Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Why We Wait: October Glory

This is the second article in the Why We Wait series. If you don't know what it's all about, you can check out the first article here.

Any good Red Sox fan was probably raised to think of a World Series Championship as if it was the Holy Grail. While it was possible that the Red Sox could eventually win one, believing in it was like believing in an ever elusive myth. Perhaps some of us were lucky enough to have relatives old enough to remember 1918. Most of us, however, didn't. If we had relatives that were alive then, they likely weren't old enough to remember the World Series.

For me, I was more like tales of 1986. My dad had the Champagne bottle popped, and the glasses ready before you-know-what happened. I also heard stories of the fever surrounding the 1967 Impossible Dream season. But the Red Sox lost that World Series in a Game 7 as well, as they did in all five of their World Series appearances from 1918 to 2004.

I grew up hearing my father tell me "maybe in your lifetime". And my father was only reciting what his father told him some 20 odd years before. But things are obviously different now.

When the Red Sox won it all last year, it was clearly different from 2004. In 2004, the Red Sox did the impossible. If they never did it again, I would have been happy. There wasn't a day that went by between October of 2004 and October of 2005 that I didn't think about how great it was that the Red Sox were champions. It didn't feel like they won a World Series; it felt like they won a century long war against a cruel, mocking tyrant.

Last year was different. I appreciated the process much more. Plenty of people told me that the Red Sox would choke again, like they always do. But I just laughed. There really wasn't any weight to those words anymore. After 2004, horror stories of choking Red Sox teams were all just talk. This was an entirely different team, in an entirely different century. There wasn't a day all season that I thought the Red Sox were going to miss the playoffs.

And when they won it all, it didn't feel like salvation. It felt more like confirmation. Confirmation that this wasn't the Red Sox of old. Confirmation that they were a true force to be reckoned with. And confirmation that almost two decades of unrewarded faith was worth it, no matter how much suffering it caused. And the reward was more than I ever could have imagined just four years ago.

It's so unbelievable, that often I forget that the Red Sox won in 2007. But every time I'm reminded, I can't help but smile. And that's why we wait.


Michael Fierman said...

nice heartfelt post...good job

call me crazy, but in a way i'm sorta looking forward to the yankees being the underdog for a change.

of course i want the underdog to win...

Royal Rooters said...

Thanks. It's really not that bad to be an underdog. In many ways, it's just as fun as being the favorite and in my opinion it makes winning that much more rewarding. That being said, I think the Yankees are underdogs mostly because they're putting a lot of relatively unknowns into their pitching staff, not because they're at all short on talent.

Michael said...

very true my man!

i truly can't wait to see how the young guns shake out.

i'm counting on andy and wang to give me 17 wins each. i have TONS of faith in phil hughes. i'm hoping for 15 wins from could be + or - 5 ...who knows? but i am confident that he will only get better and better with the potential to be a true ace. the same goes for joba, but perhaps we'll pull a Pap and he'll be back in the bullpen. i think it would be a a waste not to at least try him as a starter. kenndey showed great stuff but in a very small sample so i have no idea what o expect.
if i get 10 wins from moose i'd be singing in the streets (WHY did they sign him to a 2 year deal at the end of 06 ) WHYYYYYY??????

who knows, maybe he'll adjust to having no fastball


of course then there are the sox; well there will be some big question marks in my book next to schilling and wake.
then you have your kids. i think you get maybe 15 wins from lester, but buchholtz....i have no idea. thoughts?

Royal Rooters said...

Alright, some good old baseball discussion! Let's get down to the nitty gritty.

I think Hughes is definitely the real deal. In this decade, I think there's only one other prospect who's posted minor league stats on the level of Hughes. And that was Josh Beckett.

Beckett - 1.75 ERA, 5.91 H/9, 2.12 BB/9, 12.29 K/9, 47% GB
Hughes - 2.03 ERA, 5.56 H/9, 2.16 BB/9, 10.18 K/9, 50% GB

I think that's the kind of pitcher the Yankees have on their hands. Both made their major league debut at 21-years-old. Beckett had almost immediate success at the major league level, and he didn't have nearly as much time to develop in the minors as Hughes has had. There is always a bit of uncertainty surrounding young pitchers, but I don't think it's ridiculous to think that Hughes could be the staff ace in 2007.

