If the worlds of politics and baseball turn like John F. Kerry and the Red Sox hope, the Massachusetts senator would be perfectly positioned to toast the Sox at the White House early next year as winners of the 2004 World Series.
Kerry would like nothing better, of course. And though the Sox would cherish a call to the East Room as champions no matter who occupied the Oval Office, manager Terry Francona almost certainly buoyed Kerry's spirits yesterday when he posed for a picture in his clubhouse office with the Democratic presidential candidate.
"I've taken pictures with Reagan, Bush, and Clinton," Francona told Kerry, who wore a Sox jacket. "I might as well get a picture with the next president."
It was that kind of day in the Fens. A feel-good day when Kerry, happily ensconced in a box seat near the visitors on-deck circle, could cheer from start to finish as Francona's crew cakewalked past the Blue Jays, 7-2, to complete a weekend sweep and secure its hold on first place in the American League East. A day when Kerry and Francona could exchange kind words about their extraordinary quests, even when they knew full well they had miles to go before either race would be decided.
"It was one of those good days," David Ortiz said after he went 3 for 5 with a pair of doubles to knock in three runs and pace the Sox.
Since Kerry confined his postgame visit to Francona's office rather than working the clubhouse (the senator was accompanied by daughter Vanessa), Ortiz and his mates were left alone to savor the victory. Not that it posed a problem since the Sox had plenty to be thankful for, from Ortiz's thunder to Tim Wakefield's knuckler.
In fact, the weary Wakefield, whose eyes were a bit glassy, was happy just to head home to his wife and newborn son after submitting yet another solid start. While Kerry carried the burden of trying to lead a nation, the knuckleballer faced the prospect of another round of late-night diaper duty.
"You see my eyes?" Wakefield said. "I have been trying to help out my wife as much as I can."
He helped out the Sox just fine by limiting the Jays to two runs on seven hits and walk while throwing only 89 pitches over seven innings. Pre-fatherhood, Wakefield might have pitched the eighth, but he acknowledged he was too tired to go on without putting the team at risk.
"I labored there for a couple of innings," he said. "I'm just a little sleep-deprived right now. I hope you guys understand that."
Francona, a father of four, could understand, although he seemed tickled that Wakefield has gone 2-0 with a 1.93 ERA in two starts since his son was born.
"Fatherhood seems to agree," Francona said. "Probably a good thing because I don't think he can take it back."
Wakefield's counterpart, Toronto starter Miguel Batista, wished he could take back a lot of his afternoon's work. With Batista struggling to find the strike zone (he walked six while throwing 94 pitches over only three innings), the Sox teed off on him for an early 6-0 lead.
The damage could have been far worse, since the Sox left the bases loaded in the first and second innings.
"He wasn't able to find the strike zone," said Johnny Damon, who went 2 for 3 with a walk and knocked in two runs. "We can beat teams by taking walks and then getting big, key hits, and that's what we did today."
After Damon walked leading off the first, he advanced to second when second baseman Orlando Hudson booted a grounder by Mark Bellhorn, and scored when Ortiz rifled a one-hop, ground-rule double into the stands past the Pesky Pole. Kevin Millar forced in another run when he drew a bases-loaded walk before Batista escaped.
But there was no escaping the third inning for the Jays. After Millar walked and Doug Mirabelli singled, the Sox broke the game open on consecutive run-scoring singles by Damon and Bellhorn and a two-run double by Ortiz.
"Our offense really helped me out," Wakefield said. "When we get a lead like that early, it makes my job a lot easier, makes my margin of error bigger."
So it was that when Wakefield loaded the bases with none out in the fourth by hitting Reed Johnson with a pitch, walking Frank Menechino, and surrendering a single to Vernon Wells, he could throw a 75-mile-an-hour fastball over the plate on a 3-0 count to the dangerous Carlos Delgado.
"I just hoped he hit it at somebody," Wakefield said.
Delgado laid off it, then laced the next pitch for a two-run single to center before Wakefield extricated himself from the jam. From there, the knuckleballer stymied the Jays until Mike Timlin retired four straight batters and handed off to Alan Embree with one out in the ninth. Embree allowed only a walk before he finished off the Jays as Kerry and the crowd rose from their seats to cheer the final out.
Moments later, the man who would be president met the manager who would be pleased to see him again next January in the White House.