It’s only May 8th, but the Boston Red Sox are 7.5 games back on the
division leading Tampa Bay Rays, and 6.0 games back on the wild card
leading New York Yankees. With a record of 15-15 (and potentially 15-16 if
the rain slows down today and the Yanks hold on to win), and having only been
above .500 for two days in the first month and a bit, it’s pretty obvious to everyone in
the AL East that if the Sox want to compete, something drastic has to happen – and it
has to happen soon, or I might just start watching Major League Soccer instead.
You can argue that the Red Sox are starting to put it together. Having swept the
Toronto Blue Jays and Texas Rangers with strong bats and strong
pitching. J.D. Drew, Victor Martinez, and Adrian Beltre seem
to be coming together at the plate. Even David Ortiz has been smacking a
couple out of the park in the last week. Clay Buchholz, Jon Lester,
and John Lackey have seemingly started to come together. Daisuke
Matsuzaka is back from the DL and has shown signs of strength and weakness,
and even Josh Beckett had a great start to his game against the Yankees
last night, at least until he fell apart. There are signs of light at the end of the tunnel.
Then again, they were swept by the Rays at home over a four game series. They
were even swept by the Baltimore Orioles in Fenway South, and are 2-4
against a team that has been amongst the worst in baseball not just this year, but for
a long …. long time – a team the Sox have beaten 15-17 times per season almost
every year in recent history.
Offense isn’t necessarily a problem. During the off-season, talk was about a
dominant pitching staff and defense, with a relatively weak offense. So far, it’s been
the other way around. The offense has given it’s fans an average of about 5 runs a
game. In the mean time, the pitching staff has an ERA of 4.68, with 13 un-earned
runs crossing the plate. Furthermore, The Red Sox are 1-5 in 6 games they sent to
But why is everyone in Red Sox Nation worried about the future outcome of this
season? Yes, the Rays are 22-7. The Yankees are 20-8. The Blue Jays are 18-13,
2.5 ahead of Boston for third place in the division. But look on the bright side – it’s
only May 8th. Jacoby Ellsbury is injured, as is Mike Cameron. The
lineup is being shuffled continually. The pitching staff needs to find their groove. It
will happen. Eventually everything will come together and they’ll start to win again.
Beckett, Lester, and Lackey are all proven aces. Buchholz and Dice-K are strong,
strong pitchers. Beltre will find his niche at the hot corner. Ellsbury will come back
and start causing hell at the top of the lineup. The 2010 Boston Red Sox are better
than the 85-win team they appear to be at the moment.
Let’s put this season in perspective. This time last year, the Yankees were 14-15,
4.5 games back of the leading Red Sox. But starting on the 13th of May, they won 9
in a row, ultimately ending with a 103-59 season and a World Series ring. Similarly,
the Red Sox started the 2009 season with a record of 2-6, and then went on a
13-game winning streak for a final record of 95-67 and a Wild Card championship. It
can still come together. There’s still time, but this is what needs to happen:
- Stop losing against the Yankees and Rays – In 8 games against these
two teams, they’re 1-7 … all at Fenway, where they seemingly can’t lose against
any other team as long as they show up for the game.
- Start Pitching Like You Mean It – The aces on the mound will come
together and start throwing 7+ innings per game. They’re too good for it to not
happen. Buchholz and Dice-K will add a good compliment to the three J’s, and
the bullpen will come back together, especially when Bonser comes back to put a
cap on his great spring.
- Improve Defense – Beltre has 7 errors so far this season (only 14 for
him through all of last season), so he needs to improve if we have a chance of
winning. But he’s not the only problem. Martinez needs to improve his throw to
second to intimidate potential thieves (although the pitchers need to help). The
offense needs to get healthy once again and do their thing.
- Get Back Ellsbury – Jacoby is well-known as one of the best lead-off
hitters in the game. Guaranteed to steal bases, walk, and hit at a .300+ clip, he’s
essential to a good Sox team (not that Scutaro isn’t doing a great job in his
absence). Darnell McDonald, Jonathan Van Every, Bill
Hall, and Jeremy Hermida are doing a good job in the absence of
Ellsbury and Cameron, but you just can’t replace those two players in any
Do that, and we’ll be fine. Besides, the Yanks will fall, right? 🙂 Burnett can’t go two
seasons without an injury, and Vasquez will be a beautiful Yanks disappointment this
At least one can hope, right?
