Farmhands and Foreign Imports Fuel 2007 Sox

Matt Matsumura

Sox win! Sox win! Again, Boston sweeps! Unfortunately for the rest of baseball, Red Sox Nation may keep celebrating through the end of the decade. The American League Champions outscored the outmanned Colorado Rockies 29-10 en route to a four-game thrashing reminiscent of Boston’s dispatch of the Cardinals three years ago. Third-baseman Mike Lowell garnered MVP honors while Dustin Pedroia initiated, Josh Beckett dominated, Curi Schilling found a way, Daisuke Matsuzaka came through, Jon Lester came back, Jacoby Ellsbury debuted and Jonathon Papelbon shut the door. The only time a series win for the Sox seemed to be in minor doubt started when Schilling gave up a first inning run in game two. After Mike Lowell scored on a sacrifice fly later in the game, it was all champagne and goggles for Boston. The team that had won 21 out of 22 going into the series looked like they were capable of losing 10 of 10 at the hands of the Red Sox.

The Red Sox weren’t supposed to win in 2004. They didn’t land Alex Rodriguez or Javier Vasquez, the pitcher they favored over Curt Schilling during that fateful off-season. Derek Lowe looked lost. They started journeyman infielder Mark Bellhorn and Japan League-bound Kevin Millar. Luckily, GM Theo Epstein signed a Minnesota cast-off by the name of David Ortiz for a couple of nickels and a Canadian quarter a year prior. The slugging Sox were very good, but seemingly ill fated. Despite a middle-of-the-order duo that resembled Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig and a starting rotation that featured future Cooperstowners Pedro Martinez and Curt Schilling, the Red Sox found themselves down three games-to-none to the Bronx Bombers in the ALCS. They weren’t great in the field, they didn’t have a lights-out closer and they were old. Then the “Idiots” took Jack Daniels shots and Dave Roberts stole a base. The rest is history. The curse-breakers were a team of fate.

In 2007, the resolution of the Red Sox lay in things much colder than fate or destiny; a very healthy farm and Asian investment. Not too long ago, Kevin Youkilis was the “Greek God of Walks” and Pedroia was a tool-less smurf who sprayed liners in the Arizona desert. Along with the scruffy infielders, Papelbon, Lester and Ellsbury are all recent graduates of Boston’s minor league system. It’s not often that a single farm can produce a premier closer, an Andy Pettitte clone (Lester), a no-hit talent in Clay Buchholz and two capable lead-off men within a span of three years. In 2004, the Boston farm hadn’t produced a Fenway regular for years. In fact, the lone contributing product of the organization was outfielder Trot Nixon. Derek Lowe and Jason Varitek were already established prospects before they were acquired in a trade.

Are 15 wins and 200 strikeouts at age 26 worth over $100 million to the Yankees? The Pinstripes surely would like to have Daisuke’s production and potential along with his fanfare. In light of Barry Zito’s $126 million coup, the Yankees should have been ready to pay market price for the projected ace when Boston outbid them by more than $10 million for Matsuzaka’s negotiating rights. Fortuitously, as a result of signing Matsuzaka, the Red Sox also signed his assimilation-buddy Hideki Okajima, who surprisingly became an elite set-up man.

Like it’s predecessor, this year’s version of the Sox treaded precariously in the ALCS. Down 3-1 to the Cleveland Indians. But just as quickly as the Sox were put in a hole, Boston buried the Tribe riding the game five heroics of postseason legend Beckett and a furious lineup led by Youkilis and much-maligned J.D. Drew. While Cleveland hardly looked in full control up 3-1 with Beckett and Fenway looming, it didn’t take the Red Sox long to prove they were the better team after the Jacobs Field slump, outscoring the Indians by an utterly obscene 30-5 in the last three games.

The Red Sox outscored their playoff opponents 99-46, the largest margin in league history. Destiny couldn’t stop the Sox. Josh Beckett is the new Bob Gibson, or at least the new Curt Schilling. The rotation should feature four high-ceiling pitchers aged 28 and younger next season. The only regular up for a new contract is Mike Lowell. From a dark horse to a dynasty, from the “Idiots” to the “Machine,” Red Sox Nation has clearly made the turn of the century.