The weird part about the way the 2007 World Series ended, specifically after the World Series of the past half-dozen years, was seeing no monkeys flung from anyone’s back, no albatross peeled from around anyone’s neck, no donuts, no bagels, no bupkis filled up or filled in, no getting off the schneid.
This wasn’t some eternally deprived expansion team sipping at last from the chalice of ultimate success, nor a long-suffering tribe (whether deserving or despicable) reaching the promised land for the first time in eons. This was simply the inevitable becoming reality, the best team earning its just reward after trumping its overmatched opponent in a one-run game that wasn’t terribly close.
Terrific if you’re a Red Sox fan, not all that electrifying otherwise. World Series sweeps are bad for the losers as well as the unaffiliated observers who just want more baseball. But they can’t be over fast enough for the winners who don’t need to wait a moment more than necessary for a second World Series sweep in four years.
Red Sox fans are no longer deprived and no longer suffering. Yet I doubt winning is getting old for them.
Their team flat out deserved to win. Not only did the Red Sox lead their division from April 18 on, but they, unlike at least one other Northeastern team I can think of, didn’t blow a longstanding and formidable divisional lead in September. They faced down their bout with adversity (behind 3-1 to the Indians in the ALCS) and they supplanted the Rockies as the hottest team in baseball. Colorado started the postseason 7-0. Boston ended it that way.
Swell buncha fellas on television, from the monsters in the middle to the percussion in the bullpen to the rooks to the not one, but two cancer survivors to that pitcher who evokes comparisons to Christy Mathewson, Bob Gibson and, perhaps, Catfish Hunter. The Red Sox blended a roster of experience and youth and power and speed and arms and bats and gloves…it’s as if they, among all the other things they did right, gave their versions of Lastings Milledge and Ruben Gotay legitimate shots and their kids did not disappoint.
How nice for the Red Sox, how nice for their Nation. Every Mets fan I know who lives in New England finds his Red Sox neighbors insufferable and overbearing, but I don’t live in New England, so I’m happy for them. The village elders didn’t have to hang on for one more breath for so they could die happy and no parents needed to wake their babies so they could grow up to say they witnessed a once-in-a-lifetime event. It’s twice-in-a-lifetime now. When the Red Sox broke their cold spell in 2004, the Daily News snottily suggested this would be it until 2090. Turns out there wasn’t an 86-year wait this time around. Turns out the team of this century, to date, hails from Boston. Turns out that Mike Lowell was the best third base pickup anybody in the A.L. East has made since the winter of ’04.
Turns out Alex Rodriguez is still looking for a team whose coattails are long enough to drag him to a pennant. But that’s somebody else’s problem.
If the Rockies, who stormed into the World Series before being stormed right out of it, had stayed hot, they would have written the more exciting final chapter to 2007. I rooted for them and I’m disappointed for them, but the Red Sox winning is a good story any year…‘cept one, as we all know. You New England-based Mets fans may not be able to stand being surrounded by RSN for the next few days (or years), and you have my sympathies, but at least at the heart of their narcissism there is our shared bond. Hank Steinbrenner may have been full of it last week when he dismissed Red Sox Nation as no more than a component of “Yankee universe,” but I don’t completely begrudge him his point that “if it wasn’t for the rivalry with us, they’d be just another team.” Maybe not for true Red Sox fans, but for me and most Mets fans, probably.
At one point or another, I’d venture that just about every Mets fan’s favorite American League team has been the Red Sox precisely because they have been the archrival to our least favorite American League team. With the Blue Jays, the Devil Rays and the Orioles all having gone on hiatus over the past decade, the Red Sox have been all we could invest our residual hope in from April through September. They’ve been all we’ve had to combat our sidebar hatred. It took them a while, but they’ve gotten the job done on our behalf and the behalves of good people everywhere. The Red Sox embarrassed their rivals directly in 2004 and have completely upstaged them in every tangible fashion in 2007. The Yankees are left to hold meetings and interviews and conference calls in late October. The Red Sox hold parades.