I love the Red Sox with a fiery passion that will never cease. However, I despise the
Red Sox organization like an ice cream man driving around town honking his horn
when all the ice cream’s gone. The most recent issue? Random ticket drawing. I’ve
never agreed with the idea of putting tickets for high-demand games or seats up for
random drawing, but it’s really starting to get ridiculous.
I can respect the fact that the Red Sox are so highly adored to the point that a game
at Fenway is quite possibly the hardest ticket to get in all of professional sports
(aside from special events such as the playoffs and all-star games), but should that
give the team’s upper management the right to put high-demand games to the luck
of the draw?
We’re talking about a capacity of 37,400 (at night), and 36,984 (give or take, during
the day). That’s fewer seats than any other major league baseball stadium. With the
lowest seating capacity and (quite possibly) the largest fan base in the game, there’s
bound to be a demand for every game played at home, and there is. With a record
sellout streak getting bigger and bigger by the game, there’s no fear from the
management perspective of striking out monetarily. So, why have a random draw for
9, or in this case, 12 games a year? It’s pure lunacy.
Personally, I have access to season tickets, so it’s not a huge problem for yours
truly. However, for the last two years, my family has tried to pick up tickets for
Sox/Yankees games at Fenway (Monster seats or otherwise), only to find out they
had to see the rivalry at Yankee Stadium, where their money was happily accepted.
I’ve got a pair of tickets on the line saying they’ll be sitting on their couches back
home in Toronto when Manny stares the Monster in the eye once again. Anyone
want to take me up on that offer? … No? Didn’t think so.
What’s going to happen in 2011? Random drawings for Sox/Rays games? Random
drawings for all inter-league matches? Random drawings for all AL East opponents?
How far are they going to go with this system in the future?
I understand that part of the reasoning behind this ploy is to help avoid long lineups
and thousands of people at the ticket booths rejected and sent home 5 seconds
after the tickets go on sale, but isn’t that just the way the world works? Aside from
the Michael Jackson funeral service, I can’t recall any other event outside of sports
where tickets were subject to this kind of system, so why do we have to suffer? Even
if we’re talking of sports, I’ve never seen tickets for an original six match go into a
giant spinning barrel. I’ve never seen Lakers tickets subject to this. NHL and NBA
tickets are much harder to come by in big markets (say for the LA Lakers, or Toronto
Maple Leafs), where the fan base is just as large as the Fenway Faithful, with only an
eighth of the seats Fenway contains to provide for that fan base.
Now, we’re dealing with the Twins considering this approach for the Target Field
opener. What’s next? Is democracy going to fall this summer? Is the apocalypse
coming? Did the Mayans screw up and estimate the end of the world two years
late? With all due respect to Twins fans, is that necessary? Why is Twins
management doing this? Did the Red Sox brass get to them and say, “Hey guys,
we’re going to be there for your opener, and we’re bringing our fans … but they
don’t know how to buy tickets properly, so you’re going to have to provide a random
draw … it’s the only way they know.”, or do they just realize that if they sell the
tickets normally, there will be more Red Sox fans in the stands than Twins fans?
What I’m saying here is quite simple. Why not, as an organization, try to make a
profit off of those games? Instead of randomizing a draw and making all your die
hard fans hope reluctantly for the best, why not just raise your ticket prices for those
games? Personally, I’d rather deal with even a 10% hike in ticket prices for those
games than having to hope for Lady Luck to be on my side. It may not work for
events like the WBC, but it works for the all of the All-Star Games in major league
sports, and it certainly works in the playoffs. If you have fans, they’ll come to the
ballpark, even in a recession, and even with higher ticket prices. But these random
draws are getting ridiculous. Tickets should be first come, first serve, regardless of
the size of your venue, or the event you happen to be holding. I thought that’s how
Capitalism and fairness worked.
