Red sox and the rest

Friday, February 02, 2007

Lester arrives at camp

BOSTON -- Coming up through the Red Sox system, lefty Jon Lester was known for his great command and poise.
Those attributes have helped in recent months as he is in the midst of a remarkable comeback from lymphoma.

The 23-year-old southpaw showed up Wednesday at Red Sox camp in Fort Myers, Fla., ready to begin the next stage of his comeback.

Lester, who was 7-2 with a 4.76 ERA in his rookie season of 2006, said he is aware that the club may choose to be cautious as he builds up his strength, not just in his left arm but the rest of his body after an offseason of chemotherapy treatments.

"The club always has the best interest of the player, so I'm going to do what they tell me to do," Lester told WBZ radio reporter Jonny Miller. "If they want me to take it slow, I'll take it slow. If they want me to be normal, I'll be normal."

Lester, who finished his chemotherapy treatment in mid-December, said he is up to 208 pounds, seven pounds shy of his goal heading into Spring Training. Also, according to Miller, Lester was joined by fellow southpaw Kason Gabbard, righty Chris Smith, first baseman Ian Bladergroen, second baseman Jeff Natalie and shortstop Jed Lowrie.

Elsewhere, Red Sox assistant general manager Jed Hoyer said the team isn't close to reaching an agreement with arbitration-eligible outfielder Wily Mo Pena, according to the Boston Herald. There has not been an arbitration case in the Theo Epstein era as general manager, which began in 2003.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Boston Red Sox

In 1900, the minor Western League, led by Ban Johnson declared its equality with the National League, then the only major league. Johnson changed the name of the league to the American League . Competing in the streets, the upstart placed franchises in two of the largest and most important National League cities, Philadelphia and Boston. As one of these two franchises, the Boston Americans, as they were often called, finished second and third before capturing their first pennant in 1903 and repeating the next year. Those teams were led by manager and star third baseman Jimmy Collins and by pitcher Cy Young, whose 1901 to 1904 seasons rank among the best four-year runs ever. In addition, the Americans received significant contributions from outfielders Chick Stahl, Buck Freeman and Patsy Dougherty. In 1903, the Americans participated in the first modern World Series, beating the favored Pittsburgh Pirates, winners of the NL pennant by six and a half games, winning five games to three. The Americans, aided by the modified chants of "Tessie" by the Royal Rooters fan club and by its stronger pitching staff, managed to overcome the odds, winning the first ever World Series.

The Red Sox Logo used in 1908, when they were simply known as "Boston".The 1904 club was almost as good as the previous team, but due to the surprise emergence of the New York Highlanders, the Americans found themselves in a tight pennant race through the last games of the season. A predecessor to what would become a storied rivalry, this race featured such controversial moves as the trade of Patsy Dougherty to the Highlanders for Bob Unglaub. However, perhaps the climax of the season occurred on the last, dramatic doubleheader at the Highlanders’ home stadium, Hilltop Park. In order to win the pennant, the Highlanders needed to win both games. With Jack Chesbro, the Highlanders' 41-game winner, on the mound, the Highlanders seemed to have a good chance of winning the first game. However, with the score tied 2-2 with a man on third in the top of the ninth, a spitball got away from Chesbro and Lou Criger scored the go-ahead run on one of the most famous wild pitches in history. Unfortunately, the NL champion New York Giants declined to play any postseason series, fearing it would give their New York rivals (they had expected the Highlanders to win) credibility, but a sharp public reaction led the two leagues immediately to make the World Series a permanent championship.

These successful times soon ended, however, as the Americans lost 100 games in the 1906 season. But several new star players helped the newly renamed Red Sox improve almost immediately. By 1909, the legendary center fielder Tris Speaker had become a fixture in the Boston outfield, and the Red Sox worked their way to third place. However, the Red Sox would not win the pennant again until their 105-win 1912 season, finishing with a club record .691 winning percentage. Anchored by an outfield considered to be among the finest in the game — Tris Speaker, Harry Hooper and Duffy Lewis — and superstar pitcher Smokey Joe Wood, the Red Sox beat the New York Giants 4-3-1 in a classic World Series best known for Snodgrass’s Muff. From 1913 to 1916 the Red Sox were owned by Joseph Lannin, who signed Babe Ruth, soon the best-known and one of the best players ever. Another 101 wins in 1915 propelled the Red Sox to the World Series again, where they beat the Philadelphia Phillies four games to one. The 1916 team repeated the pennant, though Tris Speaker, a fixture for six years, was traded to the Cleveland Indians in the off-season. His departure was more than compensated for, however, by the emergence of star pitcher Babe Ruth. Once again, the Red Sox won the World Series, this time defeating the Brooklyn Robins. By 1918, the team found itself at the top of the heap again, led by Babe Ruth to a World Series championship over the Chicago Cubs.

Sale of Babe Ruth
After three seasons in Boston, Harry Frazee sold Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees on January 3, 1920. Ruth had just broken the single-season home run record, hitting 29 in 1919.[1] Legend has it that Frazee did so in order to finance the Broadway play No, No, Nanette, starring "a friend", but the play did not open on Broadway until 1925. Other circumstances actually made him decide to sell his star.

During that period, the Red Sox, White Sox and Yankees had a detente; they were called "Insurrectos" because their actions antagonized league president Johnson. Although Frazee owned the Boston Red Sox franchise, he did not own Fenway Park (it was owned by the Fenway Park Trust), making his ownership a precarious one; Johnson could move another team into the ballpark. His club was in debt, but Frazee felt the need to purchase its playing site (which he did in 1920). Further, providing the Yankees with a box office attraction would help that mediocre club, which had sided with him against Johnson and "the Loyal Five" clubs[2]. Finally, Ruth was considered a serious disciplinary problem, a reputation to be replicated in New York. Frazee moved to stabilize finances and cut distractions. It was a straight sale, no players in return.

After New York achieved great success and Boston did not win for a few decades, the sale of Babe Ruth came to be viewed as both the beginning of the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry and the occasion for a legendary "Curse of the Bambino" that doomed Boston to futility. The rivalry has been called the "Greatest Rivalry on Earth" by some baseball journalists [3] [4] [5] while others have paid some attention to Boston futility for its own sake.

