Playing nine innings while remembering a joyous morning 10 years ago today ….
1. After vanquishing the Yankees in the 2004 American League Championship Series — and doing it that way — it felt like we’d already been freed from that 86-year prison of unfulfilled dreams and expectations.
That wasn’t true, of course, as Dan Shaughnessy was very quick to remind us with the lede to his column on October 22, 2004: “Let’s get one thing straight: the Curse of the Bambino has not been lifted. The job is not yet done.”
It was annoying at the time, but he was right, and Tom Werner, who essentially said the World Series was great but beating the Yankees was history, was among those who required the reminder.
As it turned out, though, the World Series really was anticlimactic, which is remarkable in hindsight given that the Cardinals were a 105-win juggernaut, albeit one without its ace, Chris Carpenter. There really wasn’t a lot of suspense in the Series after the Game 1 shootout, won by the Red Sox, 11-9, after blowing a 7-2 lead.
The Red Sox offense proved as potent as ever and the starting pitching stifled Albert Pujols, Jim Edmonds, Scott Rolen, and Larry Walker throughout the Series. Pedro’s final appearance with the Red Sox was appropriately a gem in Game 3.
By the time Johnny Damon homered leading off Game 4, a Red Sox championship had long felt like a forgone conclusion. And I do think that is in part because of what happened against the Yankees. Winning that series set them free. The rest was easy.
2. Don’t know about you, but my rooting interests in this particular World Series are pleasantly conflicted entering Game 6. I’m pulling for the Royals to win it all. But how do you root against Jake Peavy in a clinching game? Answer: You don’t. C’mon, Peave. Go out there and add that cable car to your collection of weird championship vehicles.
3. I’m wary of committing something close to nine figures for Pablo Sandoval, who is listed at 5 feet 11 inches and 245 pounds on his baseball-reference page, an exaggeration in height and a severe underestimation in weight. I’ve seen players return for eight-year anniversaries at Fenway who look more ready to play.
4. That said, if the financial commitment is tenable — maybe for five years and $90 million, something like that — I’m all for it. Yeah, his on-base percentage and slugging have declined each years since 2011, but like Dustin Pedroia, he’s played through injuries he probably shouldn’t have. He’s still productive enough — his top career comp is Norwood legend Richie Hebner — and he’d be a blast to watch, which is really what matters.
5. Can you imagine how many coaches tried to change — well, everything — about Hunter Pence’s mechanics along the way? Actually, the interesting story is finding the coaches who didn’t try to change him. He should be the inspiration to every uncoordinated Little League right fielder with a dream.
6. Yeah, he hasn’t been much in the postseason. But I’d still take James Shields on the Red Sox if the price is right. He’s not Big Game James Shields by any stretch, but Damn Good In The Regular Season James Shields is a pitcher worth pursuing, even if the nickname is somewhat less catchy.
7. Makes all the sense in the universe for Joe Maddon to end up with the Cubs, doesn’t it? They’re stacked with young prospects — I can’t wait to see how many make Baseball America’s top 20 this season — and Maddon is a master at implementing young high-end talent. It would seem he’d be copacetic with Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer, who seriously considered hiring him here after Grady Little was fired and with whom he seems to share a similar open-minded philosophy in running a ball club.
8. Any suggestion by the New York tabloids that the Red Sox coaching staff can’t stand Yoenis Cespedes almost as much as he can’t stand Boston should be taken with a couple of shakers of salt. The tabs determined months ago that he’d be a perfect fit for the Mets, and now they’re creatively writing with the intent of making it happen. I wonder if they did the same thing before the Mets signed Bobby Bonilla all those years ago.
9. As for today’s Completely Random Baseball Card:
Because sometimes, brother, it isn’t random at all.