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Why the Red Sox won't repeat

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  • Why the Red Sox won't repeat

    He doesn't put it that way, of course. But with pitching like that, they won't win the Series.

    Sept. 4
    Friday's T-shirt unveiling was "(----) Everybody" on the front, "All We Have is Each Other" on the back.

    These are the Red Sox, who play in Boston, who are in first place despite an earned run average (4.84 on Sunday morning) higher than any first-place finisher since the advent of divisional play in 1969, whose bullpen (5.46) is a run-and-a-half higher than any .500 team.

    "Hey, we did the impossible last year and came back from 3-0 to beat the Yankees," says Kevin Millar. "We can do the same thing."

    Does that include slugging their way to the World Series and essentially winning without pitching? "Yes," says Millar.

    Indeed, in winning 19 of 20 at Fenway Park, a streak that was finally ended Friday night by Baltimore's John Maine, the Red Sox scored at least seven runs in every game, had a .404 on-base percentage and averaged 8.4 runs a game.

    They allowed 5.4 runs a game, and still went 19-1. In splitting the first two games with the Orioles, that went to 5.5 RPG with a 20-2 home run.

    "We have the mindset that we can overcome anything," says David Ortiz. But even if the only team with a higher ERA that won a postseason series was the '96 wild-card Orioles, who had a regular season 5.14 staff ERA, beat the Indians, then lost the ALCS to the Yankees and Jeffrey Maier. (The 2000 Yankees had a 4.76 ERA and won the World Series).

    "I think this is a team that thrives on adversity," says Millar, Mr. T-Shirt Man. "I talked to one of our former teammates who's now on the Yankees, and he couldn't believe how different it is, how everyone goes his own way as soon as the game is over. I know this team is crazy and all that, but we're all in the clubhouse at 2:30 every day, getting on one another, and we hang out long after the game is over. You hear stuff about teams that have each other's backs, but it's real here."

    Even in the midst of the Manny Ramirez madness, there were teammates who were upset at his missing a game in Baltimore, not running out balls against the Yankees and one ball in Kansas City. But Ortiz stuck up for Ramirez. "What we say behind closed doors is one thing," says Ortiz. "But everyone needs to be backed publicly, and we do it." So Ortiz stood behind Manny in Kansas City when he needed to.

    "I think what's developed here is a mentality similar to what the Yankees used to have," says Trot Nixon. "Not that the current Yankees aren't a great team; they are. But when they had Paul O' Neill, they were a little different. You could be up 5-1, but they'd never quit, they'd start chipping away and we'd start to think, 'uh oh, here they come again.' We learned a lot from that '03 series. We might have lost, but it hardened us. There were guys like Ortiz and Millar who were going around telling everyone we had the series won when we were down 3-0 last year, and we believed them. There's no question that playing 60-something games with the Yankees the last three years has been good for us, because it toughens. There's no tougher rivalry in baseball. None. I think you see a lot of teams get leads here and when we start scoring begin to think, 'here they come.'"

    "You have to be tough to endure those Yankee series and to play well in this city," says Johnny Damon. "Sure, the media's tough, the fans are tough, the talk shows. But I think if you're the right kind of player, all that drives and motivates you, and there a lot of guys here who have been hardened to it all and use the home park to a great advantage."

    "If you look at the last three years, there have been a lot of players that have come and gone," says Bill Mueller. "But the core remains the same."

    This is a team with a large, strong group of Christians, yet there is no preaching, no separation. Jason Varitek stood up for Millar when he was getting booed, the way Millar and Ortiz talked Ramirez off the cliff at the trading deadline and a number of players stood up for Mike Timlin when he was bypassed as closer. No one disparages any of Millar's stunts. Oh, by the way, this is also a team with three Jewish players (Gabe Kapler, Kevin Youkilis, Adam Stern), and Kapler may well be the most popular player on the team.

    It is a phenomenal offensive team that leads the majors in runs and on-base percentage.

    "Offense or no offense," says Millar, "it takes a certain mentality to keep playing when you're down four or five runs, or if you know that no lead is safe. What's good is that there's no finger-pointing. The pitchers are trying just a hard as the hitters, and when you see guys like Tim Wakefield and Curt Schilling and Bronson Arroyo give up five runs early, then stay in there and give us a chance to win is awesome."

    One interesting aspect to the Red Sox is that when it comes to their most valuable player, teammates essentially break it down to three candidates -- Ortiz, Varitek and Damon.

    "It's hard to beat what Ortiz does for this team, as our best hitter, best clutch player," says Damon. But several teammates point to Damon, for what he generates of the offense and the fact that he is exceedingly tough, always plays hard and plays tough. "They'd better realize what he means to this team and get him signed, because without Johnny we're a very different team," says one player. And when one brings up Varitek, it's like, "of course, he's the soul of the team."

    Given Varitek's position and his clear superiority to all other catchers (one statistical program ranks him the No. 2 player in the league after Alex Rodriguez in offense above the positional norm), the offense is great. "What he does to get our pitchers through every game is unbelievable," says Millar. "He's unbelievable," says Schilling.

