Saturday, October 18, 2008

Do you believe?

I have to admit, I reached a point where I thought this team would come up short.

There have been several things this season that I missed.

I thought the Rays would eventually spit the bit. There's nothing wrong with it - it's not unusual for a young team to crack in August or September as the pressures of being in a pennant race for the first time get the better of players that have never been there. It happens.

I wasn't the only one who thought the Rays would wilt in the heat of the race.

To Joe Maddon's credit, every time the team began to show cracks, he said or did the right thing to keep them on track. Every time he settled them down, every time he kept them winning.

This post-season we reached the point where I was positive that the Red Sox were going to be bounced. They weren't hitting - well, not timely hitting. The pitching just wasn't there. Four three and two-thirds of a game they either couldn't hold a lead, or couldn't score a run when they needed to.

The Rays - well they just seemed to be the unstoppable machine.

Suddenly, the moment seems to be getting too big for the young team. They're standing on the precipice of history, and their defense and vaunted bullpen have begun to crumble under the extreme pressure. Errant throws, their relievers fooling no one. It all added up.

The Sox got what they needed out of Beckett. James Shields turned in a solid effort, but it just wasn't quite enough. The Sox got what they needed out of David Ortiz, Kevin Youkilis, and Jason Varitek, all of whom accounted for the team's RBI's.

It all added up.

It added up to an evened up series with a winner-take-all game to be played on Sunday night after the Sox were seven outs away from elimination, down seven runs, down three games to one. Sunday they march into the Trop evened up at three after the second biggest post-season comeback in baseball history, and then after taking it to the Rays in their dome - after taking it to the team with the best home record in baseball this year - well, just what might they be thinking in the Tampa locker room?

The champagne was chilled and ready to be popped at the end of game five.

Now the Rays have a front row seat to what the Yankees did in 2004 and the Indians in 2007.

Do you believe?

Friday, October 17, 2008


"Standing in the middle of nowhere
Wondering how to begin
Lost between tomorrow and yesterday
Between now and then
And now we're back where we started
Here we go round again
Day after day I get up and I say
I better do it again"

-Ray Davies

I said it earlier, and it's worth repeating - I do think that this is the Rays year. The Red Sox starting pitching has looked weak through this series. They just haven't risen to the occasion.

But last night - well, damn.

Like most, by the time we hit the seventh inning with the 7-0 Rays lead, I thought the Rays were going to close it out. Then it happened.

The rookie. The potential MVP. A breakfast cereal, Papi, JD and the Youk.

The offense suddenly came alive, as did Fenway which was more morgue than stadium for the better part of three games.

Contributions came from those who would have been cast-offs if the fans had their way- Drew and Crisp.

They've been here before, the Sox. Lost between tomorrow and yesterday.

And we should know by now to never say die (a long ways from 2003, isn't it?), but it's still a tough road ahead of them. I'm not going to rule them out of this post-season, but I'm also not going to get my hopes too high. They have a monumental task ahead of them in a hostile stadium - to do it again, and again.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Getting ahead of myself


A couple of quick items - What happened in San Diego was just ugly, and the defense has me concerned. More than Castle. Right now Castle isn't significantly different from the 2001 Tom Brady (through six Brady-games they were 3-4 overall, 3-3 under Brady). Unfortunately, I'm not convinced that this defense is as good as the 2001 D. After six games the Pats were 3-3 in 2001.

Things began happening in 2001 that I don't see happening now. The offensive line began to gel back then. It doesn't look like it's even beginning to now, and it suffered key injuries that will slow it down even more. The defense, which sent a message in its game against the Colts that season (what Pats fan can forget the Bryan Cox hit), looks more like the pavement defense of 2002 (constantly getting steamrolled).

For this team to make noise, they need to get better. Particularly on defense. It's how they won in 2001, it's how they need to win now. The division is wide open and the Bills right now are best positioned to get to the second season.

Let's hope they rise to the occasion.

Over on the diamond....

The Red Sox are in a big hole.

No excuses.

The Rays have risen to every challenge the Sox have thrown at them. Every time the Sox crept within striking distance of the division lead, the Rays fended them off. The Sox put them in an early hole with their win in Tampa.

The Sox spit the bit, and I do think this is on Terry Francona, in game two with a two run lead when Josh Beckett had shown inning after inning that he couldn't protect a lead. I'm not calling for Francona's head. He's earned the pass on something like this - more often than not since he's been with the Sox, its worked out for him.

The bottom line is that the Rays are on the verge of their first World Series appearance in team history.

I'm not giving up hope - the Sox had their backs to the wall before (three game to none lead against the Yankees in 2004, down three games to one against the Indians last year...sound familiar) and managed to dig themselves out. Twice, okay. But three times, I have a hard time believing they can dig themselves out of this hole. I won't say it's one of their own making either, because that would diminish what Tampa has accomplished.

It would also diminish what Boston has accomplished.

And neither team deserves that.

Hey, Tampa, if you win, I'll be rooting for you, if for no other reason than the knife in the Steinbrenners' backs that it would be for the second lowest payroll to walk away with the title.

Sometimes you just have to see the beauty in all things.

As for coach of the year, it's hard not to consider Joe Maddon the hands-down winner. He took a team that went from worst and was a perennial joke in the American League East to the verge of the World Series. Even if the Sox somehow manage to pull it off and eliminate the Rays from the playoffs, Maddon deserves the award.

People will argue this, but Francona deserves consideration. Hank Steinbrenner whined about the injuries to the Yankees (somehow $210+ million doesn't buy enough depth to overcome injuries, wow, I guess it just doesn't go as far as it used to), but Francona kept the Sox in the race in spite of no effective number five starter, injuries to Daisuke Matsuzaka, and Beckett, not to mention losing JD Drew and David Ortiz for close to a third of the year due to injury, losing Mike Lowell for periods of time to an injury that he continued to try and play through, and dealing with a petulant Manny Ramirez.

He doesn't deserve to beat Maddon, but the only person that deserves additional consideration in the American League is Ron Gardenhire in Minnesota. The fact that the Twins were even in the mix at the end of the season is nothing short of a miracle given the talent that team cut loose in the off-season.