by Randolph T. Holhut
American Reporter Correspondent
November 1, 2007
RED SOX NATION: GET USED TO IT
DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- The "duck boats" again rolled through the streets of Boston this week, accompanied by the cheers of a couple of million Red Sox fans.
We didn't have to wait 86 years for another championship. It only took four seasons. After a dramatic comeback to beat the very tough and talented Cleveland Indians for the American League championship, the Red Sox swept the Colorado Rockies to win the 2007 World Series
This is new and unfamiliar territory for Red Sox Nation. The talk of curses and past failures has been replaced by a team that is deep, talented, confident and expects to win. The angst and heartbreak that came with being a Red Sox fan? Swept into the dustbin of history.
Red Sox fans could recite the litany of heartbreak by year - 1946, 1967, 1975, 1978, 1986, 2003. It took the 2004 championship to purge that long history of disappointment and release the pent-up frustration of 86 years.
The events of 2004 wiped the psychic slate clean for Red Sox fans. Now, the Sox are poised to become - dare we say - the new New York Yankees, the team of high expectations, insatiable demands for success and the willingness to spend what is needed to deliver the goods.
The Red Sox are now No. 2 behind the Yankees for the highest payroll in the major leagues. Thanks to the highest ticket prices in baseball and the money gusher that is NESN, the New England Sports Network, the Red Sox have the resources to rival the Yankees in the pursuit of top talent.
With every game sold out at Fenway for the past three years, the Red Sox this year surpassed the Yankees as the No. 1 drawing team on the road. Fans in stadiums in Tampa Bay, Baltimore and Toronto found themselves drowned out by visiting Red Sox fans. The Red Sox now have a nationwide following.
The rest of the teams in Major League Baseball may not like it, but they might as well get used to idea of seeing the Red Sox play in October every year. The brain trust of manager Terry Francona, general manager Theo Epstein and principal owners John Henry, Tom Werner and Larry Lucchino changed the culture of the team. The Red Sox began emphasizing pitching and defense. They started spending more money on players, as well as more money on developing homegrown talent. They made few mistakes in building a team designed to be a perennial contender.
This year's team was not the crazy band of self-proclaimed "idiots" - the team of the shaggy Johnny Damon and the gabby Kevin Millar. The 2007 Red Sox were a splendid blend of youth and experience. In a year when injuries hobbled Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz, Mike Lowell and Kevin Youkilis picked up the power slack. Julio Lugo and J.D. Drew never found their groove during the regular season, but did much better in the playoffs. Coco Crisp made highlight reel catches in center field and hit well until he slumped in the playoffs. And Sox fans should be treated to Jacoby Ellsbury's speed and Dustin Pedroia's tenacity for years to come.
The Rockies had a great run, but good pitching stops good hitting and the Red Sox trio of Josh Beckett, Curt Schilling and Daisuke Matsuzaka is about as good as it gets. Jon Lester's performance in Game 4 was a reminder that there are some good young arms too. And having Hideki Okajima and Jonathan Papelbon to finish up games is as good a security blanket as a manager can have.
Are the Red Sox a dynasty in the making? Probably not. The Red Sox may be a wealthy and profitable team, but their pockets still are not as deep as the Yankees. And, as we've seen over the past few years, there is a great deal of turnover and balance in baseball. The Red Sox became the only repeat winners in this decade - a decade that saw the Arizona Diamondbacks and Florida Marlins win championships before sliding back into mediocrity and saw the Los Angeles Angels, St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago White Sox also end up in the winners circle.
No, this is not as euphoric a moment as 2004. Nothing will ever be as sweet as 2004, of coming back from a 3-0 deficit to shock the Yankees in the ALCS and then sweeping the Cardinals to break the bonds of the 86 years of despair that once gripped Red Sox fans. Now, we get to bask in the glow of rooting for a great baseball team that has replaced a tradition of failure with a new tradition of success.
We could get used to this feeling, winning. The Patriots are undefeated and are playing a previously unimagined level ths season. There is hope for the Celtics and Bruins this season and Boston College could be playing for a college football championship in January.
These are great times for New England sports fans, and I can tell you that we are enjoying it immensely.
Randolph T. Holhut has been a journalist in New England for more than 25 years. He edited "The George Seldes Reader" (Barricade Books). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.