Sox bullpen was excellent in support of Kelly’s strong start. Junichi Tazawa and Koji Uehara combined for two shutout innings in relief, with Uehara recording his 23rd save in the process.