Yes, I know it’s the off-season. Yes, I know the Yankees won the World Series this
year. Yes, I know Papelbon blew up in the ninth and led us to an early exit in the
ALDS. Yes, I know we’re all depressed and hoping for a better result in 2010. But
why not celebrate a bit? Time to cheer up and look at the best playoff plays / games
involving the Red Sox over the past decade.
Nixon Begins the Tradition – The Red Sox found themselves involved in a
pitcher’s duel in Game 3 of the 2003 ALDS against the Oakland Athletics after losing
the first two games in Oakland. Facing Rich Harden in the bottom of the 11th inning,
Trot Nixon came through with a two-run walk-off homer, setting off the Fenway
faithful and keeping the Sox alive to play another day, starting a tradition of
comeback wins the Red Sox became accustomed to for the remainder of the decade.
Ortiz Walks to New York – Everyone thought Anaheim was about to steal the
show in Game 3 of the 2004 ALDS following a Vladimir Guerrero grand slam in the
7th inning that tied the game 6-6. The game went to the bottom of the 10th, where
Mr. Clutch himself hit a two run series-ending home run over the monster to give the
Red Sox a chance to get their revenge against the Yankees.
Beckett and Pedroia Lead the Way – After a huge comeback series win
against Cleveland, Beckett began the 2007 World Series by striking out the first four
batters he faced in Game 1, and Dustin Pedroia hit an 0-1 count over the Monster
for a lead-off home run. Beckett went on to shut down the Rockies with 9 K’s and
just 1 ER over 7 IP, while the Sox offense never gave up the lead, going on to win
Lester Solidifies His Place as a Fan Favorite – After beating cancer, Jon
Lester came back to the Red Sox in 2007 and eventually went on to beat the
Colorado Rockies in the clinching game of the World Series. While not the most
dominant performance of his career and certainly not his most memorable outing, it
is without a doubt the most important game this young lefty has pitched thus far in
his career, making him a fan favorite in Boston long before he pitched his no-hitter.
And now, for the countdown:
10: Dice-K Hits the Jackpot
2008 ALCS Game 1 – Daisuke Matsuzaka pitched brilliantly on the road in
2008, going 9-0, and he continued that tradition in Tampa against the Rays. In a
pitching duel against James Shields, Dice-K carried a no-hitter through 6 innings,
ultimately striking out 9 over 7+ IP, while Papelbon sealed the deal in the 9th, leading
the Red Sox to a 2-0 shutout. Unfortunately, the Red Sox were unable to hold
on to the series lead, and lost to the Rays in 7 games.
9: Beckett Keeps the Series Alive
2007 ALCS Game 5 – The Red Sox entered Game 5 at Jacob’s Field on the
brink of elimination. After ex-girlfriend Danielle Peck was invited to sing the national
anthem (supposedly to try to get Beckett off his game), Beckett took the mound
against the Cleveland Indians and their ace, C.C. Sabathia. After giving up an early
1-0 lead in the bottom of the first, Beckett settled in to strike out 11 Cleveland batters
over 7 shutout innings. Jonathan Papelbon shut down the Indians in the 9th, and the
offense routed Sabathia to a 7-1 win, with Beckett at the helm, to keep the dream
alive and take the series back to Fenway.
Regarding Danielle Peck’s Anthem performance:
“She’s a friend of mine. It doesn’t bother me at all. Thanks for flying one of my
friends to the game so she can watch it for free.”
– Josh Beckett
8: Miracle Comeback
2008 ALCS Game 5 – Down 7-0 and facing elimination at home, Pedroia
knocked a single to RF on a 3-2 count with runners on the corners to put the Red
Sox on the board with 2 down in the 7th. The next batter, Ortiz, wrapped a 1-0 count
around Pesky’s Pole, scoring Pedroia and Coco Crisp alongside himself to bring the
Sox within 3 runs of the Rays. In the top of the 8th, Papelbon shut down the bottom
of the Rays lineup in order, and in the bottom half, Jason Bay worked a 4-0 walk
against Dan Wheeler, allowing J.D. Drew to blast a hanging curve over the short
porch in RF. Crisp continued the rally later in the inning with a lengthy at-bat,
blooping a single into RF to score Mark Kotsay from second. Justin Masterson came
in to pitch the 9th, giving up a single and a walk before cleaning up the mess with a
ground ball double play to get out of the jam and kill a Rays rally. J.P. Howell retired
the first two Red Sox hitters in the bottom of the 9th, but gave up an infield single to
Kevin Youkilis, and an intentional walk to Bay. Drew arrived at the plate, and for the
second time that game, came up big with an RBI single over Carlos Pena’s head to
complete one of the biggest post-season comeback victories in the history of the
game, sending the series back to Tampa for Game 6.
