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!
“Who is rich? He that is content. Who is that? Nobody.”
– Benjamin Franklin
I’m sick and tired of all this arguing, so I’m going to set everyone straight, right here,
right now. Ever since last off-season when the Yankees committed $423.5MM to
three players, Red Sox Nation has continuously complained about the Yankees
“buying a World Series”, followed by Yankee Nation complaining about those
accusations. Before you know it, the steroid issue comes up, you start hearing about
the ‘good ol’ days’ before any of us were born, the owners and GM’s get shot at while
we all know they’re doing a great job, blood gets spilled, tears fall, Babe Ruth turns in
his grave, a baby heard crying in the distance. It’s messy, to say the least – and it
makes us all look like idiots. If we’re complaining about each other spending or not
spending, what does the rest of the fan base for the 28 other teams think of our poor
behavior? It can’t be good.
To all you Yankee fans, stop complaining about the unfortunate Red Sox souls. We
don’t know how it feels to be part of a dynasty … we’re bitter. Please, try to ignore
us. But don’t think you guys are getting off scott free. Stop complaining about
Lackey and Halladay “selling out”, among others. Sabathia didn’t sell out? How
about Texeira? Does A-Rod need $275MM to survive? You’re only complaining
about Lackey and Halladay because you didn’t get the chance to sign them. Your
team is the only team in the majors over the last year that were over the $170MM
luxury cap barrier. The closest team to that mark were the Mets at $139MM. Also,
look at the highest-garnished contracts in the history of the game. The top 5 are all
Yankees (even though A-Rod’s 2001-10 contract wasn’t signed with Cashman, he
fronted the majority of the bill). If the Yankee players aren’t selling out, then no one
is. Not that I’m complaining. If you’ve got the money to spend, you might as well
spend it. As for the players, if you can squeeze a large contract out of ownership,
then kudos to you.
Now, to Red Sox Nation: We’ve never had the right to complain about Yankee
spending habits. Looking back at the highest garnished contracts in MLB history, #6
happens to belong to Manny Ramirez, which the Sox paid a substantial portion of.
As for our payroll, it has been consistently over $100MM/year since 2004. The
World Series championship team in 2007 was paid a total of $143MM. That’s hardly
a bargain price. You may complain about John Henry and Theo Epstein being frugal
with the money they spend and the agents they sign, but since John Henry and Theo
Epstein came to town in 2002, they’ve been on a shopping spree that’s never really
You don’t believe me? Take a look at the Yankee signings from 2008 until now:
- Alex Rodriguez – $275MM / 10 Years
- Jorge Posada – $52.4MM / 4 Years
- Mariano Rivera – $45MM / 3 Years
- Robinson Cano – $30MM / 4 Years
Total money dedicated in 2008: $402.4MM.
- Mark Teixeira – $180MM / 8 Years
- C.C. Sabathia – $161MM / 7 Years
- A.J. Burnett – $82.5MM / 5 Years
- Damaso Marte – $12MM / 3 Years
Total money dedicated in 2009: $435.5MM. Why did we only start
seriously complaining about the money this year? Maybe it’s because they won the
‘Series. Maybe it’s because they outbid us for Teixeira. Maybe it’s just sour grapes.
- Curtis Granderson – $30.25MM – 3 Years (remainder of contract)
- Nick Johnson – $12MM – 1 Year
- Andy Pettitte – $11.75MM – 1 Year
Total money dedicated so far in 2010: $54MM.
Total dedicated over the last three years – $891.9MM.
Now, for the Red Sox spending over the last couple years:
- J.D. Drew – $70MM / 5 Years
- Daisuke Matsuzaka – $52MM / 6 Years
- David Ortiz – $52MM / 4 Years
- Matsuzaka Blind Bid – $51.1MM
- Josh Beckett – $30MM / 3 Years
Total money dedicated in 2007: $255.1MM.
