The Joy of Sox

So it’s far from an original title.  Take a number and stand in line to sue me.

So here we sit, 2007, and it’s clear that the universe is begining to right itself.  Why you ask?  Well, it seems that what was once unthinkable a mere three years ago, has once again happened, namely the Red Sox winning the World Series. 

Now this one was not any where near as dramatic, or emotional as the one in 2004.  That Sreies win was special in oh so many ways.  All those years of frustration, painful memories, dropped balls, wild pitches, bad managerial decisions were suddenly wiped away.  No more curse, no more “wait until next year,” it was all over.  So when it came to this years victory over the cindarella Rockies, it would appear to some that Red Sox nation has already become somewhat jaded.

Not so my friends, not so at all.  While the 2007 series win was not so emotionally charged, it was still a rather intense post-season.  Much like in ’04, the real fight happened in the American League Championship Series (ALCS).  In ’04 it was the dramatic comeback from down 0-3 against the Yankees.  In ’07 it was coming back from down 3-1 against the Cleveland Indians.  The ’07 ALCS featured the two best teams in all of baseball, and the series went the full 7 games.  One could not have asked for a better series, no matter who ended up winning it.

The Rockies deserve some credit here.  They won 21 of 22 before falling hard to the Sox.  For the last three weeks nearly every game they played was do or die.  They were on a roll, in a groove few teams ever reach.  But they won too fast, and lost their edge.  Sure, you won’t hear any excuses from the Rockies, not from Clint Hurdle or any of the players, but that 8 day lay off surely took some of the wind out of their sails.  The Sox meanwhile just kept on plugging away.

I had few doubts that whoever won the ALCS, Boston or Cleveland would win the World Series.  The Rockies were just plain outmatched at nearly every turn.  I did think theseries would go 6 games, but that didn’t happen.  Even so, it was the outcome I expected, with the AL winning easilly. 

I must say I never thought I’d see the Red Sox win one, let alone two World Series titles in my life time.  It was a given, much like with the Cubs, that it just was not meant to be.  Yet here we are, with two titles in four years.  Will wonders never cease? 

But the story doesn’t end there, at least not this year.  This year’s off season is as likely to be as important as any game during the season.  The Sox have a number of free agents to be (with Schilling already filing), with few important personel moves to be made.  Some will go, and new faces will come, all in an effort to maintain the momentum already built.

Dealing with the free agenst will be the first and top priority.  The biggest will be Mike Lowell, the WS MVP.  Sox fans have already made thier thoughts on the matter clear, sign him, and don’t sign Alex Rodriguez.  The media will focus on the drama of A-Rod opting out of his Yankee contract and going to Boston.  It won’t happen folks.  The Sox are not going to just spend money for a name, unless it makes good baseball sense.  Signing A-Rod does not make sense, not just in terms of money, but of onfield decisions.  Lowell is a good fit in Boston, gold glove caliber defense, a solid bat, and a good presence in the club house.  Looking at the upcoming FA market, and what the Sox have in the minors, Lowell is the best guy.  Listen up Theo, sign Lowell, give him 3-4 years, and be done with it.

The other big name to be dealt with is Curt Schilling.  Say what you want about him, he wins in the post season, and publicly supports his teammates.  He’s been a leader, and a mentor to the young members of the picthing staff.  He wants to play one more year, and would prefer to do it in Boston.  I understood back in the spring why the Sox didn’t pick up his $13million option, and I still agree with that.  That price tag is a bit steep for a 40+ year old pitcher, and while he had a good season, and a great post season, it’s not justified.  If Schill wants to return to Boston, he’ll need to take a pay cut.  He can still do a lot to help the Sox, as a fifth starter, and mentor, but it will have to be at around $7-8million.  The answers to two questions may clarify the Sox position: A. The health of Matt Clement (if the Sox resign him); B. The health and status of Tim Wakefield.  If either is unable to go next year, from health or retirement, then Schill becomes more valuable.  I’d love to see Schill return for one last year in Boston, but if he moves on, then thanks Curt for what you gave the Red Sox and the fans.

The Other free agenst to be are bit players, and bench guys.  Erik Hinske is the one guy I’d consider resigning, just because of his versatility.  Bobby Kielty has also filed for free agency, but he can be let go. There are a few others, but most people will barely recognize their names.

The other big move will revolve around Coco Crisp and his future.  With the emergence of Jacoby Ellsbury, Coco’s days in Boston are numbered.  So, it’s just a matter of time before Coco is traded.  The Sox should be able to get a good return on Crisp, given his age and abilities.  This is not a slight on Crisp, though his fade down the stretch didn’t help his staying in Boston.  It will be intersting to see who he goes to, and what the Sox get in return.

The Sox have been built right.  Just like John Hart did in Cleveland oh so many years ago, Theo Epstein and company have built a team to compete for years to come.  Time ran an article wondering if the Sox have become like the Yankees.  But unlike the Yankees, the Sox don’t just spend money on big names, they spend money on guys who can help them, and can work with the team.  The Sox are here to stay as one of the premier teams in MLB.

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