|Great article by Gammons. And did any you hear him son the sh*t out of A-Rod during the World Series celebration?
Expect more new faces in Boston
posted: Monday, October 29, 2007 | Print Entry
filed under: Boston Red Sox
"You think the sun rises and sets for you
But the same sun rises and sets on poor folks, too
It's high time that you learn
The same people you walk on on your way up
You might meet up on your way down."
-- "On Your Way Down," Allen Toussaint
Back in April, Dave Roberts tried to explain to Randy Winn and some other Giants players about his 2004 moment, its place in time.
"Since I stole that base," Roberts said, "I have not gone one day -- not one -- without someone coming and saying 'thank you.' You may never experience that, and I have it for life."
It was a moment in a season that changed Red Sox history, a great season after which from town to town, New Englanders bowed in front of the World Series trophy as if it were a sacred chalice. That team, from Curt Schilling to Game 4 ALCS winner Curtis Leskanic, did something people claimed they would die for. But many forgot that it was a point in time, one unforgettable season for a veteran and aging team of oft-loveable "idiots," and when Theo Epstein began rearranging it for the longer haul, there was an outcry in the streets and talk shows, and players used the we-did-what-nobody-else-did chant to a.ssume entitlement to allow them to live forever in Fenway Park, at whatever age, whatever cost, whatever reality.
Three years later, the Red Sox are the only team in the 21st century with two world championships, with a team far younger, much better defensively and with a wholly different vision of the future than the 2004 club. They won Games 3 and 4 at Coors Field as the first team ever to bat rookies in the top two spots in the order. Three of their four winning starters were 27 and under, their superman closer 26.
We can argue until Thanksgiving about not keeping Orlando Cabrera, but the fact remains that once Luis Alicea straightened out Julio Lugo's footwork in late August, Lugo became a defensive giant; his critical Game 3 play ranging deep into the hole ("unbelievable range," said Mike Lowell) and, instinctively knowing he had no play at first or second and, as Lugo explained, "If I threw the ball to Mike in the air I might hit the runner," tossed a Cousyesque bounce pass to Lowell. It was the single-best play of the postseason, and I haven't found one person who'd ever seen it before. "I don't think it's ever been done before," said Lowell. "Thank Mikie for knowing not to go after the ball and to make the play on the short hop," said Lugo.
If Epstein and the ownership had kept that 2004 team together, it would have battled the Orioles for third place in the AL East this season, probably well below the .500 waterline. Johnny Damon is now a part-time left fielder. Bronson Arroyo and Derek Lowe are viable major league starting pitchers, and even those of us who have a shrine for Pedro Martinez realize that he hasn't pitched in October since leaving Boston, where, in eight postseason series the Red Sox won six of his 12 starts and he had a 4-2, 3.76 record. The only other players from that team that are viable major league starting players are David Ortiz, Manny Ramirez, Schilling, Jason Varitek, Kevin Youkilis, Tim Wakefield and Mike Timlin.
Ortiz and Ramirez dominated the postseason with their presence and at-bats; Schilling won three huge games; Youkilis emerged on the national stage as one of the game's premier hitters; Timlin's two strikeouts in the seventh inning of Game 4 saved the victory; and, as he did all season, Varitek's handling of a diverse, multicultural and sometimes curious pitching staff was immense. "Put it this way," he said Sunday night, "I am exhausted."
And, of course, the manager is the same, and Terry Francona proved that he can handle most any situation, do the right things so the right players were fresh in October and never lose his dignity, even when people make obscene gestures at him rounding the Putterham rotary. He handled idiots and he brought along young players, and he brought in John Farrell to impart his strength, character and values on not only what turned out to be the American League's best pitching staff, but the entire organization.
In the interim, they made the playoffs in 2005 and fell apart down the stretch in 2006, but now, as they must make decisions on Lowell and Schilling, their core includes Jacoby Ellsbury, who may turn into a blend of Grady Sizemore and Steve Finley; Dustin Pedroia, who defines winning, with second baseman/shortstop Jed Lowrie on the 2008 horizon and outfielder Brandon Moss very close. Josh Beckett may be the best pitcher in the game, and he is 27, as is Daisuke Matsuzaka. Jon Lester went out less than a year after chemotherapy and shut out Colorado into the sixth inning in the clincher; he may be a 16-18 game winner next year, and Clay Buchholz, Craig Hansen, Justin Masterson, Manny Delcarmen and others will soon be in the mix in a pitching market where Carlos Silva may get four years at $12 million a year and Trever Miller might be a $10 million man; put Hideki Okajima on the market this winter and the opening bid might be three years and $12 million.
One can anticipate that after a year's transition to the Boston heartbeat and family issues behind him that J.D. Drew can be the player he was in September(.342) and October. And no matter where Coco Crisp ends up, he will be remembered for not whining when Ellsbury took his place, then going in as a defensive replacement and making a spectacular catch in ALCS Game 7. By the way, he did knock in 60 runs during the season and played a Gold Glove-caliber center field.
Remember, the Yankees won four World Series in five years with essentially the same core, except to go get Mike Mussina and Roger Clemens and work in Jorge Posada. So, in the last decade, the only team to win, recreate itself and win again in a short window, is Boston, and in their two-year rebuilding process won 95 games and tied for first place in 2005. And for all their misfortune down the stretch in 2006, they still won 86 games.
There are no more dynasties, and it may well be that if the Red Sox somehow win again in the next four years, there will be many different faces as age and money open the door for Moss, Lowrie, Lars Anderson, Nick Hagadone, Ryan Kalish, Daniel Bard, et al.
And when and if they do win again, the lessons learned in being the only team to win two rings in the 21st century will be relearned again, over screeching protests.
"The same people you misused on your way up
You might meet up, on your way down."