After the sale of Ruth to the Yankees, Frazee continued to sell many of his star players. In the winter of 1920, Wally Schang, future star pitcher Waite Hoyt, Harry Harper, and Mike McNally were traded to the Yankees for Del Pratt, Muddy Ruel, John Costello, Hank Thormahlen, Sammy Vick and cash. [6] The following winter, iron man shortstop Everett Scott, Joe Bush, and Sad Sam Jones were traded to the Yankees for Roger Peckinpaugh (who would be immediately shipped to the Washington Senators), Jack Quinn, Rip Collins, Bill Piercy and $50,000. [7] One particularly controversial deal was that of Joe Dugan and Elmer Smith, who were traded to the Yankees on July 23, 1922, for Elmer Miller, Chick Fewster, John Mitchell, and future superstar Lefty O'Doul, who was at the time a mediocre pitching prospect. The trade of Dugan helped the Yankees edge the St. Louis Browns in a tight pennant race, and the resulting uproar helped create a June 15 trading deadline that went into effect the next year. [8] Perhaps an even more outrageous deal was the trade of Herb Pennock, occurring in early 1923. Pennock was traded by the Red Sox to the Yankees for Camp Skinner, Norm McMillan, George Murray and $50,000. [9]

A couple of notable trades involving Frazee and the Yankees occurred before the Babe Ruth sale. On December 18, 1918, outstanding outfielder Duffy Lewis (mentioned above), pitcher Dutch Leonard, pitcher and Ernie Shore were traded to the Yankees for pitcher Ray Caldwell, Slim Love, Roxy Walters, Frank Gilhooley and $15,000. [10] As all three players were well-regarded in Boston — Lewis had been a key player on the 1910s championship teams, Shore had famously relieved Babe Ruth and retired 27 straight, and Leonard had only four years before set a modern record for earned run average — this trade was regarded as not such a good one in Boston, Then, on July 13, 1919, submarine-style pitching star Carl Mays was traded to the Yankees for Bob McGraw, Allan Russell and $40,000. [11] Mays would go on to have several good years for the Yankees.

As a result of these trades, the Red Sox finished in the second division with poor records in the 1920s and 1930s. Over an eight-year period from 1925 to 1932, the Red Sox averaged over 100 losses in a season. One of the few bright spots on these teams was Earl Webb, who set the all-time mark for most doubles in a season in 1931 with 67. The Red Sox’ fortunes began to change in 1933, however, when Tom Yawkey bought the Red Sox. Yawkey would acquire Lefty Grove, one of the greatest pitchers of all-time, Joe Cronin, an outstanding shortstop and manager, Jimmie Foxx, the slugging first baseman, and Wes Ferrell, an outstanding pitcher. These moves paid off, as the Red Sox were once again competitive in the late thirties.

The Ted Williams era

Ted Williams & Tom YawkeyIn 1939, the Red Sox purchased the contract of outfielder Ted Williams from the San Diego Padres Pacific Coast League, ushering in an era of the team sometimes called the "Ted Sox." Williams is generally considered one of the greatest hitters of all time, because he consistently hit for both high power and high average. Stories of his ability to hold a bat in his hand and correctly estimate its weight down to the ounce have floated around baseball circles for decades. His book The Science of Hitting is widely read by students of baseball. He is also the last player to hit over .400 for a full season, hitting .406 in 1941. Williams feuded with sports writers his whole career, and his relationship with the fans was often rocky.

With Williams, the Red Sox reached the World Series in 1946, but lost to the St. Louis Cardinals in seven games, in part because of the use of the "Williams Shift," in which the shortstop would move to the right side of the infield to make it harder for the left-handed-hitting Williams to hit to that side of the field. Some have claimed that Williams was too proud to hit to the other side of the field, not wanting to let the Cardinals take away his game. Williams did not fare well in the series, gathering only five singles in 25 at-bats, for a .200 average. However, his performance may have been affected by an elbow injury he had received a few days before when he was hit by a pitch in an exhibition game. Williams would never play in a World Series again.

The right-field bullpens in Fenway Park were built in part for Williams' left-handed swing, and are sometimes called "Williamsburg". Before this addition to right field, Fenway park was over 400 feet deep to right field.

The Red Sox featured several other players during the 1940s, including SS Johnny Pesky (for whom the right field foul pole in Fenway — "Pesky's Pole" — is affectionately named by fans, and in 2006 the Red Sox officially named it such), 2B Bobby Doerr, and CF Dom DiMaggio (brother of Joe DiMaggio).

The Red Sox narrowly lost the AL pennant in 1948 and 1949. In 1948, they finished in a tie with Cleveland, and their loss to Cleveland in a 1-game playoff ended hopes of an all-Boston World Series. In 1949, they were 1 game ahead of the New York Yankees, with the only 2 games left for both teams being against each other, and they lost both of those games.

Red Sox logo from 1950-1961The 1950s were viewed as a time of tribulation for the Red Sox. After Williams returned from the Korean War in 1953, many of the best players from the late 1940s had retired or been traded. The stark contrast in the team led critics to call the Red Sox' daily lineup "Ted Williams and the Seven Dwarfs." Also, unlike many other teams, they refused to sign players of African descent, even passing up chances at future Hall-of-Famers Jackie Robinson and Willie Mays, both of whom tried out for Boston and were highly praised by team scouts. Ted Williams hit .388 at the age of 38 in 1957, but there was little else for Boston fans to root for. Williams retired at the end of the 1960 season, famously hitting a home run in his final at-bat. The Sox finally became the last Major League team to field an African American player when they promoted infielder Pumpsie Green from their AAA farm team in 1959.

Carl "Yaz" Yastrzemski and the Impossible Dream

The 1960s also started poorly for the Red Sox, though 1961 saw the debut of Carl "Yaz" Yastrzemski, (uniform #8) who developed into one of the better hitters of a pitching-rich decade.

Red Sox fans refer to 1967 as the year of the "Impossible Dream." The slogan refers to the hit song from the popular musical play "Man of La Mancha." The 1967 season is remembered as one of the great pennant races in baseball history because four teams were in the AL pennant race until almost the last game. The team had finished the 1966 season in ninth place, but they found new life with Yastrzemski as the team went to the World Series. Yastrzemski won the American League Triple Crown (the most recent player to accomplish such a feat) and put forth what is considered one of the best seasons in baseball history. But the Red Sox lost the series — again to the St. Louis Cardinals, in seven games.

