I went to bed last night feeling Rocky Mountain high. And I woke up this morning feeling the same way. Many thanks to the Red Sox.
No, this wasn't the awe and euphoria of 2004 -- nothing will ever match that again. My father had never seen a Red Sox World Series Championship until then, and neither had my maternal grandfather. My paternal grandfather was just five in 1918 -- the last time the Sox had won -- and was since deceased. I don't know if he even remembered it as an adult.
With all that in mind, the 2004 Championship was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The bad mojo was gone, and with it the sense of pessimism, anguish and despair were also gone. Coming back from being down three-games-to-none to the dreaded Yankees in the ALCS, and then sweeping he Cardinals in the World Series, made all things seem possible forever more. Hope lived.
The Red Sox swept the Rockies for their second World Series in four years and captured their seventh World Championship in franchise history -- the third most all-time. Including their 2004 triumph, the Red Sox have now won eight straight World Series games, a new club record.
After trailing Cleveland 3 games to 1, the Sox reeled off seven straight wins and looked like an unstoppable force in doing so. Yes, 2004 makes everything seem possible for now.
The Sox hit .333 in the World Series - second best in Series history. In fact, every Red Sox regular in the lineup hit over .300 in the Series except Manny Ramirez. That's just plain weird. The Sox also finished with 18 doubles, one shy of the Series record. Throughout the lineup, hitters responded with key hits in crucial situations. And they didn't do it with bases-clearing bleacher rockets either.
The club with a history as a power-hitting goliath hit just three homers in the four-game Series, two in the clinching finale. They earned their runs by getting on base and then moving runners with steals, bunts, sacrifice flys, and timely hitting. And they often did it with two strikes, and even two outs.
The Sox outscored their opponents 99-46 in the post-season, the largest run differential in playoff history. And they absolutely drubbed the Rockies in just about every imaginable way during the Fall Classic; they outscored them 29-10, out-hit them 47-29, and had 21 extra bases to the Rockies mere 10.
These weren't the "Idiots" of 2004 but, just the same, this team was able to "Cowboy Up", or man up, or just plain step up when it counted in the post-season. Like their predecessor, this team had heart, mettle, and conviction. They had an unshakable faith in themselves and a burning desire to win and live up to all the expectations placed upon them.
Those expectations were created by ownership, management. media, a rabid fanbase, and the players themselves. Management made it clear during Spring Training; nothing short of a World Series title would do.
The biggest difference between this club and the 2004 Red Sox is that this version is youthful. Key components will be around for a years to come.
Get used to names like Beckett (27), Matsuzaka (27), Lester (23), Papelbon (27), Pedroia (24), Youkilis (28) and Ellsbury (24); they are young and they are the heart of a burgeoning dynasty. And Clay Buccholz (23) wasn't even on the playoff roster this year. It just gets better, doesn't it? Yes, they are the future -- as well as the present -- and they are going to be around for quite some time.
Of that group, only Youkilis was a member of the 2004 team, and he wasn't on the post-season roster that year. This is a new band of merry men. It is younger and has a future the other never had. It is a very different, but still very professional, team.
No doubt, the youth movement was on parade in this World Series. Jon Lester became just the third pitcher to win a World Series clincher in his first post-season start. And the world witnessed Jacoby Ellsbury, who began the year in Double-A, become a star-in-the-making before our very eyes. Note to Sox fans; this is your starting center fielder for the next decade, or so. Enjoy, folks.
The Red Sox had the best record in the game for the first time since 1946, and won the AL East for the first time in 12 years. They led the AL East nearly wire to wire, from April 18 to season's end. They were the picture of consistency in 2007, never losing more than four straight games or winning more than five straight. And they were led by just the right man to return them to the promised land.
Manager Terry Francona is now 8-0 in World Series play, and became the first manager ever to win his first eight World Series games. The unflappable and steady skipper has the perfect temperament to effectively manage his perfect blend of veterans and youth; he never panics, he never over-reacts, and he always remains positive. Francona has consistently displayed faith in his team, as well as an unyielding loyalty to each of his players -- no matter how much they've struggled.
And the front office did its part too -- signing key free agents, trading for players like Coco Crisp, Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell, acquiring role players like Bobby Kielty on waivers, and drafting quite well. This last element is especially important to the team's long-term success; it's allowed them to build from within, assuring enough young, homegrown talent to be competitive for years to come.
And for all of this, Red Sox fans have rewarded management with 388 consecutive regular season sell-outs. And it won't stop there; on the 68th homegame of next season, the Red Sox and their fans will break the Cleveland Indians consecutive sellout record of 455 games, established between 1995-2001. That's brand loyalty, and the surest sign that your customers like your product.
The Sox brass decided to take a step back after 2004 to take a giant leap ahead this year. An aged, out of shape David Wells and Matt Clement - together - weren't enough to replace Pedro Martinez. But patience and perseverance prevailed.
The Red Sox had to break up the 2004 team, to the disappointment of many Sox fans. It was time to bid farewell to players in decline -- such as Pedro Martinez, Johnny Damon, Bill Mueller, Kevin Millar, and Trot Nixon -- as well as those who were never that good to begin with, such as Mark Belhorn and Mike Meyers. We are forever grateful for their contributions, but it was time to move on.
New, younger, better talent had to be infused with key veterans such as Curt Schilling, Tim Wakefield, Mike Timlin, Jason Varitek, Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz -- the heart of the team.
The Red Sox are in better shape as organization than they were in 2004. And yes, we could be witnessing the birth of a dynasty; two World Series titles in four years, with only seven players remaining from the 2004 team, make that evident.
This is a great time to be a Red Sox fan, isn't it? We are truly living in a Golden Era.
But be forewarned, Red Sox Nation; enjoy this while it lasts. Like all good things, it will eventually come to an end. At some point, every dynasty crumbles.
In the meantime, bask in the glory of this high. And let's hope it lasts a while. A few more years would be nice, wouldn't it?
Copyright © 2007 Sean M. Kennedy. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without the author's consent.