Farther Up and Farther In

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Make no mistake. This is not 2004.

This is no scruffy, scrappy team of underdogs, shrugging off decades of heartbreak to become the lovable darlings of the baseball world as they swept to a World Championship. After all, you can only break an 86-year string of misery once every 86 years.

The 2007 version of the Boston Red Sox — with just 28 percent of the team held over from three years ago — may be scrappy, and they might be a tad scruffy, but they’re not underdogs. Not with that payroll, not with that record, and most certainly not with that air of confidence we saw on display the last three games.

And perhaps because this is not 2004, the Sox’ seven-game dispatch of
the Cleveland Indians to become American League champions for the 12th
time was much more enjoyable. There was no first-time-ever comeback to
produce, as if by magic, from the lips of Kevin Millar and the bat of
David Ortiz. No back-to-back record-setting extra-inning games that
left a nation of fans weary and exhausted before Curt Schilling ever
took the mound on an ankle held together by sutures.

No, none of that. There was a comeback, of course — a fitting way to
dismiss the critics once and for all who had criticized this club for
not coming back enough during the regular season. But instead of a
motley collection of irreverant adults who maybe hadn’t quite realized
their respective ages yet, this club has been infused with a dose of
workmanlike professionalism, perhaps borne solely from the feeling that
the Boston Red Sox have indeed been here before — and succeeded.

Consider that no team has ever come back from a 3-1 or worse deficit in
a best-of-seven series more than once in baseball history. The Boston
Red Sox have done it now three times — and twice in four years. In the
clubhouse, an old hand in Jason Varitek and a new face in Mike Lowell
kept the club on an even keel. On the field, the heroes were many —
from Curt Schilling’s Game 6 mastery when we had just begun to doubt
his postseason abilities to J.D. Drew’s series-changing grand slam in
that same game long after nearly everyone  had given up hope on him.
Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis turned it on for the final three
games, providing the spark after David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez began to
return to earth.

It all starts and ends, of course, with Josh Beckett, who outpitched Cy
Young rival C.C. Sabathia twice and took home the series MVP. He was
masterful, he was dominant. He has provided a postseason thus far
unseen in the annals of Red Sox history. His Game 5 silencing of the
Cleveland bats brought the series to Boston, where Fenway’s crowds
might yet convince sabermetricians that homefield advantage can indeed
be a valuable tool.

The Sox were not nearly as close to elimination this year as they were
in 2004 — when they were three outs away against the greatest closer
in the history of the sport. Down three games to one in 2007, the Sox trailed
1-0 in the top of the first in Game 5. It was the last time all series
they would face a deficit on the scoreboard.

Perhaps the biggest change is simply the attitude among Boston’s ever-expanding fanbase. I think that’s
something to regret. Three years ago, a World Series title was an
elusive dream. Now it’s a realistic expectation. The innocence, the
unblemished joy is gone, replaced by the knowledge that the unreachable
is no longer so.

Yet who would rather it be different?

More games must still be played. There is time yet to dissect the
Colorado Rockies. For now, the Boston Red Sox are simply American
League champions. Just like — yet so different from — three years ago.

30 comments… add one
  • Perhaps the biggest change is simply the attitude among Boston’s ever-expanding fanbase. I think that’s something to regret. Three years ago, a World Series title was an elusive dream. Now it’s a realistic expectation. The innocence, the unblemished joy is gone, replaced by the knowledge that the unreachable is no longer so.
    Wow… this is pretty much EXACTLY what I’ve been feeling all night. Excited and happy but at the same time oddly let down. Oh well, still better than that curse nonsense.

    Jackie (SF) October 22, 2007, 3:38 am
  • Yeah, I’m definitely not complaining. Just a little wistful. I think there’s a part of everyone that wants to relive first-time memories. But there can only ever be one first time…

    Paul SF October 22, 2007, 3:40 am
  • This will be a very interesting series. On paper, it looks like the Red Sox should win. But the Rockies have that 21 out of 22 win streak and that “Team of Destiny” look about them–not unlike the Sox in 2004.

    SoxFan October 22, 2007, 7:22 am
  • Just wow. Just an amazing weekend. So this it what it feels like to expect to win? I’ll take it!

    Pete October 22, 2007, 8:38 am
  • There’s a World Series game in Boston on Wednesday!
    There’s a World Series game in Boston on Wednesday!

    Atheose October 22, 2007, 8:39 am
  • It felt great to clinch the series in Boston rather than on the road. Been a while since we’ve gotten to do that.

    Atheose October 22, 2007, 8:40 am
  • It felt great to clinch the series in Boston rather than on the road. Been a while since we’ve gotten to do that.
    That’s a great point, it had been a looong while. The Sox beat the Indians on the road in ’99, the A’s on the road in ’03, the Yanks and Cards on the road in ’04, and the Angels on the road this season. It had been 21 years (Angels at home in ’86) since the Sox won a clinching playoff game at home. A “new” feeling, or at least as new as it could seem.