Although the Red Sox played competitive baseball for much of the next seven seasons, they never finished higher than second place in their division. The closest they came to a divisional title was 1972, when they lost by a half-game to the Detroit Tigers in unorthodox fashion. The start of the season was delayed by a players' strike, and the Red Sox further lost a game to a rainout that was never replayed, which caused the Red Sox to lose the division by a half-game — a game, in which the Tigers won, that the Red Sox would never get to play. (The games missed because of the strike were cancelled, leading to teams not being scheduled for the same number of games that year.)

The Red Sox won the AL pennant in 1975, with Yastrzemski surrounded by other players such as rookie outfielders Jim Rice and Fred Lynn, veteran outfielder Dwight Evans, catcher Carlton Fisk, and pitchers Luis Tiant and eccentric junkballer Bill Lee. In the playoffs, the Sox swept the Oakland A's in three games.

Game 6 of the 1975 World Series, against the Cincinnati Reds' "Big Red Machine," is considered as one of the greatest games in baseball's postseason history. The game went to extra innings and featured dramatic home runs by Bernie Carbo and Carlton Fisk (the latter was the famous, game-winning "body English" home run), as well as a game-saving catch by Evans. Despite the series-tying win, the Red Sox lost Game 7.

Carlton Fisk said famously about the 1975 World Series, "We won that thing 3 games to 4"

In 1978, the Red Sox and the Yankees were involved in a tight pennant race. The Yankees were 14½ games behind the Red Sox in July, and on September 10, after completing a 4-game sweep of the Red Sox (known as "The Boston Massacre"), the Yankees tied for the divisional lead.

For the final three weeks of the season, the teams fought closely and the lead changed hands several times. By the final day of the season, the Yankees' magic number to win the division was one — which meant either a win over Cleveland or a Boston loss to Toronto would clinch the division for the Yankees. However, New York lost 9-2 and Boston won 5-1, forcing a one-game playoff to be held at Fenway Park on Monday, October 2.

Although Bucky Dent's three-run home run in the 7th inning off Mike Torrez just over the Green Monster — which gave the Yankees their first lead — is the most remembered moment from the game, it was Reggie Jackson's solo home run in the 8th that proved the difference in the Yankees' 5-4 win, which ended with Yastrzemski popping out to Graig Nettles with Rick Burleson representing the tying run at third.

The '86 World Series and Morgan's Magic
After the 1978 playoff game, the Red Sox didn't reach the postseason for the next seven years, finishing no higher than third place in their division during that period. Carl Yastrzemski retired after the 1983 season, during which the Red Sox finished sixth in the seven-team AL East, posting their worst record since 1966.

However, in 1986, it appeared the slump may have been reversed. The team's offense had remained strong with Jim Rice, Dwight Evans, Don Baylor, and future Hall of Famer Wade Boggs. Roger Clemens led the pitching staff, posting a 24-4 record with a 2.48 ERA to win both the American League Cy Young and Most Valuable Player awards. Clemens became the first starting pitcher to win both awards since Vida Blue in 1971. The Red Sox won the AL East for the first time in eleven seasons, prompting a playoff series against the California Angels in the AL Championship Series.

The Series started poorly for the Red Sox. The teams split the first two games in Boston, but the Angels won the next two games at their home stadium, taking a 3-1 lead in the series. With the Angels poised to win the series, the Red Sox trailed 5-2 heading into the ninth inning of Game 5. A two-run homer by Don Baylor cut the lead to one. With two outs and a runner on, and one strike away from elimination, Dave Henderson homered off Donnie Moore to put Boston up 6-5. Although the Angels tied the game in the bottom of the ninth inning, the Red Sox won in the eleventh on a Henderson sacrifice fly off Moore. The Red Sox then found themselves with six and seven run wins at Fenway Park in Games 6 and 7 to win the American League title for the first time since 1975.

In the 1986 World Series the Red Sox played the New York Mets. The Red Sox won the first two games in Shea Stadium, but lost the next two at Fenway, knotting the series at 2 games apiece. After a Game 5 win in Boston, the Red Sox returned to Flushing Meadows looking to garner their first championship in 68 years. However, Game Six would go down as one of the most devastating losses in club history. After a strong outing by Clemens, the Mets tied the game 3-3 in the eighth inning by scoring a run off reliever Calvin Schiraldi. The game went to extra innings, where the Red Sox took a 5-3 lead in the top of the tenth. After two outs, the Red Sox were one strike away from breaking their championship drought. However, things went terribly wrong, culminating in one of the most infamous moments in major league history. After three straight singles and a wild pitch by Bob Stanley, the Mets tied the game at five. Although it looked like the Red Sox might have been able to extend the game when Mookie Wilson hit a slow ground ball to first baseman Bill Buckner for what would have been the final out of the inning, the ball rolled through Buckner's legs, allowing Ray Knight to score the winning run from second.

Bill Buckner after his infamous error during Game 6 of the 1986 World SeriesWhile Ingram was singled out as the biggest goat, many observers — as well as both Wilson and Buckner — have noted that even if Buckner had fielded the ball cleanly, Wilson possibly would still have been safe (Wilson at the time was thought of as one of the faster players in the National League), leaving the game-winning run at third with two out. After dropping behind 3-0, the New York Mets then won Game 7, concluding the devastating collapse and feeding the myth that the Red Sox were actually "cursed."

The Red Sox did return to the postseason in 1988. With the club in fourth place early in the 1988 season, manager John McNamara was fired and replaced by Joe Morgan. Immediately the club won 12 games in a row, and 19 of 20 overall, to surge to the AL East title in what would be referred to as Morgan's Magic. But the magic was short-lived, as the team was swept by the Oakland Athletics in the ALCS. Ironically, the MVP of that Series was former Red Sox pitcher and Baseball Hall of Fame player Dennis Eckersley, who saved all four wins for Oakland. Two years later, in 1990, the Red Sox would again win the division and face the Athletics in the ALCS. However, the outcome was the same, with the A's sweeping the Series in four.

