Saturday, October 08, 2005

And In The End

About a year ago, I wrote about how the best thing for me about the 2004 Red Sox was how I could go forward as a Boston fan without having to deal with 86 years of baggage.  Members of my favorite team were the champions of the world and for me and thousands of other fans, it meant a return to normalcy.  Yesterday’s loss was by far the biggest test of that sentiment all season, but in the end I can say that I watched highlights of Chicago players spraying each other with champagne and felt, not bitterness, not heart-wrenching hurt, but the same resignation I felt when the Sox started to slip at the end of the regular season.  The resignation brought on by knowing that with no Schilling or Foulke, with inconsistent starting pitching and only two or three effective relievers, all the slugging in the world wasn’t going to get Boston to the World Series trophy again.  Indeed, as it seems like many have said in the past week, that the Sox made it to the post-season at all without much in the way of pitching is an impressive testimony to the offensive powerhouse that Theo Epstein and Terry Francona put together.  But all of the heroics of David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez with the bat couldn’t carry Boston against a better team in the first round – and that’s probably the way it should be.  Best to get things over with now, then to prolong the agony.  Do I wish Boston had won at least one game?  Yes, it would have made for a better showing and a nicer way to end the 2004 party…but it was not meant to be.

Looking back, I see 2005 as the Theo Epstein Experiment.  In 2003 he assembled the pieces and in 2004 added the finishing touches to the master team, the one that would and did win it all.  This year, Theo had the psychic slack to play around with the configuration of his team that no Boston GM has had in a long time.  Expensive (Pedro Martinez) and sometimes ineffective (Derek Lowe) components were dropped, specialists (Dave Roberts) were allowed to go to find their own way and replaced with multitude of cheaper options, some of whom were risks in their own right.  Unfortunately for Theo and Boston fans, not everyone who remained was as reliable as they were in 2004 and replacements from the free agent market were not as readily available as in the past.  Hampered by circumstance, the Theo Epstein Experiment failed.  

Now, for Boston, comes the post-season.  Who, amongst the free agent players who were a big part of this team and the teams of the past few years will be back?  We’ve the seen the start of the next generation of potential stars coming up through the minors; who will be on the starting roster for next year?  The contracts of Terry Francona and Theo Epstein expire at the end of October; will they be back for 2006?  Rest assured, that though Robin and I close Volume II of Keep Your Sox On today, we’ll be back to tell the tale as it unfolds.  For now, as Chicago advances to the ALCS on Tuesday, the possibility for history in the making continues and I sincerely hope that the end of this month will see another long championship drought finally quenched.  GO SOX.