    SF October 22, 2007, 8:46 am
  • Yeah, having a party in a foreign stadium with unhappy fans just isn’t the same. Except for the 2004 ALCS. If given a choice, I would not have changed that. Winning Game 7 in Yankee Stadium–especially after Aaron-fucking-Boone–was sweet.

    Atheose October 22, 2007, 8:49 am
  • Oh my god, I am so hung over and have to teach high school today. God. But its worth it. :) :) :) :)

    bostondreamer October 22, 2007, 8:51 am
  • Me too, dreamer. My throat is sore and I’m dehydrated like crazy. Have gulped 6 bottles of water so far, and it’s not helping yet.

    Atheose October 22, 2007, 8:58 am
  • I’m a hurting unit today, happy, but hurting.
    I love this team.

    LocklandSF October 22, 2007, 9:03 am
  • Was in a sports bar for Game 6 with some friends, and when Drew hit his grand-slam I jumped up and yelled “DREW I’LL NEVER CALL YOU A C*CKSUCKER AGAIN!”

    Atheose October 22, 2007, 9:14 am
  • http://www.boston.com/sports/baseball/redsox/gallery/10_21_07_sox_indians?pg=25
    What the fuck is up with the couple on the bottom-right? A ball is hit right at them and she’s too busy yacking.

    Atheose October 22, 2007, 9:15 am
  • The older woman is Manny’s mom… and I’m pretty sure the chick on the phone is Manny’s wife.

    bosox1903 October 22, 2007, 10:50 am
  • “This is no scruffy, scrappy team of underdogs, shrugging off decades of heartbreak to become the lovable darlings of the baseball world as they swept to a World Championship.”
    “Not with that payroll, not with that record, and most certainly not with that air of confidence we saw on display the last three games.”
    Thank You Paul. My biggest gripe with most, not all, Sox fans is that they play the role of the “scrappy underdog”, the blue collar heroes. It’s just not so and I am very glad you stood up and made that clear. It’s refreshing.
    As for the confidence aspect, I have haven’t seen anything like it since the Yankees 96-00 run. That dugout is the same down 3-1 or tied at 3. It’s the same confidence the Yankees had prior to 2001 in Arizona. Confidence and belief that no hole is ever to big to climb out of. You can downplay the psychological aspect all you want, but as a coach I can tell you when you team never thinks they are out of a game or a series, you have the edge from the jump.
    Sox in 5.

    John - YF (Trisk) October 22, 2007, 11:18 am
  • Lifelong YF here. Found you guys through LOHUD. I enjoyed your take on the difference between 07 and 04.
    A few writers in NY have addressed the issue of the Sox becoming the new Yanks.
    It may be happening right before our eyes.
    My dilemna is now this: I’m a YF but also an AL fan. I always try and root for the AL in the WS. Fortunately, prior to 07, I only saw the Sox advance further than the Yanks twice.
    In 86, i secretly rooted against the Mets, due to the unbearable hatred of all things Yankee of their fans. Sorta like RSN.
    In 04, i naively thought that sure, it might somehow be ok if the Sox won, ending ridiculous notions of a curse. Wow, that was a mistake. NAive indeed.
    But now the problem. I cannot root for the Rockies. Not after learning the attitudes and philosophy of that ownership and front office.
    Yet I absolutely do not want the Sox to win another WS!
    I guess there are worse dilemnas to have.

    Tommy October 22, 2007, 12:20 pm
  • I don’t care much about the Sox becoming the Yanks, though I don’t like it, but I do care about the Yanks becoming the 1990s Braves, so I hope we get past that particular rut of perennial almost-greatness soon.
    The success of the Sox makes me oddly queasy…must feel very nice to the regular SFs here. Congratulations.
    Josh Beckett, Josh Beckett, Josh Beckett. We can talk about confidence and big bats and magic from the rookies and all that, but Josh Beckett is so clearly the king of the post-season for Boston.
    I am curious to see how Colorado comes out. They have been as hot as any team in history in October (when you don’t lose a single game in the playoffs you can say that) but a first-game loss to Beckett in Fenway (pretty easy to imagine that, no?) after what must feel like a month off, would pretty quickly establish a different kind of momentum for them to overcome.
    Not sure I’ll watch much of this series, though I’d enjoy watching Manny play a large left field in the snow, but I have to tip my cap to the RS as much as I hate to do it. This team looks great, with contributions from everyone. I try not to imagine what they will look like if they win the likely Johan Santana sweepstakes. blech.

    IronHorse (yf) October 22, 2007, 12:35 pm
  • I live in Davis Square, Somerville. When we beat the Yankees in ’04, people spilled out into Elm Street from all over, filling it with yells and honking horns. This year was quite subdued by comparison.