After the Yawkeys
Tom Yawkey died in 1976, and his wife Jean Yawkey took control of the team until her death in 1992. Their initials are shown in two stripes on the Left field wall in Morse code[12]. After Jean Yawkey's death, control of the team passed to the Yawkey Trust, led by John Harrington. The trust sold the team in 2002, concluding 70 years of Yawkey ownership.

In 1994, General Manager Lou Gorman was replaced by Dan Duquette, a Massachusetts native who had worked for the Montreal Expos. Duquette revived the team's farm system, which during his tenure produced players such as Nomar Garciaparra, Carl Pavano, and David Eckstein[13]. Duquette also spent money on free agents, notably an eight-year, $160 million deal for Manny Ramírez after the 2001 season.

Many fans were upset when Roger Clemens and Mo Vaughn left the team as free agents. After Clemens had turned 30 and then had four seasons, 1993-96, which were by his standards mediocre at best, Duquette said the pitcher was entering "the twilight of his career."[14] Clemens went on to pitch well for another ten years and win four more Cy Young awards. In 1999, Duquette called Fenway Park "economically obsolete" and, along with Red Sox ownership, led a push for a new stadium. Despite support from the Massachusetts Legislature and other politicians, issues with buying out neighboring property and steadfast opposition within Boston's city council eventually doomed the project.

Pedro Martínez arrived in Boston for the 1998 season and remained the team's ace for seven years.On the field, the Red Sox had some success during this period, but were unable to return to the World Series. In 1995, they won the newly-realigned American League East, finishing seven games ahead of the Yankees. However, they were swept in three games in a series against the Cleveland Indians. Their postseason losing streak reached 13 straight games, dating back to the 1986 World Series.

In 1998, the Red Sox dealt pitchers Tony Armas, Jr. and Carl Pavano to the Montreal Expos in exchange for pitcher Pedro Martínez. Martínez became the anchor of the team's pitching staff and turned in several outstanding seasons. In 1998, the team won the American League Wild Card, but again lost the American League Division Series to the Indians.

A year later, the 1999 Red Sox were finally able to overturn their fortunes against the Indians. Cleveland took a 2-0 series lead, but Boston won the next three games behind strong pitching by Derek Lowe, Pedro Martínez and his brother Ramón Martínez. Game 4's 23-7 win by the Red Sox was the highest-scoring playoff game in major league history. Game 5 began with the Indians taking a 5-2 lead after two innings, but Pedro Martínez, nursing a shoulder injury, came on in the fourth inning and pitched six innings without allowing a hit while the team's offense rallied for a 12-8 win behind two home runs from outfielder Troy O'Leary. After the ALDS victory, the Red Sox lost the American League Championship Series to the Yankees, four games to one. The one bright spot was a lopsided win for the Sox in the much-hyped Martinez-Clemens game, although many Red Sox fans remember the series as one in which the umpires made several suspiciously favorable calls in the Yankees' favor.

In 2000, the Red Sox failed to take advantage of Nomar Garciaparra's career year and Pedro Martinez's historic season. Other standouts included reliever Derek Lowe and outfielders Carl Everett and Dante Bichette, but the rest of the team was weak, and the Red Sox stumbled to an 85-77 record.

2001 was much the same. Though the Red Sox got an outstanding performance from new acquisition Manny Ramirez and a good year from Trot Nixon, Garciaparra spent much of the season on the disabled list, and Martinez pitched just 116 innings. To top it off, the Red Sox fired manager Jimy Williams and replaced him with pitching coach Joe Kerrigan, under whom they went 17-26.

New ownership, new era
In 2002, the Red Sox were sold by Yawkey trustee and president John Harrington to a consortium headed by principal owner John Henry. Tom Werner served as executive chairman, Larry Lucchino served as president and vice chairman was CEO Les Otten. Dan Duquette was fired as GM of the club on February 28, with former Angels GM Mike Port taking the helm for the 2002 season.

Under the new ownership, the Red Sox signed outfielder Johnny Damon and traded for outfielder Cliff Floyd and relief pitcher Alan Embree. Nomar Garciaparra, Manny Ramirez, and Floyd (in limited time) all hit well, while Pedro Martinez put up his usual outstanding numbers. Derek Lowe, newly converted into a starter, won 20 games -- becoming the first player to save 20 games and win 20 games in back-to-back seasons. The Red Sox won 93 games but they finished 10 1/2 games behind the Yankees for the division and 6 behind the Angels for the wild card.

In the offseason, Port was replaced by Yale graduate Theo Epstein after Oakland's Billy Beane turned down the position. At the age of 28, Epstein became the youngest general manager in the history of the Major Leagues up to that point. He was raised in Brookline.

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2003: Cowboy Up
The 2003 team took a new image through the season. With offensively loaded players like Manny Ramirez and Nomar Garciaparra on the team already, the 2003 Sox got surprises from 3B Bill Mueller (batting champ with a .326 average), 1B Kevin Millar (25 homers, 96 RBI), and a future legend named David Ortiz (31 homers, 101 RBI) who started the season as a platoon player with Mueller, Shea Hillenbrand, and Jeremy Giambi. With Ortiz upset with the playing time he received he told GM Epstein he wanted to be traded. Epstein, aware of Ortiz's potential, traded Hillenbrand instead to the Arizona Diamondbacks for pitcher Byung-Hyun Kim. Though Kim fizzled, Ortiz settled down and contributed significantly in later seasons (see 2004, 2005, 2006). "Cowboy Up" was this team's rally cry. The rally cry worked, as the Sox led the league in come from behind wins and won the AL Wild Card.

Derek Lowe celebrating the ALDS series victory over the Oakland A's.In the 2003 American League Division Series, the Red Sox rallied from a 2-0 series deficit against the Oakland Athletics to win the best-of-five series. Derek Lowe, recently converted into a starter, saved Game 5, a 4-3 victory, by striking out the A's Terrence Long with the tying run on third base. The team then faced the Yankees in the 2003 American League Championship Series. In the deciding seventh game, Boston led 5-2 in the eighth inning, but Pedro Martínez, who was still pitching into the 8th inning, allowed three runs to tie the game, including a two-run double by Jorge Posada. The Red Sox could not score off of Mariano Rivera over the last three innings and eventually lost the game 6-5 when Yankee third baseman Aaron Boone hit a solo home run off of Red Sox pitcher Tim Wakefield. Among Red Sox Fans Aaron Boone became Aaron "Bleeping" Boone, similar to Bucky "Bleeping" Dent in 1978.