    How wearing is this? Varitek laughs at the question. "It's a struggle at times, but it's my job," he says. "I can't ever be tired, or have any negative thoughts. It's my responsibility."

    It has long been the contention of people who look at things other than computer numbers that most valuable is not "best statistical offensive player," but he who contributes most to winning. All the players know that they need Manny Ramirez in the middle of the lineup, but he might not be there were it not for Ortiz and Millar. Most Valuable encompasses three vital qualities in an everyday grind -- accountability, reliability and responsibility -- and Varitek, Ortiz and Damon meet every criteria.

    Understanding the grind, they all -- particularly Varitek -- endure. In the entire month of August, Boston's pitchers worked a scoreless 7-8-9 innings four times. Their preseason assumption was they would get 300 elite innings from Schilling and Keith Foulke; both were hurt. Foulke got hit hard in three outings with Lowell of the New York-Penn League, so they have no idea what to expect. Timlin has been a solid closer, but getting to him has been to hope that Jonathan Papelbon can get outs in the seventh and eighth, that Foulke finds something. This weekend, players were asking if Craig Hansen is OK. Hansen was pitching for St. John's in June, made nine minor-league appearances and now has a tired arm. That's how desperate.

    "We have to pitch, and there's no getting around it," says Schilling. "That has to start with those of us who start games. And I believe that our starting pitching will come around in September."

    Granted, going into Sunday, the Red Sox had fewer quality starts (64) than any American League team above .500. However, Matt Clement has been better than expected, 12-3 and coming off a dominant start Saturday. David Wells has 12 wins. Bronson Arroyo is tied for the staff lead in quality starts with Clement, and, as Millar says, "is a tough guy that everyone believes in."

    As Billy Beane points out, "the two most important factors in winning are pitching and on-base percentage." They have the on-base thing down. If they can get starting pitching down the stretch (the starters' ERA into Sunday was 4.57, not far from 2004's 4.31), they will be a far different team.

    Now Schilling is convinced he will be back. "It takes time," says their ace, who both as a reliever and starter has accepted every responsibility for success or lack of it.

    "I just have made bad pitches. Everyone is making a big thing about my velocity, and I worried about it. But I went back and looked at my 14-strikeout game last year against the Orioles. I was 89-92, with an occasional 94 or 95. I'm not a 95 mile an hour guy. I have to locate and make good pitches, and I haven't."

    Schilling never complained last August, when the club privately was worried about him finishing the season because of the ankle. Now, his stuff isn't much different.

    "I've made a lot of mistakes with my split," said Schilling. "Then the other day Tommy John called me. He told me I was throwing with my front shoulder, and I immediately knew exactly what he meant. I was leading with my front shoulder trying too hard, and my arm started dragging, my arm angle came down and I wasn't on top of my split. That's going to change."

    If they can play the stretch run with Schilling, Clement, Wells, Wakefield and Arroyo, they won't have to be trotting the bullpen into games in the sixth and seventh every night. Then they can figure out the bullpen, with Timlin or Foulke closing.

    They went into Sunday as close to the White Sox in the loss column for the right to home-field advantage throughout the playoffs as they were to the second-place Yankees. With the flaws of the bullpen, the only way they might be able to win three straight series would be to have the Fenway advantage.

    But then, several players like to remind us what it was like in 2003 with Byung-Hyun Kim imploding down the stretch. "Remember how we blew that first game in Oakland in the division series," says one veteran. "We came back from 2-0 in that series without a closer and should have beaten the Yankees. I still don't understand why Wake was thrown into that situation. Use Williamson, and Wake opens the World Series."

    "We've got guys here who still we can win games we've already lost," says Mueller.

    (---) everyone. All they have is each other.
    Official sponsor of the St. Louis Cardinals

    "This is a heavyweight bout indeed."--John Rooney, Oct. 27, 2011

  • #2
    I don't see anything about why they won't repeat. All I see is Gammons stroking his beloved team and trying to rationalize how they can win it all with a shitty pitching staff.
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    • #3
      Short version: they won't repeat because the Cardinals are going to win it all
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      • #4
        Originally posted by dhaab@Sep 6 2005, 09:16 AM
        I don't see anything about why they won't repeat. All I see is Gammons stroking his beloved team and trying to rationalize how they can win it all with a shitty pitching staff.

        That was my point, which I should have made more clearly. Actually read the facts in that column, without Gammons' Red Sox-colored glasses, and it's hard to see them winning again.
        Official sponsor of the St. Louis Cardinals

        "This is a heavyweight bout indeed."--John Rooney, Oct. 27, 2011

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        • #5
          Nobody will beat them.

          They'll lose when Schilling pitches, but they somehow win with Wakefield and Wells.

          I hope they get bounced in the first round........

          They will fucking repeat because they'll play all the important games at home where they'll score enough runs.

          Millar just made Bellhorn a very popular guy in the Bronx locker room, I am sure.
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          • #6
            Originally posted by kah+Sep 6 2005, 11:19 AM-->
            QUOTE(kah @ Sep 6 2005, 11:19 AM)
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