Thursday, October 28, 2004

A Historic Night

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Where were you when the Red Sox finally won the World Series? Unless you are older than 87 you could not have answered this question yesterday because the Red Sox had not won a championship in your lifetime. I am only 20 years old and I’ll be the first to admit I lack the perspective of time. You don’t even have to be a baseball fan though to realize how special this is for the sport and its fans. The way the Red Sox won was so improbable and even magical, that they not only escaped the curse, they trampled on it.

This was a team that overcame a 3 game deficit to their hated rival, the New York Yankees. In doing so, they may have ushered in a new era of baseball history. Only time will tell if it’s now the Yankees turn to wait nearly 90 years for their next title. They will have at least an off-season to ponder what might have been, left with the belief that it should have been them playing late into October. The Yankees had cheated baseball one too many times and eventually, it all catches up to a team with no starting pitching.

The Red Sox pitching staff was anchored by a legend pitching with one good ankle in a position that depends so much on the legs. Every pitch could have been Schilling’s last, and yet he kept throwing just well enough for his team to win, bloody sock and all. The other star pitcher overcame his own demons to beat the Yankees; then came back and pitched one of his best games in what could have been his last in a Red Sox uniform. Pedro may have looked like his 1999 self, but Derek Lowe looked like he was a different pitcher. After almost being traded at the deadline and struggling through the entire regular season, the guy who wasn’t even supposed to be in the rotation won all three deciding games, the last two by dominating. Lowe was masterful and Keith Foulke shut the door. Foulke is another enigma; a closer who doesn’t throw hard but just gets hitters out.

The World Series MVP was offered to every other team in baseball last off-season for nothing in return, and no one wanted him. He was almost traded for the best player in baseball before that deal fell through 3 different times. At times, he looked more like a boy than a man out there and yet he came through in the clutch. Their other playoff MVP was discarded by a team that hasn’t had someone hit 30 homeruns since 1987. He might end up being the MVP of the regular season, where he slugged over 40. These days David has become goliath and that big smile on his face isn’t just because he has peanut butter in his underwear.

Doug Mientkiewicz gets the last laugh over the Twins. He went from batting third on a team 3 games away from the World Series to being a small piece on a team where he is going to get a ring. He also had the privilege of catching the important last outs of games and thus being the first player to jump in celebration. Doug remains the biggest paradox of all, a first baseman that can’t hit and wont shut up despite it.

The list goes on and on. Their second baseman had been discarded by several teams and went from a goat to hero; the 3rd baseman went from being a guy who couldn’t hit to a batting champ. One of their best hitters should by all rights be playing in Japan right now. Their best player of the last decade was traded at the deadline. Their bullpen was anchored by a guy who has jumped around half a dozen teams in baseball already and another who was around for the Blue Jays dynasty of the early 90’s. Their shortstop came from a team without a home, owner or payroll. The one thing they had going for them was Jesus playing centerfield and it even took him a few games to figure out how to hit. The Red Sox won despite it all or maybe because of it. Instead of a compilation of separate pieces they were a team that played together and off each other.

Every year the team that wins the World Series creates the new formula for success. This year that formula cannot be copied. Yes, they have the 2nd highest payroll in baseball but throwing money at players does not often equal success; just ask the Dodgers and now the Yankees. Their general manager is a disciple of the Moneyball philosophy and also happens to look like a guy in my freshman English class. He was smart enough to bring in the right parts and had the good fortune of getting a little lucky on the way. He was also flexible enough to adjust at midseason and fix a defense that never would have allowed the Sox to get this far.

It is impossible for me to describe what a Red Sox World Series win means. I don’t possess the words and it would not do justice to all their fans who have waited so long. All I can do is congratulate them for doing something so many other good teams could not. They made history last night and all through the postseason. They alone deserve credit for this triumph over both the Evil Empire and fate. On a night where there was a full lunar eclipse, everything was aligned to create baseball immortality out of a rag-tag bunch that wasn’t supposed to be there.

-John Betzler

On a completely unrelated note, I strongly invite all Minnesota residents to check out this extremely helpful stadium voting guide, brought to you by Shane over at Greet Machine. If you're a Twins fan, and you want to see a stadium built someday, do your part next Tuesday. I'll have a post dealing with this topic later this week, probably tomorrow. If you haven't made up your mind yet as to who you're voting for, perhaps this guide will help you make your decision. Check out Twins Chatter for more in the days ahead.
*by Ryan*