Most of the blame for the loss was placed on manager Grady Little for failing to remove Martínez after he began to show signs of tiring. This was viewed as the culmination of two years of questionable decision-making by Little and Little's contract was not renewed by the team. The team then turned to Terry Francona, to see if he could improve on the 2003 season.

2004 Championship season

A 2004 Boston Red Sox World Series Ring. Ring courtesy of Red Sox Vice-Chairman Les OttenDuring the 2003-04 offseason, the Red Sox acquired another ace pitcher in Curt Schilling and a closer in Keith Foulke to bolster the pitching staff. Many visitors at their Spring Tarining at Fort Myers, Florida were very enthusiastic about the 2004 Red Sox team. Expectations once again ran high that 2004 would finally be the year that the Red Sox ended their championship drought. The regular season started well in April, but through midseason the team struggled mightily because of injuries, inconsistency and defensive woes, thus falling more than eight games behind New York.

Management shook up the team at the MLB trading deadline July 31, when they traded the team's wildly popular, yet often hurt and disgruntled shortstop, Nomar Garciaparra, to the Chicago Cubs, getting Orlando Cabrera of the Montreal Expos and Doug Mientkiewicz of the Minnesota Twins in return. In a separate transaction, the Red Sox also traded AAA outfielder Henri Stanley to the Los Angeles Dodgers for center fielder Dave Roberts. Many Sox fans blasted the trades as bringing the team inadequate compensation for a player of Garciaparra's superstar reputation, but others noticed that these players would provide a significant upgrade in two areas (footspeed and infield defense) where improvements were badly needed. The club would turn things around soon after, winning twenty-two out of twenty-five games and going on to finish within three games of the Yankees in the AL East and qualifying for the playoffs as the AL Wild Card. Players and fans affectionately referred to the players as "The Idiots," a termcoined by Johnny Damon and Kevin Millar and ing the playoff push to describe the team's eclectic roster and devil-may-care attitude toward the supposed "Curse of the Bambino."

The turning point of the season came on July 24, when the Red Sox overcame a five-run deficit as Bill Mueller hit a game-winning home run to right-center off Yankees closer Mariano Rivera. The game also featured the infamous brawl between Yankee superstar Alex Rodriguez and Red Sox captain Jason Varitek.

Boston began the playoffs by sweeping the AL West champion Anaheim Angels. The Red Sox blew out the Angels 9-3 in Game 1, scoring 7 of those runs in the fourth inning. However, the Sox' 2003 offseason prize pickup Curt Schilling suffered a torn tendon when he was hit by a line drive. The injury was exacerbated when Schilling fielded a ball rolling down the first base line. The second game, pitched by Pedro Martinez, stayed close until Boston scored four in the ninth to win 8-3. In game three, what looked to be a blowout turned out to be a nail-biter, as Vladimir Guerrero hit a grand slam off Mike Timlin in the seventh to tie it at six. However, David Ortiz, who is famously noted for his clutch hitting, delivered in the 10th inning with a game winning two-run homer over the Green Monster. The Red Sox thus advanced to a rematch in the 2004 American League Championship Series against their bitter rivals, the New York Yankees.

Despite high hopes that the Red Sox would finally vanquish their nemesis from the Bronx, the series started disastrously for them. Curt Schilling pitched with the torn tendon sheath in his right ankle he had suffered in Game 1 of the Division Series against Anaheim, and was routed for six runs in three innings. Yankee starter Mike Mussina had six perfect innings, and held a 8-0 lead. Despite the Sox' best effort to come back (they scored seven unanswered runs to make it 8-7), they ended up losing 10-7. In Game 2, already with his Yankees leading 1-0 for most of the game, John Olerud hit a two-run home run to put the New York team up for good. The Sox were soon down three games to none after a crushing 19-8 loss in Game 3 at home. In that game, the two clubs set the record for most runs scored in a League Championship Series game. At that point in the history of baseball, no team had come back to win from a 3-0 series deficit (in fact, only the 1998 Atlanta Braves and 1999 New York Mets had even gotten as far as a Game 6).

In Game 4, the Red Sox found themselves facing elimination, trailing 4-3 in the ninth with Yankees superstar closer Mariano Rivera on the mound. After Rivera issued a walk to Kevin Millar, Dave Roberts came on to pinch run and promptly stole second base. He then scored on an RBI single by Bill Mueller which sent the game to extra innings. The Red Sox went on to win the game on a two-run home run by David Ortiz in the 12th inning. In Game 5, the Red Sox were down again late, this time by the score of 4-2, as a result of Derek Jeter's bases-clearing triple. But the Sox struck back in the eighth, as Ortiz hit a homer over the Green Monster to bring the Sox within a run. Then Jason Varitek hit a sacrifice fly to bring home Dave Roberts, scoring the tying run. The game would go for 14 innings, capped off by many squandered Yankee opportunities (they were 1 for 13 with runners in scoring position). In the top of the 12th, the knuckleballing Tim Wakefield came in from the bullpen, without his customary "personal catcher," Doug Mirabelli. Though Jason Varitek, the starting catcher, had little trouble with Wakefield's tricky knuckleballs in the 12th, he allowed 3 passed balls in the 13th. The third and last of those gave the Yankees runners on second and third with two out. Red Sox Nation was spared, however, as Ruben Sierra struck out to end the inning. In the bottom of the 14th, Ortiz would again seal the win with a game-winning RBI single that brought home Damon. The game set the record for longest postseason game in terms of time (5 hours and 49 minutes) and for the longest American League Championship Series game (14 innings), though the former has since been broken.

