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

 

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.

Should Matheny Explain Why He Has Miller and Mujica On the World Series Roster?

The St. Louis Cardinals have had a great year. They finished the regular season with the best record in the National League, securing home-field through the NLDS and NLCS. They have reached the World Series and have been involved in a close, hard-fought affair with a tough opponent. The club still has a chance to pull off a world championship, as they are down 3-2 in the best of seven series.

Now, having said all that, time for the second-guessing and criticism. One has to wonder, if the Cardinals should lose on Wednesday or Thursday night, what could St. Louis manager Mike Matheny have done differently? Should Matheny have done something different with the rosters? Are there any in-game decisions that he regrets making? Should he have done something different with the batting order?

Well, I think the one thing that Matheny will get the most criticism for this World Series is placing both Edward Mujica and Shelby Miller on the roster. In the first 5 games of this series, neither has tossed a pitch. In fact, only a couple of times have they even warmed up in the bullpen. Obviously, Matheny has no confidence in Mujica to do anything but mop up. ‘Chief’ lost his closer’s job at the end of the regular season, when he was suddenly getting rocked. The Cards have been going with Trevor Rosenthal as the closer in the postseason.

In the NLDS and NLCS, Mujica only appeared in two games. He pitched the 9th inning of a Game 2 blowout loss to Pittsburgh in the NLDS. He also appeared in Game 5 of the NLCS against the Dodgers. He pitched one inning, allowing a home run to AJ Ellis in the 7th inning of a 6-4 loss for the Cardinals. Since that game, Matheny hasn’t even considered bringing in Mujica, not even to mop up Game 1 of the World Series, which the Red Sox won 8-1.

On the other hand, at least Mujica saw action in the NLCS. Miller hasn’t pitched since appearing in the 8th inning of Game 2 of the NLDS. His appearance in that game ended up indicating that Lance Lynn would be utilized as the 4th starter in that series. Lynn has obviously kept that role in the NLCS and World Series. With Lynn firmly being used as a starter, this should mean that Miller would be available out of the pen, right?

You would think, but Matheny hasn’t used him since October 4th. Not even in Game 1 of the NLCS, which went 13 innings. Instead, Lynn pitched the end of that game and went on to start Game 4. If Miller wasn’t going to be used in an extra-inning game in the NLCS, and Lynn was going to be used as the 4th starter moving forward, why even have Miller on the roster for the World Series? Was Matheny hoping to have Boston confused on whether or not Miller or Lynn would start? I figure with Miller not starting in the past month that John Farrell would know that Lynn was going to be the Game 4 option.

Ok, so who should have Matheny placed on the roster instead of Miller and/or Mujica? Well, it would seem that if you were going to leave both of these players off, you’d at least need to add another pitcher. The other options that the Cards had available to them, in terms of guys who had pitched in September and could have contributes, are pretty limited. The best names would be lefties Sam Freeman and Tyler Lyons and right-hander Fernando Salas. Salas, who at one point in the 2011 season was the Cards closer, spent much of the season in Triple-A. He was effective at times, with a 1.179 WHiP, but also gave up 3 HRs in 28 innings. Matheny would probably have had the same confidence in him as he’s had in Mujica, which is none.

Freeman, who spent most of the year in Triple-A, was very effective in limited action, posting a 2.18 ERA and 1.054 WHiP in 12.1 innings. Lyons was used as a starter off and on during the season. He posted a 4.75 ERA and 1.226 WHiP in 53 innings while striking out 43. Would a third lefty in the pen be useful? Well, it probably couldn’t have been less useful than having two pitchers you won’t utilize. And it also could have presented another option when facing David Ortiz.

Are there any better options the Cards could have used off the bench? Well, we need to be honest here. The cupboard is pretty bare for Matheny. There just isn’t much to choose from. One possibility is that Matheny could have had Adron Chambers available. Chambers was on the NLDS and NLCS rosters due to Allen Craig being hurt. Once Craig was deemed ready for the World Series, Chambers was replaced on the roster. Chambers doesn’t offer much in the way of hitting prowess (.154 in 23 games.)

Chambers is also a left-handed hitter, and the Cards have more than enough of those on their bench as it is, as Kolten Wong and Daniel Descalso are both left-handed, and Jon Jay and Matt Adams give them even more left-handed options if they don’t start due to matchups. Was there another right-handed option? Well, Tony Cruz, the backup catcher, has seen no action as a pinch hitter due to the Cards not carrying a third catcher. Rob Johnson could have been an option. Of course, Johnson did nothing with the bat during his limited time in the majors this year (.171 in 20 games.)

Even if Chambers or Johnson didn’t provide much to be excited about in terms of bench production, either could still have provided more options for Matheny than an unused pitcher. If the Cards lose the World Series, Matheny will most likely have to answer questions about his roster selections. Hopefully, he can give us all a really, really good answer. Because, from the outside looking in, it just doesn’t make much sense.

