Friday, November 02, 2007


This is the first in a three or four part retrospective about the 2007 World Series Champion Red Sox.


The free agency signing period is just around the corner, but before I jump all over that, A-Rod, Lowell, Schilling and all the potential trade targets will have to wait one post. So often we are so eager to take the next step that we over look what is happening now, or in this case what just happened yesterday. Who is the next playoff opponent? Who will the Sox sign in free agency? Where will A-Rod go? I want to lend my unnecessary voice to all these questions, but I’m going to wait a day or two. Instead, I want to spend a moment dwelling on the 2007 Red Sox.

At the beginning of the year, I wrote about how I thought the team would come together, and how I felt they were the team to beat. The Red Sox were my pre-season pick to win the World Series (I had them beating Arizona) and they came together exactly as well as I’d hoped.

Not that this took any type of genius to discern. This team was stacked from the beginning. So, just to clarify my own thoughts, I’m going to take a look back, all the way back, before they were the Team That Won The World Series For The Second Time In Four Years.

You may recall the Red Sox weren’t always the World Series Champion Boston Red Sox. Nope. In fact, at this time a year ago, they were just another team who had missed the playoffs. Actually, that’s not even true. The 2006 Red Sox were an injury-riddled disaster that went from a solid hold on first place in the AL East to a broken shell of a team in one month.

On July 21st, 2006 the Red Sox whipped Seattle 9-4 bringing their record to 59-36 and increasing their AL East lead to 3.5 games. One month later the Red Sox lost to the Yankees 2-1 putting their record at 69-55 and dropping them 6.5 games behind the Yankees.

It only got worse from there. On September 1st the Sox were 8 games back, and on the 13th they were 11.5 games back. Their injury list read like a who’s who of Red Sox players: Manny, Varitek, Papi, Papelbon. Lester was diagnosed with cancer, and the Sox were forced to run the hideous Jason Johnson out for 29 innings (in which he gave up 26 runs).

The Sox September slide reinforced the need for new blood in the ’07 team, and the front office went about fixing the roster. The Sox let David Wells, Trot Nixon, Mark Loretta, Alex Gonzalez, Javy Lopez, and Carlos Pena (oops!) go. Despite that list, the front office didn’t make many changes. Instead, they brought in younger players with some targeted free agents.

Loretta was allowed to depart and rookie Dustin Pedroia was given the second base job. Julio Lugo was signed to play shortstop, filling the hole left by Gonzalaz, and J.D. Drew was handed a huge check and told to report to right field to replace fan-favorite Trot Nixon. Oddly enough, Drew was even given Nixon’s old number.

To fix the holes in the rotation, the Red Sox acquired the 26 year old gyro-ball throwing Diasuke Matsuzaka from the Japanese leagues. The Sox envisioned Matsuzaka stepping into the rotation and being the number three starter behind Schilling and Beckett. Many questioned the huge outlay of cash, but some thought that Matsuzaka might be one of the best pitchers in the majors before even throwing a pitch. They also moved talented young closer Jonathan Papelbon into the rotation. Between Beckett, Papelbon, and Matsuzaka, the Red Sox would have three young studs.

Based on these large financial outlays, people expected big things from the ’07 Red Sox. I wasn’t alone in picking them to go to the World Series. Still, many thought that the Tigers, fresh off an embarrassing World Series loss to the historically-bad-for-a-league-champion Cardinals, were the best team in baseball. Their young pitching staff had aged a year, and they had traded serious young talent to the Yankees to get the powerful bat of Gary Sheffield. Others thought the Angels or Yankees would be the team to beat in the AL.

There was no consensus, but to me it was easy to see the immense talent that assembled on the practice fields of Fort Myers in late February. In fact, I went down to see it for myself. Not that a fan who catches three Red Sox games in mid-March can glean anything significantly predictive from the experience, but it was plain to see that the Red Sox were a good team.


Part 2 soon to come...

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