7: Nancy Drew Solves the Case of the
2007 ALCS Game 6 – Hot on the heels of a dominant Beckett performance in
Game 5 to keep the series alive, the Red Sox came back to the Fenway faithful for
Game 6, hoping for another big win with Curt Schilling on the mound. Facing
another dominant pitcher in Fausto Carmona in the bottom half of the first inning,
Pedroia, Youkilis, and Ortiz worked the bases loaded with none out off two singles
and a walk. Manny Ramirez and Mike Lowell followed up with a strikeout and flyout,
respectively. With the disappointing bat of J.D. Drew coming to the plate, Red Sox
Nation assumed the early rally would be stifled by Carmona and company.
Suddenly, Drew went from being one of Boston’s most disappointing players to being
a fan favourite in a matter of seconds by bashing a high fly ball to deep center field,
giving Grady Sizemore the best seat in the house to watch the beginning of a 12-2
Red Sox rout. In a game that was so far out of hand that even Eric Gagne was
allowed to pitch, Drew drove in a total of 5 runs and the Sox won while facing
elimination once again, forcing a Game 7.
“And with one swing, he erased an entire season filled with frustration, both for
him and these fans here at Fenway.”
– Joe Buck
“[Boston] is not an easy place to not do well, especially when you’re coming in
with some of the fanfare that JD [Drew] came in with but, if he wants to drive in five
again tomorrow, I think he’ll leave on a good note this winter.”
– Terry Francona
6: Angelic Performance
2007 ALDS Game 1 – Everyone knew Beckett could pitch in the postseason.
His Game 6 performance against the Yankees in the 2003 World Series solidified him
as a legendary Yankee killer. However, no one could have expected him to solidify
his post-season dominance against the Angels in arguably the most exciting, and
best, outing of his career. Locked in a pitching duel against John Lackey, Beckett
faced just 31 batters in a complete game shutout, striking out 8 over 108 pitches. In
a battle between two aces, Beckett won the war, and the offense supplied him with 4
runs, although he only needed the 1.
“Man, let me tell ya, some of the innings I watched on T.V. on the screen we have
downstairs … Even on T.V. [Beckett] looked filthy … I mean, he was right on.”
– David Ortiz
5: Ramirez Pulls Off a First
2007 ALDS Game 2 – Mike Scioscia clearly preferred to see Manny at the
plate in Game 2 over Big Papi. I guess he felt Papi was Mr. Clutch, and Ramirez was
slumping. To a degree, he was right. As a result, his pitching staff walked
Ortiz four times (twice intentionally), and took their chances with Ramirez. Prior to
the 9th inning, Ramirez went 0-2 with two walks and a K. However, after Francisco
Rodriguez gave up a lead-off single to Julio Lugo, and intentionally walked Ortiz one
last time, everyone knew something special was coming up. Manny hit the 1-0
pitch over the Monster and out of the park for his first ever walk-off hit in a Red Sox
uniform, giving the Red Sox a 6-3 win, and a 2-0 series lead.
“When you don’t feel good and you still get hits, that’s when you know – you are a
– Manny Ramirez
4: Mr. Clutch Does it Again
2004 ALCS Game 4 – The Red Sox managed to manufacture a run in the 9th
inning to stay alive, but it was up to Papi to ensure there was a Game 5. In the 12th
inning, Paul Quantrill took the mound at Fenway. After a lead-off single by Manny,
Ortiz knocked a Quantrill pitch into the Yankee dugout, walking off for the second
time in just 9 days, and winning the game for the Red Sox, setting up a chance for
Pedro Martinez to relinquish his pride in Game 5.
