Red Sox remade since ’04 championship
Vail, CO Colorado
BOSTON ” Kevin Millar and Bill Mueller were back at Fenway Park this week, drawing a huge cheer from the Boston crowd when they took the field.
They were just visiting.
Like most of their teammates from Boston’s 2004 World Series championship, the former Red Sox infielders have scattered throughout the major leagues. They came back for first-pitch ceremonies in the AL championship series, but when the game started the Red Sox were relying on a whole new bunch of names.
“The ’04 season is kind of a long time ago. It’s a new team and we’ve been through a lot together,” second baseman Dustin Pedroia said Tuesday as Boston worked out in preparation for Wednesday night’s Series opener against the Colorado Rockies. “Got to write about something new now. That stuff’s over.”
It certainly is.
Participate in The Longevity Project
The Longevity Project is an annual campaign to help educate readers about what it takes to live a long, fulfilling life in our valley. This year Kevin shares his story of hope and celebration of life with his presentation Cracked, Not Broken as we explore the critical and relevant topic of mental health.
Only seven players on this year’s likely World Series roster were part of the team that ended Boston’s 86-year title drought, and that includes Kevin Youkilis, who played just one game in the playoffs in ’04. Another dropped out on Tuesday, when lingering back and shoulder problems made Tim Wakefield too unreliable to include on the roster.
The others who are left: Curt Schilling, Manny Ramirez, David Ortiz, Jason Varitek, Doug Mirabelli and Mike Timlin.
“When you have veteran teams, you’re going to have some turnover,” said Terry Francona, who was in his first year as Red Sox manager when they won it all. “If you have good veteran teams, there are going to be free agents and other teams are going to want them. You can’t keep everybody.”
Joining them are key acquisitions Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell, who came over in the same trade with the Florida Marlins and free agents Julio Lugo and J.D. Drew. Rookie stars like Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury had yet to play in the minors, and Japanese pitchers Daisuke Matsuzaka and Hideki Okajima were on another continent when the Red Sox won the ’04 Series.
“I was still in college at the time just trying to get to the college World Series,” said Ellsbury, who started the 2007 season in Double-A and forced his way into the lineup late in the ALCS. “Having a chance to get to the World Series is totally different. It’s definitely a dream come true.”
Pedroia is a top contender for the AL rookie of the year award after a season in which he led all first-year players with a .317 average and made just six errors. After going 5-for-29 in the first seven games of the playoffs, he strung together three multihit games in a row, batting .538 as Boston overcame a 3-1 deficit to knock the Indians out of the AL championship series.
But he’s not the only candidate: Matsuzaka led AL rookies in wins, starts and innings; no rookie reliever pitched more games (66) with a lower ERA (2.22) than Okajima. Jonathan Papelbon was the runner up for the AL rookie award last year; he’s saved 72 games in two full seasons since taking over the closer’s role from Keith Foulke, who closed out all four World Series wins three years ago.
Foulke did not play this season. Millar is with the Orioles. Mueller is the Dodgers hitting coach. Johnny Damon and Doug Mientkiewicz are with the Yankees. Pedro Martinez is with the Mets. Trot Nixon is with the Cleveland Indians, recently dispatched by the Red Sox on their way back to the World Series.
With them went the self-proclaimed idiot culture that ended Boston’s 86-year title drought.
“The other team, we just knew how good we were and we were kind of cocky about it,” Mirabelli said. “We just thought, ‘We can do whatever we want in here and then we go out there and kick people’s butts.’ And that’s how it worked out.
“But when push came to shove, that team in ’04 had the ability to buckle down and to get the job done.”