- Kevin Youkilis – $41.125MM / 4 Years
- Dustin Pedroia – $40.5MM / 6 Years
- Mike Lowell – $37.5MM / 3 Years
- Jon Lester – $30MM / 5 Years
- Jason Varitek – $8MM / 2 Years
- Jonathan Papelbon – $6.25MM / 1 Year
Total money dedicated in 2008 & 2009: $181.025MM.
- John Lackey – $82.5MM – 5 Years
- Mike Cameron – $15.5MM – 2 Years
- Marco Scutaro – $12.5MM – 2 Years
- Victor Martinez – $7.7MM – 1 Year
Total money dedicated so far in 2010: $118.2MM.
Total dedicated over the last four years – $554.325MM.
Okay, sure. The Red Sox have spent significantly less over the last 4 years than the
Yankees have spent over the last 3, but those numbers are all relative. Upon
examination of those numbers, you see that most of the Yankee contracts are
long-term whereas a majority of the Red Sox contracts are of a shorter length. As a
good example of that, the Red Sox have about $20MM locked up in 2013, while the
Yankees have around $95MM locked up in 2013. In the near future, the Yankees
have players locked up for the long-haul, while Epstein will have to deal with players
leaving in the next couple years. The most obvious at the moment is the potential
losses of Varitek, Ortiz, Beckett, Martinez and Lowell. The Yankees on the other
hand only need worry about big names Jeter and Rivera. The Red Sox are going to
be the second team this year, along with the Yankees, that will either exceed or
seriously flirt with the luxury tax barrier of $170MM. What are we complaining about?
Everything in baseball is relative, folks. Now, don’t get me wrong … Last year’s
Yankees were a team that my 2 year-old niece could have managed to a World
Series trophy (not that I’m demeaning Girardi as a manager. He did a great job).
You can’t just buy a World Series, or else more managers would be doing it.
You still have to survive the 162-day injury-plagued season to be able to contend.
The money doesn’t hurt, though.
Red Sox Nation, just be lucky you’re fans of a team that has money, and isn’t afraid
to spent it when the chips are on the table.
I can’t sleep tonight for some reason (I think it’s because Lowell has to go through
surgery, although minor 😦 I’ll have a shot of whiskey for ya this week, hun), so I
decided it would be an ideal time to maybe wrap some Christmas gifts and/or work on
a paper regarding String Theory.
Needless to say, the confines of the inter-web were more appealing than either of
those options, so here I am!
Anyway, the point of all this. I realized just now that I must be in baseball withdrawal.
How did I realize this, you ask? I was listening to iTunes, skipping over songs I didn’t
feel like listening to, and I eventually realized that I have been subconsciously
selecting only songs that are heard regularly at Fenway, for weeks! Turns out, my 25 most-played songs are all either walk-up / entrance songs of current or former
players, or songs played in between innings. Is there a rehab center for that?
