DENVER - What? No movie crew?
See, this is what happens when you win it all under the simple guise of just being the best team, absent the melodrama. You sweep the Rockies and neither Jimmy Fallon nor Drew Barrymore is anywhere in sight.
This time the wait was only 3 percent as long as the last one. We didn’t have to raid nursing homes to find people who actually saw the Red Sox win their last World Series. You’re probably one yourself.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, the experience wasn’t the same. Too bad. Sports can’t always revolve around a nine-decade soap opera. For the second time in four years, you’ve got the best baseball team in the world to call your own. There’s nothing wrong with just lording it over people. Haven’t we learned anything from the Patriots? Or, if you’re old enough, the Celtics? I don’t remember people encountering any bouts of boredom when the Celtics were winning 16 times not so long ago. Hey, even the Bruins were a bit tyrannical in their day.
I agree that until late in the game last night the drama in this destruction of the Rockies was pretty much wrapped up in a pickoff throw. Like, was there ever a doubt after Jonathan Papelbon erased Matt Holliday in the eighth inning of Game 2 that the Red Sox were going to win the World Series? At that moment it had to dawn on the Rockies that not only were the Red Sox more talented, but they were also smarter. OK, richer, too, but we’re already tired of hearing about that.
Give the Rockies credit. They had some spunk. When Garrett Atkins hit a two-run homer off Hideki Okajima in the eighth to make it 4-3, Papelbon was forced into a five-out save.
There was a classic hold-your-breath moment when Jamey Carroll backed Jacoby Ellsbury up to the left-field fence with one away in the ninth, but the Papster got it done on 23 pitches, the slowest of which was 94 miles per hour, the speed at which he fanned pinch hitter Seth Smith for the final out. I guess the famed Maintenance Plan was a pretty good idea, huh?
There will never be anything to match 2004, OK? We’ve got to accept that. And with these interminable three-tiered playoffs, the World Series is more like the third round, rather than, you know the World Series, the way it used to be.
You want to get all warm and fuzzy? Think of Josh Beckett saving the season with his gunslinger performance in Game 5 of the American League Championship Series. Or think of J.D. Drew getting the single most improbable hit of the entire season, his first-inning grand slam off Fausto Carmona that set the forces in motion for the 12-2 victory in Game 6 of the ALCS. In the eyes of Red Sox fans, the odds on that one were Unimaginable-to-1.
I’m not downplaying the human interest story surrounding winning pitcher Jon Lester, who just about one year ago was undergoing chemotherapy treatments. I mean, duh. But at this point in time, Lester wants to regarded as more than just the Cancer Patient. That’s part of who he is, sure, and always will be, but when he went to the mound last night it was as a major league pitcher trying to do a job for his team. He’s no longer a victim. He’s an athlete returning to duty.
And he was brilliant. He pitched 5 2/3 innings of three-hit shutout ball, turning things over to Manny Delcarmen after walking Atkins with two outs in the sixth. If you want to salute Lester, and you should, do so because he helped his team. That, I’m sure, is the way he wants it.
You hankering for a little more drama? OK, we take you to a pretty good little scene in the seventh. Delcarmen had given up a solo homer to Brad Hawpe, and one out later he surrendered a single to pinch hitter Cory Sullivan. Terry Francona signaled to the bullpen and out came 41-year-old Mike Timlin, making his 1,055th career appearance, and the 44th in a postseason.
I’ll be very honest. I thought we had seen enough of Mike Timlin earlier in the season. Enough, I said, was enough. Well, mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa. Mike Timlin was tremendous in the second half of the year and last night Mike Timlin was a gallant warhorse. Mike Timlin dialed it up, striking out both Kaz Matsui and the struggling Troy Tulowitzki to douse the ol’ flame. Sometimes it’s very nice to be wrong.
But it’s even better to be right. I have come to admire Mike Lowell, who I thought was the Series MVP coming into this game. He didn’t let either me or his ever-growing number of devoted fans down, once again coming up big, as he has throughout the 2007 playoffs. It was just a 1-0 game when he led off the fifth with a gap-shot double to left-center, eventually scoring on a Jason Varitek single. Lowell, who did indeed win the MVP, made it 3-0 with a first-pitch homer to left that finished off Colorado starter Aaron Cook in the seventh.
Things have changed in four years. There are only eight players remaining from that 2004 team, and that’s if you count Kevin Youkilis, a bit player then and a playoff monster now. This team has a new pitching stud in Beckett, an electrifying closer in Papelbon, a pair of Japanese pitchers in Daisuke Matsuzaka and Hideki Okajima, and a pair of delightful Young Turks in Dustin Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury. This team even had its own clutch bench player in Bobby Kielty, whose eighth-inning pinch homer off Brian Fuentes turned out to be the margin of victory.
Same manager, though, and don’t you forget it.
This team has its own history. The Red Sox took over first place April 18 and held it for the rest of the season. They pounded the Angels. They came from 3-1 down against the Indians. And now they have swept the Rockies, beating them in routs, beating them in close games, and beating them in every department. Should we really be surprised? This is the fourth time in the last nine years the American League has swept a World Series, the first two by the Yankees (Padres, Braves) and the last two by these two very different editions of the Red Sox (Cardinals, Rockies).
2004 was an exorcism. 2007 is an exclamation point. Red Sox rule! Go ahead. Call up the Yankee fan in your life. Be as obnoxious as you want to be. Otherwise, what’s the point?