I won\’t lie, I\’ve fallen into the trap as much as anyone. Call it high expectations or misguided hope, or unrealistic fandom. Whatever it is, the 2004 Sox are somehow disappointing.
The team has 89 wins and could still win a 100, but this team doesn\’t seem to have the same spirit or mojo or fan fun as the 2003 Sox. Why? I don\’t know. Is it Tito Francona\’s constant shuffling of the lineup and constant repeated pitching moves in terms of the bullpen? Maybe, to some extent. Is is the off-season crazy soap opera regarding manny, nomar and arod? Did it have some effect on the way we look at the Sox in regards to the rest of the have-nots of the AL? These are legitimate questions.
This team is obviously more talented overall than last year\’s. The addition of 20-game winner Schilling and top save guy Foulke has turned the Sox into a solid WS contender. The bottom line is that since the 2003 Sox got to within 5 outs of the World Series and the city\’s, fans\’ thirst to make it after 17 years of missing out, we as fans have grown impatient. We want 100 wins, we want WS title, we want perfection. Everything else is secondary. The fun is there at times with this team (the 20-2 streak being the high point), but the dramatic comeback victories are not what this team is about.
What is this team about? I don\’t know. There have been several changes due to injuries and trades, and I think the 50-some-odd players that have played this season have most fans twisted and turned around. One second, pokey is the man, the next he\’s not even a consideration past a late-inning backup. One moment, Dave Roberts and Gabe Kapler are the ultimate platoon in right field, the next, they are just backups to one-time regular and now back into the mix before it\’s too late guy–trot. Mientkiewicz is added with the public relations spin of he\’s going to solidify in the infield defense with Cabrera, then he becomes a novelty 2nd baseman, and finally a reserve with ailments. One moment Kevin Youkilis is the answer at 3rd, then the Professional Bill Mueller comes back to play great defense and hit again, then right back to Youkilis with Mueller ailing. It\’s a roller coaster. Who\’s on First? Well, Kevin Millar is Who.
The relievers have come (Adams, Mendoza, Myers, Leskanic) and gone (Dinardo, Malaska, Amartinez, Nelson, Anderson). The starting pitching has had interesting stretches of invincibility and then sheer awful periods from Lowe to Pedro (a few times) to Wakefield, who is now pitching his way off the postseason roster. Schilling remains the Solid Rock, and youngster Arroyo has been amazingly consistent in keeping the Sox staff one of the best in baseball.
I\’m going to say that last year spoiled us all, made us all blood-thirsty for more. It\’s common to feel that way after being so close to Winning It All. Theo decided to go for the gusto this year, and has done a lot to get the Sox to the promised land. I have ripped him for some odd waiting periods for the pitching needs and other areas, and he\’s responded with some key moves. He\’s answered the call. The manager, well, he\’s Tito. And, well, Tito is Tito. He is what he is. He\’s not a great manager, but he has done some things in the grady ilk of keeping players happy. He is more jimy in his ways than grady in my opinion, but 30 games over .500 is going to buy you a lot of pats on the back.
Anyway, I don\’t think we will understand how good this team is until we see a Sox team finish in the pack or 83-79 in the future. We treat this team as a Monster, and we want it to be King Kong on top of the Empire State Building. If the Sox get into the playoffs as the Wild Card (probably the case) and don\’t make it to the 2004 WS, I think most fans will be in sheer dismay. Upset at everybody, players, management, etc. Bob Ryan talks about entitlement. He\’s right, it\’s as if the sox fans feel we are all entitled to a WS title. It\’s just that it doesn\’t work that way in life. Feeling entitled, having things on paper that point to championship, and
having 86 years of no WS titles are not going to lead directly to the 2004 championship.
I hope they win, but we\’re all a little spoiled here in Sox Nation. If they don\’t win, the sky won\’t fall. There\’s always next year. And the year after that.
fred from medford