Shane Victorino Will Not Start For Second Straight Game Due To Lower-Back Tightness

Boston Red Sox outfielder Shane Victorino will not be in the lineup in Game 5. He is still suffering from lower-back tightness. Victorino has been bothered by the injury for most of the season, but it has recently flared up. The 32-year-old should be available to pinch-hit if Boston needs him.

Just as in Game 4, Daniel Nava will start in right field and Johnny Gomes will play left field. This move worked out the Red Sox on Sunday night, as Gomes hit a 3-run home run to lead Boston to a 4-2 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals. Prior to that homer, Gomes was 0-9 in the World Series and had looked overmatched.

The Red Sox also are making a couple of changes in the lineup. Second baseman Dustin Pedroia will now bat second and David Ortiz, who will continue to play first base, will move up to third. Red Sox manager John Farrell has moved Gomes into the cleanup spot. Nava, who batted 2nd on Sunday, will now bat 5th. Mike Napoli, the everyday first baseman, will once again sit so Ortiz’s bat can be in the lineup.

On the mound, the Cards throw out ace Adam Wainwright. Wainwright (19-9, 2.94 ERA, 1.07 WHiP) was roughed up by the BoSox in Game 1, giving up 5 runs (3 earned) in 5 innings in the 8-1 loss. He faces off with his Game 1 opponent, Jon Lester. Lester (15-8, 3.75 ERA, 1.29 WHiP) tossed 7-2/3 innings of shutout ball while striking out 8 in Wednesday’s win.

Ortiz Will Play 1B In the World Series–Isn’t It Time That MLB Fully Addresses the DH Rule?

On Saturday evening, David Ortiz will lumber out to play first base for the Red Sox in Game 3 of the World Series in St. Louis. Due to the one major rule difference between the American and National Leagues, Big Papi can’t be in the lineup unless he actually takes the field on defense. During the World Series, games played in AL home parks allow the designated hitter, while the NL parks force the pitcher to hit for himself.

For Ortiz, throwing on a first baseman’s mitt and trotting out on the diamond is a special occasion in and of itself. Since 2007, Ortiz has played a total of 32 games at first base. That averages to a little more than 4 games a season. When one thinks of a full-time DH, Ortiz is the prime example. He is paid to bat 4-5 times a game and that is it. In fact, Papi is generally used as a reason why the DH is patently unfair and extends players’ careers that otherwise would have been forced to retire or have a much reduced role.

Let’s face it. There is no way David Ortiz would have made $100 million in his playing career if there was no designated hitter in the game. Perhaps he could have been a full-time first baseman for some team over this entire span. Maybe. However, considering his size, weight gain over the years and lack of proficiency at the position, it is highly doubtful. Yet, due to his offensive ability, and the fact that all he has to do is swing the bat a few times a game, he’s been able to carve himself out a very lucrative career that will quite possibly land him in Cooperstown.

This isn’t meant to be an indictment of Ortiz. He’s naturally taken advantage of the situation in the American League and prospered. However, it does bring up the silliness that we still have a major rule difference between the two leagues. Over the past few years, we’ve seen interleague play get expanded, to the point that each team now plays 20 interleague games a year. That is 1/8th the entire schedule. Also, while the interleague schedule used to be during a certain time of the season, it now goes on throughout the entire year, so we are now subjected to the rule difference basically every day of the season.

At some point, MLB needs to make a decision and stick with it. Either have the DH be the rule for both leagues, or get rid of it. Considering that the DH has helped extend or improve the careers or many players, it seems highly unlikely that the players’ union will go along with the eradication of the rule. Therefore, the league basically just needs to go ahead and extend the DH to the National League. Sure, it may piss off some purists of the game, but the game has evolved and changed a ton anyway. No point holding on to another relic of a bygone era.

But, it isn’t going away in the AL. It’s been there since 1973. Interleague play isn’t going away, either. In fact, we might see interleague play continue to be expanded. Considering the increased frequency of NL teams playing in AL parks, we just have to start getting used to the idea of the DH as part of the game and move forward.

Or, MLB can sit on its hands a little longer and continue to ‘study the matter’, which has been Bud Selig’s position on pretty much everything that involved any real decision making. As this seems to be the likely scenario, prepare to see more World Series games in the future where the AL manager has to sit a player so he can get his DH into the lineup somehow.

2013 World Series Predictions

On paper, this has the makings of an excellent series. Both clubs hit the ball well and feature strong pitching staffs. But even with how rock solid the Cardinals are, I do think this is the Red Sox’s series to lose. Not only did they bounce back from an atrocious 2012 where they lost 93 games and finished in last place in the AL East, but with the clutch hitting they got in the ALCS at precisely when they needed it the most, not to mention the unhittable Koji Uehera closing out games who has been absolutely lights out, plus being an excellent home team that will have homefield advantage, I think Boston will finish it off the best way possible.
Boston in 6