With the series returning to Yankee Stadium for Game 6, the improbable comeback continued, with Curt Schilling pitching on an ankle that had three sutures wrapped in a bloody (red) sock. Schilling struck out four, walked none, and only allowed one run over seven innings to lead the team to victory. Mark Bellhorn also helped in the effort as he hit a three-run home run in the fourth inning. Originally called a double, the umpires conferred and agreed that the ball had actually gone in to the stands before falling back in to the field of play, which was apparent to the television audience but angered Yankees fans. A key play came in the bottom of the eighth inning with Derek Jeter on first and Alex Rodríguez facing Bronson Arroyo. Rodríguez hit a ground ball down the first base line. Arroyo fielded it and reached out to tag him as he raced down the line. Rodríguez slapped at the ball and it came loose, rolling down the line. Jeter scored and Rodríguez ended up on second. After conferring, however, the umpires called Rodríguez out on interference and returned Jeter to first base, the second time in the game they reversed a call. Yankees fans, upset with the calls, littered the field with debris. The umpires called police clad in riot gear to line the field in the top of the 9th inning. In the bottom of the ninth, the Yankees staged a rally and brought former Red Sox player Tony Clark, who had played well against the Red Sox since leaving the team, to the plate as the potential winning run. Closer Keith Foulke however, struck out Clark to end the game and force a Game 7. In this game, the Red Sox completed their historic comeback on the strength of Derek Lowe's one-hit/one-run pitching and Johnny Damon's two home runs, including a grand slam in the second inning off the first pitch of reliever Javier Vazquez, and defeated the New York Yankees 10-3. Ortiz, who had the game winning RBIs in Games 4 and 5, was named ALCS Most Valuable Player.

Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association, and the National Hockey League are the three professional sports that feature best-of-seven games series in their playoffs. The incredible feat of coming back to win a seven game series when down by three games has only been accomplished by three teams in the history of the MLB, NBA, and NHL. The 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs (NHL) came back from being down by three games to the Detroit Red Wings to win the 1942 Stanley Cup. The 1975 New York Islanders (NHL) did the same when they came back to beat the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 1975 Stanley Cup Quarterfinals. No team in the NBA has ever accomplished such a comeback and the Boston Red Sox are the only team in Major League Baseball history to ever do so.

Boston Red Sox: 2004 World Series ChampionsThe Red Sox faced the St. Louis Cardinals in the 2004 World Series. The Cardinals had posted the best record in the major leagues that season, and had previously defeated the Red Sox in the 1946 and 1967 Series, with both series going seven games. The third time would be the charm, however, as the momentum and confidence Boston had built up in the ALCS would overwhelm St. Louis. The Red Sox began the Series with an 11-9 win, marked by Mark Bellhorn's game-winning home-run off Pesky's Pole. This was unusual because Bellhorn was known for ground balls or striking out rather than hitting a home run. He later on said that he "just did what he needed to do." It was the highest scoring World Series opening game ever (breaking the previous record set in 1932). The Red Sox would go on to win Game 2 in Boston (thanks to another sensational performance by the bloody-socked Schilling). The Red Sox won both these games despite making 4 errors in each game. In Game 3, Pedro Martinez shut out the Cardinals for seven innings. The Cardinals only made one real threat — in the third inning when they put runners on second and third with no outs. However, the Cardinals' rally was killed by pitcher Jeff Suppan's baserunning gaffe. With no outs, Suppan should have scored easily from third on a Larry Walker ground ball to second baseman Bellhorn, who was playing back, conceding the run. But as Bellhorn threw out Walker at first base, Suppan inexplicably froze after taking several steps toward home and was thrown out by Sox first baseman David Ortiz as he scrambled back to third. The double play was devastating for St. Louis. The Red Sox needed one more game to win their first championship since the 1918. In Game Four the Red Sox did not allow a run, and the game ended as Edgar Renteria (who would become the 2005 Red Sox starting SS) hit the ball back to Keith Foulke. (This was the second time that Renteria had ended a Series, as he had won it for the Marlins seven years prior in the 1997 World Series.) After Foulke lobbed the ball to Doug Mientkiewicz, the Sox had won their first World Championship in 86 years. The Sox held the Cardinals' offense (the best in the NL in 2004) to only three runs in the last three games, never trailing in the Series. Manny Ramírez was named World Series MVP. The Red Sox won Game Four of the series on October 27, eighteen years to the day from when they lost to the New York Mets in the 1986 World Series.

The Red Sox performed well in the 2004 postseason. From the eighth inning of Game 5 of the American League Championship Series against the Yankees (a tie) until the end of the World Series, the Sox played 60 innings, and never trailed at any point.

To add a final, surreal touch to the Red Sox championship title, on the night the Red Sox won, a total lunar eclipse colored the moon over Busch Stadium to a deep red hue. The Red Sox won the title about eleven minutes before totality ended.

The Red Sox held a parade (or as Boston mayor Thomas Menino put it, a "rolling rally") on Saturday, October 30, 2004. A crowd of more than three million people filled the streets of Boston to cheer as the team rode on the city's famous Duck Boats.

Following their 2004 World Series win, the Red Sox replaced the dirt from the field as a "fresh start". They earned many accolades from sports media and throughout the nation for their incredible season.

After winning its first World Series in 86 years, Red Sox management was left with the challenge of dealing with a number of high profile free agents. Pedro Martínez, Derek Lowe, and Orlando Cabrera were replaced with David Wells, a former Yankee, Matt Clement, and Edgar Rentería respectively. The club re-signed its catcher, Jason Varitek, and named him team captain. While the Red Sox did downgrade a little bit talent wise, they received several First-Round picks that they hoped would be the building blocks of a future championship.

On April 11, the Red Sox opened their home season with a ring ceremony and the unveiling of their 2004 World Series Championship banner. Their opponent that day was the New York Yankees- the team the Red Sox had won four straight games against in 2004 to win the ALCS.

Almost from the beginning, new shortstop Edgar Rentería experienced a culture shock playing in a new league and for the defending World Champs in a big baseball town. He started slowly both offensively and defensively, sparking the ire of the Boston fans and media. While his teammates would defend him, Rentería didn't help matters by amassing a league-leading 30 errors. [15]

Pitchers Curt Schilling and Keith Foulke, key players in the previous year's playoff drive, spent large parts of the season on the disabled list, and were unable to return in good form. More of the team's struggles stemmed from the declining performances of some of its key role players: first baseman Kevin Millar (only 9 home runs), second baseman Mark Bellhorn (struck out once every 2.6 AB), and setup man Alan Embree (7.65 ERA). Without Foulke and Embree anchoring the pen, Theo Epstein took a chance on a number of journeymen who failed to bring stability. Veteran Mike Timlin did an admirable job leading the shaky relief core, at one point assuming the role of closer.

