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Dan Shaughnessy

Octoberfest is here again

Autumnal ball was well-planned

DENVER - There was no one at 4 Yawkey Way to answer the phone, "World champion Red Sox," if you called the team offices yesterday. As of noon, those calling Fenway still heard the standard recording, "Thank you for calling the Boston Red Sox."

"That's because all of us are still in Denver," team maestro Dr. Charles Steinberg said before boarding a front office charter for Boston.

The Sox did not rush home after winning the World Series here Sunday night. They lingered long into the morning with their traveling band of fans swaddled in team garb and took a leisurely flight home to the sports Hub of the Universe after catching a few winks at the Westin Taber Center in downtown Denver. They'll sleep in their own beds tonight, and today the world will see Jonathan Papelbon's Riverdance at City Hall Plaza.

The baseball games are over for another season. For the next four months, it's all about parades, trophy tours, Christmas collectibles, quickie books (maybe Stephen King will share his e-mails again), and the 24/7 roster tweaking that will consume Theo Epstein and his minions in their quest for "multiple championships."

Epstein and his manager, Terry Francona, cemented their legacies with this second World Series title. Does anyone even remember two weeks ago when the Sox fell behind the Indians, three games to one, and there was a rush (by types like me) to carve up the blame pie? Theo took hits for the underperformance of J.D. Drew, Julio Lugo, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Eric Gagné, and a few other high-ticket items. Tito was a dunce for sticking with his plan to pitch Tim Wakefield instead of Josh Beckett in Game 4, and being too loyal to Coco Crisp and (gulp) Dustin Pedroia.

Turns out, of course, that the manager knew what he was doing, just as he did in 2004. The Sox were able to win with Beckett pitching only twice in the seven-game set, and Jacoby Ellsbury finally got in the lineup and did what fans thought he might do. Pedroia did OK, too, I'm told.

Your Red Sox manager crushed nice guy Clint Hurdle in the World Series. Every time he made a move, it worked. Every time he put Ellsbury in left, a ball that Manny would have missed was run down by the rookie. And what about Bobby Kielty, pinch hitting in the eighth inning of Game 4? One World Series appearance. One pitch. One game-winning homer. Kielty should retire now and become Boston baseball's Mike Eruzione. Free meals for life.

And let's not forget 41-year-old Mike Timlin, probably making his final appearance with the team, whiffing two good hitters to take the game to the eighth inning. Everything worked. Francona is 8-0 in the World Series. Give the man his props.

Young Theo, meanwhile, looks brilliant for winning a World Series while making over his team at the same time. The Sox of '04 were an aging house of cards, somehow able to produce a miracle. These '07 winners are built for the long haul and will certainly go into 2008 as the favorites in all of baseball. How do you like Beckett, Matsuzaka, Jon Lester, and Clay Buchholz at the top of a rotation, with Papelbon at the far end and Hideki Okajima and Manny Delcarmen comfortable in the bridge?

Let's go over the playoff numbers one more time. The Sox outscored the Angels, 19-4, the Indians, 51-32, and the Rockies, 29-10. That's 99-46. After falling behind Cleveland, three games to one, they won their last seven by an aggregate score of 59-15. They hit .333 in the World Series.

This Fall Classic was mildly reminiscent of the NBA's Dream Team experience at the Barcelona Olympics. The motto of Dream Team opponents that year was "beat me, whip me, take my picture" (coined by Bob Ryan), and I am pleased to report that the wonderful people of Denver seemed to share this sentiment as they took their beating. These folks had never played host to a World Series and had just watched their team win 10 straight and 21 of 22. It had to be tough to endure four straight losses, but the locals could not have been more gracious. Sox fans were treated with courtesy and the Coors Field staff allowed the Nation to hang around the dugout for more than 90 minutes after the final pitch. It was St. Louis all over again.

Yesterday was a day for hangovers and blockbuster Yankee news - two things requiring aspirin. On a day when the world was toasting the greatness of the Red Sox, the Yankees decided to hire a new manager, Joe Girardi. Oh, and Alex Rodriguez said he's going to opt out of his contract with the Yanks.

This did not sit well with the Nation. It was still supposed to be a Red Sox holiday, not a day for the Pinstripes to make crass grabs for headlines.

On a practical level, A-Rod's availability could play into the Sox' plans for 2008 and beyond. The Yankees just became a new suitor for Mike Lowell, and the Sox are going to have to bring back the guy everybody loves or risk losing him to the hated Yankees. Would the Sox dare blow up their cosmic perfection by courting the radioactive Rodriguez? And what about Mssrs. Schilling, Wakefield, Mirabelli, and Timlin. Have we seen the last of them?

Postpone those questions for a day. Today's a day to celebrate the magic ride of October 2007. Riverdance III - not far from the banks of the Charles.

Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at dshaughnessy@globe.com.

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