October 2006

October 27 — enuf said

That is what the date is on Friday, and it is the most meaningful sports date in existence for any fan with any connection to the Boston Red Sox.

Yes, the Red Sox won the World Series exactly two years ago when that Renteria grounder landed safely into the glove of Foulke, who handed off to Mientkiewicz before jumping into the arms of Varitek.

To this day, one of the most indelible sports images you’ll ever see is the look of ecstacy on Foulke’s face as he embraced Varitek. His lips were moving and I still have no idea what he was saying, but it is one of the great looks I’ve ever seen on a baseball field. Just sheer amazement. It captured the night, it captured the moment, it captured the culture of the Boston Red Sox taking a 180-degree turn in a simple instant.

In the press box, I didn’t feel all of the raw and jubilant emotions you folks felt at home, or wherever you might have watched the game. I was too locked in on my assignment, trying to write the best story I could, and trying to capture the most historic moment I’ve ever been a part of.

It wasn’t until a few weeks later when it really sunk in for me that the Red Sox had actually won the World Series. But I was there every step of the way, so I can fully appreciate the magnitude of what I witnesses.

Thank God for that collector’s Edition DVD that has the complete games of every ALCS Game against the Yankees and all four games against the Cardinals. There are still things you can go back and watch and almost forget that it happened.

Here are things that jump out to me about the entire run: This is just a running stream of conscience from me, things that jump out. None of this is scripted. My fingers are just moving here as I think.

Thinking it was over when Schilling was shelled in Game 1 at Yankee Stadium, and, for all practical purposes, was probably done for the series.

Thinking it was over again in Game 2, when Pedro pitched well against the Who’s Your Daddy chants, but the Red Sox made Jon Lieber look like Bob Gibson, circa 1968.

Thinking it was over again in Game 3 when Arroyo got shelled, as did every other Boston pitcher that took the mound that night.

Thinking it was over again in Game 4 when the Sox were down 4-3 with six outs to play and Mariano Rivera pitching.

But you know what? Then, all of a sudden, it wasn’t over. All that was over, it turned out, were Curt Schilling’s two former pals of the Yankees — Mystique and aura.

Foulke turned around the entire season by coming out of the bullpen in the seventh inning and throwing 50 pitches that night. How could Rivera walk Millar? I don’t know, but he did. And we all remember the rest. Roberts stole second, Billy Mueller bashed one right through Rivera and up the middle to tie it. Bedlam at Fenway. Then three innings of tension that wasn’t lifted until1025061923b_1 Ortiz drove  Paul Quantrill’s meatball sub into the Yankees bullpen. Joe Buck had the words to fit the occasion: We’ll see you later tonight.

Indeed, Game 5 was the most tense of all. Pedro was looking good early, and Trot made a tremendous diving catch in the corner to rob a stunned A-Rod. Ortiz pokes an RBI single up the middle for a 2-0 lead against Mussina. Pedro brushed back Matsui with some high, inside heat, setting the tone that the Red Sox were not going to go down easy. But then the Yankees put together their inevitable rally to silence Fenway and seemingly, again, putting an end to the season. Bases loaded, two outs, and who but Jeter smashes a three-run triple into the corner in right. 4-2 Yankees, silence, I tell you, silence at Fenway. Jeter pumps his fist as he gets to third —  like we haven’t seen that before. But Nixon again gets some momentum back on Boston’s side by sliding to catch a stinging liner off the bat of Matsui, which would have cleared the bases and made it 7-2 Yankees. intead, it ended the inning.

Flash Gordon, allegedly after throwing up in the bullpen, serves up a homer to Ortiz off the Volvo sign in left. 4-3 in the eighth. Millar walks again. Roberts pinch-runs again. Nixon comes up with a clutch, hit-and-run single to right. First and third, nobody out. Here comes Rivera. Here comes Varitek, who hits a sac fly to tie the game, and the Sox are revived again.

Remember Tony Clark hitting that go-ahead double against Foulke in the ninth? Oh, wait a minute, the ball takes a fateful hop into the stands. Ground rule double. No runs score. The game stays tied for several more hours, but not without some anxiety-ridden battery work between Wakefield and Varitek in the top of the 13th. Yes, Varitek did have three passed balls in one inning, and the Yankees didn’t score.