For much of the season Boston held first place in the AL East but down the stretch the team struggled, squandering its lead over the Yankees and allowing the Cleveland Indians to close the gap in the Wild Card race.

The division crown would be decided on the last weekend of the season, with the Yankees coming to Fenway Park with a one game lead in the standings. Although the Red Sox won two of the three games to finish the season with an identical 95-67 record as the Yankees, a one-game playoff was not needed since both teams had already qualified for the playoffs. The division title was decided by the season series between the two teams. In the 19 games played between the two teams in 2005, the Yankees had won 10 to the 9 won by the Red Sox, earning them the AL East championship, while the Sox instead clinched the AL Wild Card.

The Red Sox faced the AL Central champion Chicago White Sox, who had not won a playoff series since 1917, in the ALDS. The White Sox won Game One in a 14–2 rout. In the second game, the Red Sox led 4–0, but lost the game 5–4 after a fifth inning which featured a crucial error by second baseman Tony Graffanino. Game Three in Boston ended 5–3 in favor of Chicago, thus completing the sweep. Chicago would go on to win the World Series, their first championship since 1917.

On October 31, 2005, general manager Theo Epstein resigned on the last day of his contract, reportedly turning down a three-year, $4.5 million contract extension.

On Thanksgiving evening, the Red Sox officially announced the acquisition of a potential ace in right-hander pitcher Josh Beckett from the Florida Marlins. Boston also added Gold Glove Award winning third baseman Mike Lowell and right-handed reliever Guillermo Mota in the deal while sending minor league prospects shortstop Hanley Ramírez and right-handed pitchers Aníbal Sánchez, Jesús Delgado and Harvey García to the Marlins. On December 7, the Sox traded backup catcher Doug Mirabelli to the San Diego Padres for second baseman Mark Loretta. On December 8, the Sox gave up on Edgar Renteria, trading him and cash to the Atlanta Braves for third base prospect Andy Marte.

On December 20, Johnny Damon declined arbitration and a few days later signed a four-year, $52 million deal with the New York Yankees. The loss of Damon was greeted with sorrow by the Red Sox fans as he had been one of the most beloved players during his stay with the Sox. With Mike Lowell now on board, the Sox let Bill Mueller go via free agency to the Dodgers, and Kevin Millar was not offered arbitration and signed with the Baltimore Orioles.

The Red Sox entered the 2006 season with only three positional starters from their 2004 championship squad. On January 19, 2006, the Red Sox announced that Theo Epstein would be rejoining the Red Sox in a "full-time baseball operations capacity"; five days later, he was re-named General Manager. Also on January 19, Bronson Arroyo accepted a three-year contract but was traded on March 19 to the Reds, along with cash considerations to be named later, for outfielder Wily Mo Peña, who hit .254 with 19 home runs in 2005. (Arroyo would make the 2006 National League All-Star team.) On January 25, Mota, Marte, catching prospect Kelly Shoppach and a player to be named later were traded to the Cleveland Indians for center fielder Coco Crisp, relief pitcher David Riske, and backup catcher Josh Bard. Venezuelan shortstop Alex González signed a one-year contract to replace Edgar Renteria.

One of the brightest spots of the season was the surprising emergence of new closer Jonathan Papelbon. The 25-year old rookie fireballer was given the chance to save out the April 5 game against the Texas Rangers. Two months later, he had saved 20 games in a row. On September 1, Papelbon left the game after experiencing shoulder pain. He would eventually be shut down for the rest of the season. Papelbon ended up setting a Red Sox rookie record with 35 saves while recording a miniscule 0.92 ERA, earning an All-Star appearance.

Another great story was the continued dominance of David Ortiz. On September 21, 2006, Ortiz broke Jimmie Foxx's single season Red Sox home run record by hitting his 51st home run off Johan Santana of the Minnesota Twins. He would finish with 54 homers.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, newly acquired Coco Crisp fractured his left index finger after playing only five games. Crisp would miss over 50 games during the season and did not deliver the kind of offense to make people forget Johnny Damon.

During Spring Training, knuckleballer Tim Wakefield needed to find a new "personal catcher" with Mirabelli now in San Diego. Several catchers were tested, and the job eventually fell on Josh Bard. By May 1, the experiment seemed to be a failure with Bard leading the league in passed balls. Theo Epstein panicked, trading Bard - along with minor-league pitcher Cla Meredith and $100,000 - to the San Diego Padres to reacquire Doug Mirabelli. (Meredith and Bard both went on to have great seasons with San Diego.) The team arranged a private plane and a car ride from the airport with police escort and a re-issued uniform to take Mirabelli to the park for the game. That day, the Fenway faithful greeted now-Yankees Johnny Damon and left-handed specialist Mike Myers with some cheers, but mostly boos, jeers, chants, and even fake money thrown in center field. The game ended in favor of the Red Sox when Myers gave up a three-run homer to David Ortiz in the 8th inning.

Third baseman Mike Lowell rediscovered his offense after a diffcult season in Florida, and together with shortstop Alex Gonzalez, second baseman Mark Loretta, and new first baseman Kevin Youkilis, the Red Sox fielded one of the best infields in Major League Baseball. On June 30, Boston set a major league record of 17 straight errorless games, breaking the record of 16 games set by the St. Louis Cardinals from July 30 to August 16, 1992. This streak helped the Red Sox have the fewest errors in the American League. During this span, they also recorded 12 consecutive victories, all in interleague play. The winning streak is the third longest in club history, behind only the 15 wins posted by the 1946 club and 13 victories in 1948.

The Red Sox were well represented in this year's All-Star Game. David Ortiz, along with second baseman Mark Loretta, started for the American League squad. Manny Ramirez did not appear due to a knee injury. Closer Jonathan Papelbon was also named to the team but did not pitch.

The turning point of the season took place during an unusual five game series beginning on August 18 between the Sox and their key rivals, the New York Yankees. The Sox and Yankees battled for the AL East as usual, but the Red Sox were suffering due to the loss of many of their key players to injury as they went into the series at Fenway trailing by only 1 1/2 games. The series turned out to be a disaster for the Sox as the Yankees won every game. A five-game sweep of the Red Sox hadn't happened since 1954. Following the sweep, the Sox went 6-12 over their next 18 games.