As for Chamberlain it seems that Hank Steinbrenner is intent on starting him. And I seriously question this move for a few reasons. First of all, asking him to start the entire season would cause an increase of about 45-50 innings compared to his previous career high, before you factor in any playoff time. Given his injury issues in the past, I think that would be incredibly irresponsible. Plus, the rotation isn't the Yankees greatest area of need, the bullpen is. The Yankees know Joba can be a dominant reliever. They don't really have any sample size to judge how he'd fare as a starter at the major league level.

Kennedy I'm not really sure on either. But I think he'll get plenty of innings 2008 so ask me again in a year.

As for the Red Sox, I'm not really worried about Schilling. He's put up back to pack solid front of the rotation numbers, even when he struggled with injury last year. I don't expect him to be healthy all year, and I'd be happy with 170 innings out of him, but the guy knows how to pitch. I expect him to be a solid #3 starter with an ERA between 3.80 and 4.20.

I think Daisuke will move up to the team's #2 starter. I like his chances next year more than most probably do. I don't think people realize just how much the switch from Japan to MLB entails. Everything from the travel, to the texture and size of the baseball is different. I think his overall 2007 stats reflect his 7.62 ERA, 1.62 WHIP September more than anything else, and he was completely exhausted by that point. It was his rookie season and he had an ERA of 3.88 over the first five months of the season. He had one of the best strikeout totals in the majors which would seem to suggest he wasn't over matched by the hitters. For the most part he was his own worst enemy.

I don't think the Red Sox plan on giving Wakefield many starts. His health and consistency are wearing down. And given the fact that the Red Sox really haven't shown any interest in Doug Mirabelli, I bet they plan on using Wakefield in the pen for most of the season. I think Wakefield will mostly be used to supplement innings for Buchholz, so at the end of the year Buchholz's innings total is a safe increase that won't put him at risk for injury.

I think 15 wins for Lester next year is a little generous. If he's that good I think the Red Sox are in real good shape. I think Lester's a really talented pitcher, but I think he's still pretty raw.

I like Buchholz almost as much as I like Hughes. From everything I've seen, his minor league stats are most comparable to Jake Peavy.

Peavy - 2.60 ERA, 6.83 H/9, 3.18 BB/9, 11.31 K/9
Buchholz - 2.46 ERA, 6.60 H/9, 2.43 BB/9, 11.23 K/9

But again, who knows what that means. I don't think Buch's development is quite as predictable as that of Hughes. He hasn't been quite as consistent over his minor league career, but last year Buchholz posted some monster numbers and actually out pitched the ones Hughes put up at Double-A and MLB. The question is, did something click in his development, or was it a fluke. Some scouts have said that he's gotten his velocity on his fastball up about 3mph last year so he could be growing into his body. He's pretty small in case you haven't noticed.

Michael said...

he is a skinny dude, that's for sure. i was lucky enough to see his no-hitter in it's entirety. i have the extra-innings package and i remember making a point of watching him that night. what a treat it was to see a kid accomplish something like that. my favorite part of the night was big papi picking him up with that big smile of his.

on the other hand i was wishing that he would just disappear never to be seen or heard of again.

for some reason i completely spaced out on dice-k when i was thinking about your rotation. he may well adjust to life in the AL east...or the league will adjust to him even more than they did. i do agree that he will have a pretty good year.
maybe i am being a bit more optimistic about lester, but i just have this guy feeling that he is going to amaze this year.

all the points you make about joba are good ones. the innings issue will be affecting hughes as well and to a lesser extent kennedy.
having joba as mo's set-up man might be a might end up being a necessity; we'll see.

i have tickets to see the yanks play the sox on the 4th of july and again on august 26th and i CAN'T WAIT!

Royal Rooters said...

Yeah, bullpens are such a crap shoot. No one will know what it will look like until around the All-Star break. Everyone thought the Red Sox would have a horrible bullpen last year.

I watched the entire game too. I've been a big fan of Buchholz and Ellsbury going back to last year, so to see them play in the majors was incredible. Can't wait to see Lowrie this year.

What better way could you spend a 4th of July?