Ortiz worked that epic at-bat against Loaiza in the 14th, seemingly fouling off about 18 pitches before looping a bloop into center, prompting more magic from Joe Buck, by far the best broadcaster to work the 2004 postseason. "Damon running to the plate, he can keep on running to New York, Game 6, tomorrow night."

And after this game, certainly, a lot of people started feeling like the Sox really were going to be the first team to come back from 3-0. Game 6 was a raw, gross night. But Schilling went out there with the bloody sock and the rest was history. Bellhorn hit a three-run homer off Lieber and A-Rod made his foolish chop play on Arroyo that was overruled. The game ended on a truly nervewracking at-bat between Tony Clark and Foulke in the bottom of the ninth. two on, two outs, and Foulke blew an 88-MPH fastball by Clark to end it and set the stage for a winner-take-all.

In hindsight, what a truly gutty move by Tito (and possibly Theo) to start Derek Lowe in Game 7 on two days rest. I figured it would have been Wakefield, but I think Lowe was a much better idea. And that theory that a sinkerballer is more effective when he’s tired? Lowe proved it in this one, dominating the Yankees like nobody had ever seen him do before. And Johnny Damon, Yankee or no Yankee now, put himself into Sox lore forever with one of the best big-game performances in the history of the club. Two homers, six RBIs, including a grand slam. Do you guys and gals remember how awful Damon was in the first six games of that series? What a dramatic turnaround. Red Sox 10, Yankees 3, On to the World Series.

Being in the clubhouse at Yankee Stadium during that celebration was filled with irony. Just one year earlier, I had been in that same clubhouse after a different sort of Game 7, when grown men were crying and David Ortiz was slumped over the couch in utter despair. I’ve never seen a group of baseball players as gratified by an accomplishment as this group was after coming  back from 3-0. At that point, you didn’t know if the Sox would play the Cardinals or Astros in the World Series, but you knew they would win.

Again, in hindsight, the Cardinals were a far easier matchup for the Sox than the Astros. Houston had hard throwers like Roger Clemens, Roy Oswalt, Andy Pettitte and Brad Lidge that could have struck some fear into the Boston bats. The Cardinals, without Chris Carpenter, had a bunch of marshmellow throwers. Game 1 was ugly and neither team deserved to win. But Bellhorn clanged that Julian Tavarez pitch off the Pesky Pole in the bottom of the eighth, and any intrigue this series might have provided ended right then.

Schilling did the bloody sock thing again in Game 2, making the Cardinals look silly in the process. Then it was off to St. Louis.

Pedro, making his first World Series start and last appearance for the Red Sox, looked a tad shaky early but received two big breaks. Larry Walker tagged from third and tried to test Manny’s arm in the first, and Manny, who had belted a homer in the top of the inning, nailed him at the plate. And then the inexplicable, unfathomable, baserunning error by Suppan a couple of innings later. Bellhorn fielded the grounder on the edge of the grass at second and basically gave suppan an invitation to score. But Suppan instead fell asleep and Ortiz showed he’s not a stiff on defense, making a perfect throw across the diamond to nail him.From there,Pedro turned back the clock and looked 1999-2000 invincible, blowing through the St. Louis lineup and handing off to Foulke, who finished it off.

That brings us to that date. October 27, 2004. The game ended when it began — Damon led off with a homer. From there, you knew the Cardinals were toast. Lowe, in his Boston finale, was very bit as sharp as Pedro was in his. Trot got greenlighted on 3-0 and roped a two-run double in the third to make it 3-0. Nothing sticks out about this game from that point forward, except for the anticipation which game with the best 27th out in Red Sox history.

So Friday is your day, Red Sox fans. Enjoy it, Remember two years ago. Remember everything about it. Nights like that are why you watch sports to begin with.

Rub some dirt on it

Let me start tonight by saying that I am thouroughly sick of pine tar-gate. Ok, Kenny Rogers had a smudge of some sort on his hand. Was this earth shattering?

He took the dirt or pine tar off and proceeded to pitch shutout baseball the rest of the night. Not sure why this story is being covered like Watergate, but that’s the way it works this time of year. I covered the Clemens-Piazza 2000 World Series, and I remember how the rest of the Series became an afterthought to why Clemens tossed a piece of sliced lumber at Mike Piazza.