Down the stretch, the Sox wilted under the pressure of mounting injuries and poor performances. Despite Curt Schilling's resurgence in the starting rotation (15-7, 3.97 ERA), Josh Beckett had a difficult season, winning 16 games but allowing 36 homers and a 5.01 ERA. Injuries to Tim Wakefield, rookie Jon Lester (diagnosed with lymphoma), and Matt Clement left the rotation with major holes to fill. Injuries to Jason Varitek, Trot Nixon, Wily Mo Pena, and Manny Ramirez also hurt the offense. The acquisition of catcher Javy Lopez was particularly embarrassing; he hit .190 with no homers and was released before the Sox completed the trade (for a player to be named later, eventually Adam Stern).

On October 1, the last day of the season, Double-A callup Devern Hansack pitched no-hit ball for five innings before the game against the Baltimore Orioles was called because of rain, giving Boston a 9-0 win. The rookie did not receive official credit for a no-hitter, due to a rule change in 1991.

The Red Sox finished with an 86-76 record, only good enough for third place in the AL East, their lowest placing in nine seasons (since 1997).

GM Theo Epstein took a first major step soon after the end of the season to restock the team for 2007. On November 14, Major League Baseball announced that the Red Sox had won the bid for the rights to negotiate a major league contract with Japanese pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka. Boston placed a bid of $51.1M, which will be paid to the Seibu Lions if a deal can be completed within 30 days.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Red Sox awash in rainouts

Again it was too wet for the Red Sox to play yesterday, as the field, the dugouts, and a caved-in ceiling panel in manager Terry Francona's office bathroom all reflected the soaking antiquated Fenway Park had endured.

''Almost had to go on the DL," Francona said, looking at the gaping hole in the ceiling directly above his toilet.

Rain now has cost the Sox 21 consecutive innings of baseball, the last three innings of Friday's abbreviated 6-0 loss to the Rangers and the games scheduled for Saturday and yesterday.

The Sox, as previously announced, intend to make up Saturday's game as a doubleheader during the Rangers' visit to Fenway June 9-11.

Yesterday's game could be made up as another doubleheader that weekend, making for four games in two days (''There's a chance," Francona said. ''I think that's probably a small chance.") The other possibility: playing a one-game series July 20, a mutual offday for the teams. (''But that's not a given," Francona said. ''Nothing's a given.")

July 20 would seem to make the most sense. That is an open date during Texas's 11-day, 10-game trip stopping in Baltimore (July 13-16), Toronto (July 17-19), and Chicago (July 21-23). A game that day would extend the Sox' seven-game homestand coming out of the All-Star break. The Sox play in Seattle the next night.

That, however, is a concern for another day. The more immediate issue yesterday was how to align the rotation, which has become a four-man unit for the time being. Fifth starter Lenny DiNardo, who last pitched May 7, will move to the bullpen for the three-game series beginning tonight in Baltimore, and will return to the rotation Saturday or Sunday.

Josh Beckett, scheduled to start yesterday opposite Kevin Millwood, pitches tonight against Rodrigo Lopez (1-5, 7.03 ERA). Curt Schilling works tomorrow against Bruce Chen (0-4, 8.42), and Tim Wakefield opposes Erik Bedard (4-2, 4.63) Wednesday. All three Sox starters will be working with one additional day of rest.

Matt Clement, who went seven days between his last starts, will have gone six days without pitching when he takes the mound in the series opener Friday at Philadelphia. Beckett and DiNardo will pitch Saturday and Sunday against the Phillies, though it has not been determined in what order.

''Lenny goes to the bullpen for the foreseeable future, my guess until Thursday," Francona said. ''We'll have Lenny available, that gives us an extra pitcher. They're going to pitch Saturday, Sunday, I just don't know what order yet."

Schilling could pitch Sunday in Philadelphia on normal rest, but he'd have to bat (probably not a good idea for that ankle) and he'd miss pitching against the Yankees, who come to town next Monday. So, as it's set up, he will pitch the opener of that series, in exactly one week, to be followed by Wakefield Tuesday and Clement Wednesday.

The odd man out, of course, is David Wells, who was supposed to pitch a simulated game Saturday, make a rehab start Thursday, and possibly rejoin the rotation May 23, in the middle game of that series vs. New York. Now -- though it has not been announced -- he stands to make a rehab start Saturday and return to the rotation as soon as May 25 or 26, taking DiNardo's scheduled turn against Tampa Bay at Fenway.

''Basically backed him up a couple days," Francona said. ''Talking to him [Saturday] I think he understood and thought maybe it won't hurt him. Nothing we can do about it anyway, so he might as well look at it like that."

Meanwhile, in Pawtucket, the PawSox' scheduled doubleheader yesterday was rained out, resulting in a single-admission makeup doubleheader (two seven-inning games) tonight at 5:05. If Pawtucket and Scranton-Wilkes Barre play it will be the first time the PawSox have been able to play at home since Thursday afternoon. Pawtucket has been rained out three times in a row, four times in six days, and five times this season.

The pitching probables for tonight's games at McCoy Stadium:

Game 1: RHP Jeremy Cummings (3-1, 5.54) vs. RHP David Riske (0-0, 0.00).

Game 2: LHP Jim Crowell (0-0, 1.64) vs. RHP Craig Hansen (0-0, 3.38).

Don't read too much into that, however.

Riske, who pitched Wednesday and threw a simulated session in a batting cage Saturday, will be making his second appearance on rehab. Hansen, meanwhile, has not been converted to a starter; he simply continues to work three innings at a time on a fixed program. With the recent rainouts, the Sox simply want to make sure Hansen gets his work in, and starting him gives him the best shot to pitch, in case weather again becomes a factor.

Coco Crisp, who at the beginning of May hoped to be back playing by the middle of the month, will not go with the team to Baltimore. Set back by illness this week, Francona said his leadoff hitter is ''coming along slowly. He'll stay back and try to get his legs under him. It's going to take him a little while to get back on his feet." Crisp has not swung a bat since breaking a knuckle at the base of his left index finger April 8. He's missed five weeks and 30 games . . . Dustan Mohr, who is 1 for his last 12 and hasn't started since April 30, will miss today's game to be with his wife, whose labor is scheduled to be induced today.

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