Here’s the list (in no particular order):
- Let it Rock – Kevin Rudolf ft. Lil’ Wayne (Jacoby Ellsbury)
- **** With Dre Day – Dr. Dre (Dustin Pedroia)
- Somos De Calle – Daddy
- Man in the Box – Alice in Chains (Kevin Youkilis)
- Alive – Pearl Jam (Jason Bay)
- Bombtrack – Rage Against the Machine (Mike Lowell)
- Kryptonite – 3 Doors Down (Jason Varitek)
- Living Hard – Gary Allan (Josh Beckett)
- Wild Thing – The Troggs (Jonathan Papelbon)
- Rebirthing – Skillet (Justin Masterson)
- Stranglehold – Ted Nugent (Daniel Bard)
- Rockstar – Nickelback (Josh Beckett)
- Stand Here with Me – Creed (Manny Delcarman)
- Stronger – Kanye West (Daisuke Matsuzaka)
- This is Why I’m Hot – MIMS (David Ortiz)
- Shipping up to Boson – Dropkick Murhpys (Jonathan Papelbon)
- How Bad do You Want it? – Tim McGraw (Tim Wakefield)
- Push It – Rick Ross (Kevin Youkilis)
- Cherub Rock – The Smashing Pumpkins (Jacoby Ellsbury)
- The Kids Aren’t Alright – The Offspring (Jed Lowrie)
- I Use what I Got – Jason Aldean (Jon Lester)
- Black Betty – Ram Jam (Mike Timlin)
- Tessie – Dropkick Murphys
- Sweet Caroline – Neil Diamond
- Dirty Water – The Standells
Personally, I can’t wait to add some new music to my playlist in April! Who has a time
Today’s physical in Arlington came up with a radial collateral ligament
tear in Mike Lowell‘s right thumb. Some Red Sox fans feel this is a
bad situation, whereas others are jumping for joy now that Lowell is sticking around
in Boston. He is scheduled for surgery just after Christmas, and should be out for
6-8 weeks. In other words, he should be healthy for Spring Training, and while his
throwing programs may be halted, the rest of his training program should be able to
go on as per usual, preventing him from a long recovery. Personally, I see this as a
blessing in disguise, and this is my reasoning:
Lowell comes back in Spring Training and gets traded some time into the
year: If this happens, either we can make the trade for Max
Ramirez again, as double jeopardy doesn’t apply in baseball, or Epstein
could look to another team that needs a decent DH. His value should be higher if
Boston will still front the bill and he has proven himself to be healthy. If Max
Ramirez was indeed a potential trading piece for Adrian Gonzalez,
Epstein will find another way to get the prospect, or he will rearrange his
bargaining chips and find another way to Gonzalez.
Lowell comes back in Spring Training and stays with Boston for the entirety
of the year, playing 3B: If this happens, Boston keeps the offensive
power of Lowell, while sacrificing the speed he lost last year, and taking a risk with
his rumored decrease in defensive ability (which could become increasingly more
true if his hip gets any worse). With the increased defense on the left side thanks
to Marco Scutaro and Mike Cameron/Jacoby Ellsbury, it
shouldn’t be TOO much of a problem for the team. Who knows, maybe he’ll pull
the hidden ball trick out of his hat a couple times this season to make up for his
lack of physical ability (he’s
done it twice before, afterall).
Lowell proves to be a liability in the field and sits on the bench: If
this happens, either Casey Kotchman becomes an everyday starter at
first and Lowell sits on the bench, or Epstein has to work out a trade for a decent
corner infielder during the season. The best way to account for this is to find said
corner infielder before the beginning of the season and make Lowell work for a
starting spot. However, I’m happy with Kotchman as a defensive replacement if
Lowell doesn’t work out, as his strong defense will solidify the infield.
Lowell turns into a part-time player in the field: If this occurs,
Lowell would play fewer games, meaning Kevin Youkilis would play 3B
on occasion while either Kotchman or Victor Martinez would find more
time at 1B, potentially meaning Jason Varitek could find more time behind
the plate. While I don’t feel Varitek should be behind the plate any more than
necessary, it’s not a terrible alternative if Lowell can’t play everyday anymore.
Lowell could also be used off the bench as a pinch hitter in crucial situations,
which we all know he tends to thrive in.
Lowell platoons with David Ortiz as the DH: It was proven
last year that Ortiz sometimes has trouble with quality pitching nowadays, so why
not sit Lowell on the bench and use him against certain starters, or LH pitchers?
Platooning these two players gives you the most optimal DH situation every game,
and leaves a power hitter on the bench in case you need that bat later on in a
game. Also, with Lowell being a DH, you get the capability of platooning him at 3B
whenever someone else needs a day off, while keeping him fresh as well.
In my mind, the only bad thing that can come from this is that you’re stick with a $12
Million man sitting on your bench and/or eating up a spot on your 25-Man Roster that
could be used for another arm in the bullpen or a more capable utility fielder.
Although, the 25-Man Roster can be altered throughout the season, and others will
almost definitely get injured, so it’s not really an issue.
As you can see, it’s win-win for everyone in Red Sox Nation.