Sounds like Mike Timlin is coming back in ’07. I don’t think he should be written off after one bad year. I think there were underlying issues, such as the World Baseball Classic throwing off his schedule, the 81 appearances he made in 2005 and the fact that he finally had arm issues. Add that to the fact that he’s 40 years old, and it all added up. That said, I think they should slot Timlin in as more of a seventh inning guy next year instead of an eighth inning guy. That will take some pressure off of him.

And I’m still disgusted as to why Bill Parcells would bench Drew Bledsoe in favor of Tony Romo. Yes, I just switched sports on you. Seriously, it seems like Parcells was throwing a bone to Jerry Jones by making that move. Let’s face it, the Cowboys aren’t going anywhere with Romo. At least they have a chance with Bledsoe.

Am I the only person excited about the 2006-07 edition of the Boston Celtics?

More later,

Ian.

Random thoughts

– How does Ken Macha get fired after leading a mediocre A’s team to the ALCS, where they were swept by a superior Tigers team?

– There is no stopping the Tigers.

– In my estimation, the Mets-Cardinals NLCS is basically a battle to see who loses the World Series in four or five games.

– Do you think Papelbon can be as dominant as a starter as he was as a closer?

– Will there be a market for Manny, especially if A-Rod gets dealt to the Angels?

– Has any manager ever done a better job than Jim Leyland has done this year?

– Thanks to most of you for taking heart in my plea for non-crude posts. Until I find a better solution, I’ll keep deleting you-know-who’s crude posts, no matter how many bogus and transparent screennames he comes up with.

Keep it clean

Guys, gals,

Can we please keep the blog chatter civilized. Stop the insults and cheap shots. I love a healthy debate and argument, but there are people in this blog who continue to go below the belt. You know exactly who you are. I’m not going to call you out.

I can delete those posts at will and I will do so in the future. So please just stop. You know who this is directed to, so that person — or persons — should just stop and keep it somewhat classy.

OK? Thanks.

Come join me at the ALCS

Hey all you Sox Nationers,

Hope life is going well. I’m out West at the ALCS. If you want to join my blog out there and talk ALCS baseball, I’ll be blogging at this URL during the series.

http://2006alcs.mlblogs.com/

hope to see some of you over there, I could use the company.

Later,

Ian.

Yankees are going, going … gone

OK, Red Sox fans. Finally you have something to celebrate. The Yankees have met their maker, and it took just four games for the Tigers to do it.

Inconceivable, isn’t it, to think that the Yankees could be manhandled in such fashion? Well, yes and no.

As i said earlier, playoff baseball has become about the most unpredictable thing on earth. Kenny Rogers and Jeremy Bonderman spun absolute gems. Who knew that was coming, especially in the case of Rogers?

All the hype that was made over the Yankee signing Damon for all that money and making the blockbuster trade for Abreu? Both sound moves, but expensive ones, and all it bought the Yankees in 2006 was a measly one postseason victory.

Just further proof that in October, it’s pitching, pitching, pitching, pitching. In ’04, the Sox had Schilling, Pedro, Lowe, and Foulke. And that carried them. The team with the most arms wins every year.

I like these Tigers the rest of the way. Well, I’m going to the Bay Area for the ALCS, so i’ll post again then.

Thanks,

Ian.

Yankees on the brink

Yes, I know, I run the Red Sox blog. But I’m in Detroit covering Yankees-Tigers. So it’s worth a blog entry that the mighty, mighty Yankees are facing elimination today.

I’d like to see the Yankees win, mainly because it will make my travel arrangements easier. how’s that for honesty? It’s not easy to get a flight to San Francisco/Oakland on one day’s notice.

Seriously, I’ve made it clear in this blog all year that I’m very much a Johnny Damon backer. So i’d like to see Johnny play a few more big games this October.

The more i watch postseason baseball, the more i discover that it’s just pure luck. How could anyone know that Kenny Rogers was going to pitch the second best game of his career last night? (Don’t forget his perfect game in 1994). You just can’t predict this stuff, so why try?

What if Dave Roberts is thrown out at second in ’04? the Red Sox are swept that year. Is Billy Beane suddenly a genius now because the A’s finally won a first round series?

