Anyone who saw the Boston Red Sox come from behind to win the American League Championships Series should be pretty confident that the Sox are capable of bringing their loyal nation another World Series title.
But for those of us fortunate enough to see the postgame celebration, the message was perfectly clear " the idiots are back.
While only seven members of the 2004 World Series team remain, the 2007 bunch is just as fun-loving as their predecessors. When the Red Sox are having fun, and playing care-free baseball (see Manny Ramirez saying, "There's always next year"), they are almost unbeatable.
Closer Jonathan Papelbon's ALCS victory dance " an Irish jig of sorts that was a sequel to his American League Division Series " should be feared almost as much as his fastball.
Which brings me to more bad news for the Colorado Rockies: these idiots are better than the 2004 idiots. I'll concede that the Rockies are hotter than an October night in Denver right now, and winning 21 of 22 games doesn't happen by accident. But how will the Rockies respond when they lose a game or two and find out that players like Jeff Francis aren't invincible?
The never-been-there-before team has knocked off the big-name franchise before, like in 1997 when the Florida Marlins beat the Cleveland Indians (not to mention the Atlanta Braves and San Francisco Giants in the earlier rounds) or when the Arizona Diamondbacks sacked the New York Yankees " a feat for which those in Red Sox Nation are eternally grateful. But the Rockies won't be the next team of destiny.
As crazy as things seem in Fenway, the Sox are a well-oiled machine from top to bottom. They boast phenomenal owners, a brilliant front office and a solid coaching staff.
Even before they made their way into the World Series, the Sox likely had the entire scouting report on the Rockies, including the weaknesses of third base coach Mike Gallego (this is important, actually).
And the Rockies? Well if Monday's unmitigated disaster of online ticket sales was any indication as to what we can expect from this franchise in the World Series, the Rockies' faithful " all five of them " better cheer loud when the Red Sox fans take over Coors Field. We need not even touch upon the difference in fans, as the Boston backers live baseball all year, not just during months in 2007 that end on 'ber.'
What's more is that the Red Sox, along with manager Terry Franconia, are used to the ever-watchful and often critical pen of the media (OK, I criticized Josh Beckett last year and may still write off J.D. Drew). In mid-July, the Rockies were requesting interview with Denver Post and Rocky Mountain News.
The Rockies skipper, Clint Hurdle, has accomplished plenty with this Rockies team (see this year's World Series appearance) and has been to the big show as a player with the Royals, but he's no Franconia.
The most daunting batting statistic that the Rockies may look at comes from Game 7 of the ALCS. In the 11-2 drubbing of Cleveland, sluggers David Ortiz and Ramirez went a combined 1-for-8 with no runs scored and one walk. The 3-4 hitters didn't exactly slack off in the previous nine playoffs games (they both are hitting close to .400 on the playoffs and reaching in more than half of their at bats), but the Red Sox have such depth at the plate, that they can afford to do these things and win.
Meanwhile, Boston leadoff hitter Dustin Pedroia has found his swing while Kevin Youkilis is hitting .425 and has four homers thus far. And the bottom of the order got a big boost with the insertion of Jacoby Ellsbury. The one weakness the Red Sox have at the plate (aside from Julio Lugo) is their propensity to hit into double plays, and with a solid Rockies infield, this could be a factor. But when you ground into five double plays in two game and still score 18 runs (ALCS Games 5 and 7), it's not that big of a deal.
If they Rockies want to fly back to Boston next week, they'll have to get production from the heart of their lineup, which has been stellar thus far against good pitchers. They passed the test against American League hurlers during the regular season, but the playoffs are a season anew.
On the mound, the Red Sox hold the best playoff pitcher of our era in Josh Beckett. After he gives up an obligatory run in the first inning, Beckett is lights out. Curt Schilling holds a place near and dear in the hearts of Red Sox Nation. The good news is he's still elusive. Daisuke Matsuzaka and Tim Wakefield are afflicted by the same one-inning, four-run breakdowns, but can also go deep and win games without much offensive support. Unless they are dominant, look for them to go five or six innings and the Red Sox insert Youkilis or Bobby Kielty as a pinch hitter.
As good as Jeff Francis and Josh Fogg have been, the Red Sox don't mind going up against a Cy Young candidate or solid No. 2 pitchers (again, see ALCS). And as untouchable as the Colorado bullpen has been, the Red Sox can embarrass some pretty good relievers. Just ask Cleveland's Rafael Betancourt, who before his unraveling in Game 7, had allowed two hits in 8 and 1/3 innings of work against the Yankees and Red Sox.
Aside from the earned run machine that is Eric Gagne, the Red Sox have plenty of reliable guys in the bullpen, like Jon Lester, Manny Delcarmen and Mike Timlin. Setup man Hideki Okajima overcame a late-season slump and Papelbon is just plain filthy. It may behoove the Rockies to fall behind 10 runs or so and let Franconia put in the one-two punch of Gagne and Javier Lopez.
While those record eight days off between the NLCS and World Series may have seemed like an eternity for the Rockies, the upcoming postseason will feel even longer. The Red Sox are strong and aren't satisfied with just a 2004 crown. Furthermore, Boston is in competition with another great team " the New England Patriots.
Bottom line: Sox in five.
Sports Writer Ian Cropp almost got tickets to see his Sox play TWICE, but the trusty Rockies Web site timed out as he was about to purchase his section 236 and 226 tickets to Game 4. He's not bitter at all, and if you are willing to sell him tickets, can be reached at 748-2935 or firstname.lastname@example.org.