It’s nice to see. It doesn’t actually help the Mets, but it’s nice to see. And when it occurs to one of their celebrity fans, like the surprisingly surprised Ben Affleck, that there are New Yorkers who are empathetic to his cause, it’s nice to read this:
I get a lot of supportive things about the Red Sox, which at first kind of confused me. We don’t understand this in Boston, but half of New York likes the Red Sox because they hate the Yankees and they love the Mets. And I love the Mets. So go Mets!
And go Dave Magadan, revered hitting coach of the World Champion Red Sox, the only Met alumnus I noticed in the Boston dugout this October. Magadan (or Mags) hasn’t been a Met since 1992, but as with Bob Apodaca (or Dack), I still see him as a Met when I see him at all. I like that he got noticed for the Red Sox taking lots of pitches (and keeping lots of games going lots of hours). I’m always amazed that it’s news that if hitters take pitches, it might wear out the pitcher, that the hitter might eventually see the pitch he wants, that the hitter might walk. I seem to recall Mags collecting lots of bases on balls in his Met prime. Indeed, in 1990, his one really good year, he finished one point behind ex-Met Lenny Dykstra for the league lead in on-base percentage and was eighth in walks.
It’s probably a poor excuse for irony, but Dave Magadan was the smart-money choice to take over third base from the departed Ray Knight in 1987, but Howard Johnson won the job out of Spring Training when Mags was sidelined by an infected lymph node in his right armpit. HoJo never relinquished third after that and it took until ’90, when Mike Marshall washed out as Keith Hernandez’s replacement, that Dave became a regular, at first base. The irony? Twenty years later, Magadan and Johnson are both Major League hitting coaches…and Magadan’s students have been doing much better.
Maybe the Rockies were overwhelmed by their eight-day layoff, but now we all have an eight-day layoff. Actually, we all have approximately nineteen eight-day layoffs before there’s another new baseball game to remotely obsess over. Via the good graces of XM Radio, I listened to the top of the ninth on KOA, the Rockies’ station. I switched to WRKO’s Red Sox feed for the happier broadcast in the bottom of the ninth. In flipping, I felt a bit like the sheepish Shea assistant clubhouse manager in Jeff Pearlman’s The Bad Guys Won who, with Game Six in Metly peril, threw on a Red Sox warmup jacket so he could “be a part of the celebration, any celebration,” but I’d decided one sad ending in 2007 was enough for me. Moments after Joe Castiglione announced the Red Sox had become the first team in the 2000s with two world championships to its credit, he threw it to a reporter in the victorious clubhouse. On KOA, they couldn’t go to commercial fast enough — visit your Denver-area Dick’s Sporting Goods for Rockies merchandise and “show your support throughout the Series!” On Fox, Mike Lowell was named MVP and asked about his free agent plans.
The baseball season was completely over everywhere I turned.
A clip of this World Series might appear in a Chevy commercial down the line, otherwise it’s likely being forgotten by all but the participants and their most ardent admirers. Red Sox fans will have their t-shirts and their DVDs and their final assurance, in case any was necessary, that there was never any such thing as a curse. Rockies fans will have their mixed emotions. It took them however long they lived before 1993 to join the league of extraordinarily fortunate markets and have a baseball team to call their own. It took them 15 years to win a league championship. It took them 36 innings to fall back down the mountain. All those empty seats at Coors Field became fans again in late September. I probably won’t care in May when the Mets are the visitors and the Rockies just another team we have to beat, but I hope those who were disappointed these last four games remain in love with their team. Wrote Robert Wells of Milwaukee Braves fans after the novelty of winning the 1957 World Series wore off:
When a player popped up with the bases loaded, he was no longer a figure of heroic tragedy but a bum. With triumph as well as aspiration behind them, the team’s followers began to be like baseball fans elsewhere. The plump ladies with cowbells and baseball caps started missing games. When it looked like rain, people who had considered going to the stadium decided to stay home.
Whatever Rockies fans decide to do next year, I realize I’ve just blogged my last baseball game of this year. According to the Weather Channel right now, it’s 42 degrees in the vicinity of Shea Stadium. But it feels like 37.