    Ron Newman (SF) October 22, 2007, 1:02 pm
  • It had been 21 years (Angels at home in ’86) since the Sox won a clinching playoff game at home
    Not correct — we beat the Angels at home in ’04 as well.

    Ron Newman (SF) October 22, 2007, 1:07 pm
  • congrats on the series berth, SFs.
    a great clincher. close enough long enough to make everyone a little uneasy, followed by a late game offensive explosion that allowed people in the stands (and watching on tv) enjoy the moment as the game was coming to a close.

    Yankee Fan In Boston October 22, 2007, 1:15 pm
  • Congrats to the Red Sox on their 2007 AL Pennant.
    Now that that’s out of the way, I reject that the Red Sox were scrappy underdogs in 2004. Only Sox fans could think of them as such, and only due to past losses that were not very relevant to that year; they were better than the Yankees in a million different ways that season.
    And, now that they’re in the world series again and will almost certainly crush the Rockies, they can add to their record of highest payroll to win a world series.
    (I wonder where they keep their “highest payroll to miss the playoffs” trophy?)

    salajander October 22, 2007, 1:17 pm
  • I find the Yankee blogs to be quite hilarious today. they can not seem to get over the fact that the Sox are in another world series and they are playing golf without a manager. They really thought they would have taken care of business better then us. But wait, they played the same indians and they….LOST. Go Sox… And Dustin, you are amazing.

    BostonJimmie October 22, 2007, 1:28 pm
  • Boston Jimmie, check out the comments on the LoHud blog. Pete Abraham suggested that Yanks fans wouldn’t hate Dustin and Youk if they were on the Yanks, and got trashed for it. One guy said that he’d rather have the platoon at first rather than Youk..geez, and they say Sox fans can be arrogant and belittling..

    bostondreamer October 22, 2007, 1:53 pm
  • please do not use the comments at the lohud blog as a method of peering into the souls of yankee fans.
    those guys aren’t representative of the fans who were around pre-1996.
    they like to hear themselves type… er… you know what i mean.

    Yankee Fan In Boston October 22, 2007, 2:04 pm
  • Yeah let’s not generalize fellas. This isn’t LoHud or NoMaas, read the comments by the Yankee fans on this thread. So keep you comments to yourselves about how “Hilarious” us Yankee fans are.
    Thanks.

    John - YF (Trisk) October 22, 2007, 3:06 pm
  • Thoughts after getting some sleep…
    It’s definitely different, going to the series for the second time in three years (versus the first time in my memory/18 years)… and going after having won versus having 86 years hanging over your head. But I kinda like the way this feels. I’m not nervous (yet), whereas in 2004 the mere mention of the games to be played had me ready to puke.
    I just feel… HAPPY. No other word for it. Just HAPPY.
    It’s awesome.

    Jackie (SF) October 22, 2007, 3:07 pm
  • Yeah, and there was a guy here all year supposedly representing you Boston fans saying Jason Varitek is clearly superior to Jorge Posada, so we all have our morons int he fan-family. Let’s not paint each other’s entire fanbases by the idiocies of a few.

    IronHorse (yf) October 22, 2007, 3:09 pm
  • Hey Sox-fans!
    Breaking news
    http://www.theonion.com/content/news_briefs/terry_francona_sends_eric
    Bet you’re psyched about that!

    rz-yf October 22, 2007, 3:13 pm
  • I apologize if I offended any Yanks folks on this board. I in no way meant to compare the fans here to elsewhere. Most Yanks fans, I know, are quite good and great to talk to!

    Bostondreamer October 22, 2007, 3:22 pm
  • “Yeah, and there was a guy here all year supposedly representing you Boston fans saying Jason Varitek is clearly superior to Jorge Posada.”
    uhhhhmmmm, if you said to me, I’ll trade you straight across, Posada for Varitek. I’d tell you to take a hike.
    Don’t get me wrong, I only wish Tek’s bat was as potent as Posada’s (although Varitek’s close game/late inning numbers are stellar.) Varitek is the friggin CAPTAIN for damn good reason. In my opinion and a large cadre of knowlegable baseball people, Jason Varitek is the most prepared catcher in the game and I think maybe all time. He studies film endlessly, charts tendencies like no one else and handles pitchers better than anyone I can think of in years. Varitek has always maintained that working with the pitchers and calling the game is job #1 defense is job #2 and hitting #3 Does that sacrifice a little at the plate, yep, is that really annoying when he waves his bat like a friggin wand at a slider to K for 4th time in two games? Yep! But I wouldn’t want anyone else catching for the Sox, leastwise anyone currently catching in MLB. However, I might give the nod to Posada as a second choice… but yeah, I have to agree with the “idiocies” as you put it and say Varitek is far superior to Posada. And I really like Posada.

    Brian October 22, 2007, 10:49 pm

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