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DAN SHAUGHNESSY

Get ready for you-know-who

You say you want to remain cautiously optimistic. You have seen too many things over too many autumns so you are going to be patient and rational.

I say bring on the Yankees. Boston-New York, Game 1 in the Bronx Tuesday night. Make room for "Who's Your Daddy."

You say the Angels have a lot of veteran players who have championship rings. They have been behind before and they have come back. They have a great manager, and the probable AL MVP, and should be respected and feared until the Sox finally win a third game in this series.

I say Chone Figgins is the Red Sox MVP thus far and Bartolo Colon might have a bigger head than Fay Vincent, Hideki Matsui, or Rosie O'Donnell. Bring on the Yankees.

You say it's too early to look ahead. The Red Sox are an example of a team that can come back from an 2-0 deficit in a five-game series. Boston did it to Cleveland in 1999, and to the A's last year. The Angels are capable.

I say Red Sox fans should watch the late game tonight and root like the devil (like rooting for the devil) for Kevin Brown and the Yankees to beat the Twins again. The Sox' march to the World Series just won't be as much fun unless they conquer the Empire on enemy soil. Remember how much more enjoyable it was when the Celtics beat the Lakers in 1984? Somehow those NBA championship finals against the Houston Rockets just weren't as much fun. Bring on the Yanks.

You say it's bad luck to start thinking about the next round. You remember uncorking that champagne bottle when the Mets had two outs and nobody on in the bottom of the 10th of Game 6 in '86. You have not allowed yourself a moment of baseball joy since that night. You always wait for the sky to fall and that's why you were somewhat prepared last year when He Who Must Not Be Named neglected to pull Pedro Martinez out of Game 7.

I say the Sox and Yankees will be in Fenway this year on the one-year anniversary of Boston's epic fold of 2003. One week from tomorrow, Oct. 16, the Sox and Yankees will be playing Game 4 at Fenway Park and there will be about a million replays of Aaron Boone's walkoff homer in Game 7.

You say you're not wholly comfortable with the Sox bullpen, even though Terry Francona's relievers outpitched Anaheim's vaunted bullpen staff in the first two games of this series. You can't remember the last team to win a World Series with a soft-throwing closer (1985 Royals, Dan Quisenberry?). The Angels are due to break out against Boston's pen.

I say the Sox should break into a conga-line celebration dance when the Cowsills (the Partridge Family was already booked) break into "Hair" after singing the national anthem at Fenway this weekend. Can't you just see Johnny Damon leading his scruffy teammates in a soft parade around the warning track, high-fiving fans and pledging to beat the clean-shaven/corporate-boring Yankees this time?

You say Sox fans should refrain from offending their potential second-round opponents with a childish and vile two-word taunt that has been known to interrupt rock concerts, the Patriots' Super Bowl rallies, and wedding receptions across Red Sox Nation. Sox fans should keep their eyes on the halos at hand.

I say knock yourself out with those chants. This is no time for dignity or decorum.

You remind us that it's premature to dismiss the Angels. Kelvim Escobar may have been 11-12 this year, but his ERA (3.93) was in the Pedro Martinez neighborhood (3.90). Troy Glaus and Garret Anderson are due to break out. Those are championship-caliber gamers in the third base dugout.

I say it's never too early for the Fenway Park grounds crew to start stenciling that 2004 World Series logo into the grass behind home plate. Let's see some confidence. Give 'em a little Muhammad Ali. Play these first two rounds with the World Series logo on the Fenway lawn, right there for everybody to see.

You say you won't be fooled again. Your eyes have seen the gory. You will not allow yourself to look ahead.

I say bring on the Yankees. This is the best Red Sox team in a generation. Except for the abject sloth and total disregard for rules and authority, they are almost Patriot-like. They are built to win. They will not choke.

You say you hope the Sox can win today or tomorrow and avoid that trip back to California for a deciding Game 5. I say three-and-out. These are not your Daddy's Red Sox. Bring on the Yankees.

Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. His e-mail address is dshaughnessy@globe.com.

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