3: Third Time’s the Charm
2004 ALCS Game 5 – Pedro Martinez was less than stellar, giving up 3 runs
in the 6th and giving up a 2-1 Red Sox lead. The Sox rallied in the bottom of the 8th,
starting with Mr. Clutch’s lead-off home run off Tom Gordon. Later in the inning,
Jason Varitek hit a sac fly to CF, locking the game in a 4-4 tie. Zeroes across the
board until the 14th inning, where after walks to Damon and Ramirez, Ortiz dropped
a 2-out single into CF off Esteban Loaiza, walking off with a win for the second time in
2 games, and the 3rd time in 10 days.
2: God Helps Out His #1 Fan
2004 ALCS Game 6 – The miraculous comeback victories in games 4 and 5
were brilliant, but they meant nothing if the Red Sox couldn’t win the next two games.
Those two walk-offs by Ortiz meant nothing if the Yankees stole the momentum at
home. The Red Sox’s World Series dreams relied on Curt Schilling and a severely
injured right ankle. Was Terry Francona crazy to put Schilling on the mound for
Game 6? Apparently not, because with God on his side, Schilling gave up only a
solo home run to Bernie Williams in the 7th. When all was said and done, he struck
out 4 and gave up just 1 run over 7 innings. Ever since, there has been a debate
throughout baseball regarding whether or not his ankle pains were legitimate, or
whether the blood found on his sock was merely a ploy for a good story. However, in
the most important game of his illustrious career, there is no doubt from anyone on
either bench that night in the Bronx that what he had going on was not only real, but
nothing short of divine intervention.
“Tonight it was all God. I knew that I wasn’t going to be able to do this alone. And I
prayed as hard as I could. I didn’t pray to get a win or to make great pitches. I just
prayed for the strength to go out there tonight and compete, and he gave me that. I
can’t explain to you what a feeling it was to be out there and to feel what I felt.”
– Curt Schilling
1: The Beginning of the End
2004 ALCS Game 4 – Red Sox fans the world over were depressed. They
were ready to give up. Surely the Curse had won again, right? The Red Sox went
into the 2004 ALCS with something to prove. They were knocked out of the 2003
ALCS by Aaron Boone and the Yankees, and they were adamant that they weren’t
going to let the Bronx Bombers have their way once again. However, the Yankees
took the first two games of the series, putting the Sox in a serious hole, against one
of the best teams ever assembled. They returned to Fenway for Game 3 with hopes
that home turf would give them the spark they needed, but were ousted 19-8. In
Game 4, they fell behind early once again, thanks to an Alex Rodriguez 2-run shot in
the 3rd. 2-0 Yankees. After finally rallying to a 3-2 lead, the Red Sox defense gave
it up the following inning, when the Yankees scored two more. 4-3 Yankees.
Mariano Rivera came out of the ‘pen for the bottom of the 9th, which almost certainly
marked the end of another unfortunate Red Sox season. Mariano ended up giving
up a walk to lead-off batter Kevin Millar, who was replaced for a pinch runner – Dave
Roberts. There was only one reason for bringing in Roberts in this scenario – get to
second, and find a way to get home from there. Everyone in the ballpark knew he
was going to attempt to steal second base. However, that meant Rivera knew as
well. Rivera tried two pick-off attempts, nearly beating Roberts to the bag the second
time. On the first pitch to Bill Mueller, Roberts took the opportunity. Running for his
life, he narrowly beat Jeter’s tag. Mueller then shot the ball up the middle, driving in
Roberts to tie the game and the rest, as any baseball fan knows, is history. During
the short time Roberts was with Boston, he pulled off the greatest stolen base in Red
Sox history, and maybe the most significant stolen base in the history of the game.
Not only did that stolen base spark the Red Sox to win the World Series and end an
86-year drought, but it also effectively marked the end of the Babe’s Curse.
“When we called upon him to do something that maybe seems as minor as
maybe trying to steal a base, you end up seeing … we win a World Series. In my
opinion, that is the number one biggest play.”
– Terry Francona
“The greatest story ever told.”
– John Henry
Thanks for a great decade, Red Sox! Let’s start it all over again in 2010!