So just sit back and enjoy October. Don’t try to guess what will happen. Just watch it all unfold and know that the baseball Gods have alread pre-determined a lot of it.

Ian.

Red Sox all over October

The Red Sox aren’t in the playoffs? Funny, every time I look in front of me, I see reminders of the Red Sox this October.

Grady Little is filling out lineup cards for the Dodgers. What a great guy. I’d love to see Grady take his team deep into October. I know it’s an unpopular thing to say on this blog, but let it go. ’03 was exorcised by ’04. Let it go. Grady is a very classy man and has handled that situation in LA in fantastic fashion.

Nomar Garciaparra is playing first base for the Dodgers. Nomar’s bat speed looks fantastic. It looks 1998-esque. I’m just not quite sure why he watched Billy Wagner’s first two pitches go right down the middle and then swung at strike three in the dirt. Oh well, I’d like to see Nomar come up with some big moments this October.

Derek Lowe is the ace of the Dodgers. Good to see D-Lowe back on the hill for a big game. I’m sure he’d like to take back those two gopherballs he surrendered to Delgado and Cliff Floyd. Otherwise, D. Lowe was D. Lowe. Only sad story in LA is Billy Ballgame, Bill Mueller. His knees are shot and might never play again. He is one of the most fundamentally sound players I’ve ever seen. I watched Bill Mueller on a nightly basis for three years and can’t recall seeing him make even one mental mistake. How many players can you say that about? Too bad he can’t enjoy this. We all know what kind of player he was in the clutch.

Pedro Martinez is the wounded ace of the Mets. Sure, Pedro is down and out, with that torn rotator cuff. But his smiling face was back in the Mets dugout today, and he was doing the cheerleading thing as only he can.

Then, the Padres, oh the Padres. Red Sox galore.

Josh Bard is the backup catcher of the Padres. Remember Josh Bard? The guy who couldn’t catch Tim Wakefield’s knuckleball. The guy who has been performing heroics all year long. Yes, as Theo Epstein readily admitted, this is a trade he’d love to have back.

Cla Meredith is the Padres setup man. Yes, the side-winder who was shellshocked after that quick entry to big league life at fenway in May of 05 is thriving in San Diego. So is Alan Embree, the power lefty who helped the Red Sox win the World Series in 2004 but seemed to be in the breakdown lane with both the Red Sox and Yanks last year. He’s gotten himself back to a pretty effective level this year.

Dave Roberts is the Padres leadoff man. You might remember him. He stole a pretty big base for the Red Sox at one time.

Mark Bellhorn and Todd Walker are backup infielders for the Padres. One guy gave the Sox a ton of clutch hits in the ’04 postseason, the other guy was unstoppable in ’03.

Jay Payton is a starting outfielder for the A’s. Yeah, remember, the Red Sox traded Roberts to get Payton. Only, Payton didn’t want to be in Boston. Now he’s in Oakland and playing well, and just one win away from playing in the ALCS. Of course, Payton and the A’s would probably face the Yankees in the ALCS.

Oh yeah, the Yankees.

Johnny Damon is the Yankees leadoff hitter, or so you might have heard. Though some of you are stubborn and still look at him as a traitor, Johnny did the right thing for his career and he’s the same great guy and player he always was. Mike Myers is the Yankees lefty specialist. Things didn’t go so well for Myers last night as he gave up a homer to the only batter he faced. But you know he’ll get some big outs over the next few weeks.

So the Red Sox aren’t in October? The Red Sox are all OVER October. Check it out when you get a chance.

p.s. — I’m at Yankee stadium and i just walked through the concourse and witnessed a Yankees fan holding the following sign: Manny is playing golf today. This is better!

That's all folks

After Game No. 162, it’s only fitting to say thanks to all of you for your participation in the blog. Not to say the blog is going away, I can promise you i’ll be posting periodically throughout the offseason.

But I think we built ourselves a nice little community. It’s too bad the season ended the way it is. It’s always more fun to talk about a winning team than a losing one.

This was a strange year, but we had fun dissecting it, even though it had many ups and downs.

I’m now in New York for Yankees-Tigers. I’m going to do Yankees sidebars throughout the playoffs. Should I refrain from any Bronx postings, or would you all like to hear what’s going on during the postseason?

thanks again for all your contributions and let’s keep the Hot Stove burning!

Ian.

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