Monday, October 29, 2007

World Series sweep

Congratulations Boston Red Sox!

On April 18, the Red Sox beat Toronto 4-1 to run their record to 8-5, and take sole possession of first place. They would never relinquish it. An 11-3 run through the playoffs, with sweeps in two of the three rounds, gave the Boston Red Sox their second World Series title in four years.

  • Congratulations to the Colorado Rockies, who put together one of the most spectacular late-season, post-season runs in baseball history, then were (probably) hurt by the schedule. Whether having only a couple of days off as opposed to eight would have made a difference, is, of course, an open question.

  • I thought, going in, that the Red Sox were the better team, and I still think it. Equally of course, that's absolutely no guarantee that the better team wins, and the idiots on Boston radio this morning talking of how the Red Sox would have swept even if it were a 25 game series are just that - idiots. But all of the evidence suggested, and still suggests, that the Boston Red Sox were the best team in baseball this year. The best team doesn't always win the World Series - in fact, in the era of three-playoff rounds, the best team doesn't even often win the World Series - but the best team won the World Series in 2007.

  • There is still some question about who, exactly, worked out the trade that brought Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell to Boston. At the time, Theo Epstein was not the GM of the team - officially, they did not have one. Several weeks later, Jed Hoyer and Ben Cherington were named co-GMs, though, by that time, people expected Epstein to return. In any event, there have been mixed reports since then about whether Epstein would have made the trade. There have been reports that he didn't like the trade, there have been reports that John Henry didn't like the trade. And there's no question that they, like everyone else in baseball, would love to have Hanley Ramirez.

    I mention this this morning because it seems relevant. Whoever made the deal, however many MVP awards Hanley Ramirez wins, this was a great trade for Boston. Josh Beckett was the MVP of the ALCS, and probably the MVP of the post-season. Mike Lowell was the MVP of the World Series. When a single trade brings you key pieces, key contributors to a World Series, that's a great trade.

  • Key parts were also played by Dustin Pedroia, John Lester, Jacoby Ellsbury, Manny Delcarmen and Jonathan Papelbon, each of whom is a product of the Boston farm system within the past three years. It seems that Clay Buchholz is also ready, and Michael Bowden and Jed Lowrie are getting close. The farm system has had a very productive stretch.

  • The international scouting department needs to take a bow as well. Daisuke Matsuzaka has disappointed some people, but pitched well in game 7 of the ALCS, and pitched well in the World Series. Hidecki Okajima has been a revelation.

  • I thought that Terry Francona made a mistake bringing Javier Lopez into game 3. Other than that, he didn't do anything that I objected to. Every move didn't work, but it all made sense. And again, we see how the post-season is different, and managed differently, than the regular season. Francona did a great job during the regular season, not just leading his team to the best record in baseball, but doing it in a way that left them ready to play post-season baseball. And then he managed the post-season aggressively, not leaving anyone in trouble, and making sure that his best pitchers pitched the highest-leverage situations.

  • As good a year as Mike Lowell had, someone's going to sign him for too much money, and too long a contract. It may end up being the Red Sox, as, just was the case with Varitek four years ago, they don't have a good back-up plan. Well, they probably do, but I can't see it, at the moment. I'd certainly rather overpay Lowell for the next three years than take on the amount/length that Alex Rodriguez will be looking for.

  • There are two significant free agents on this team, Mike Lowell and Curt Schilling. There will be work to do on the bottom half of the bullpen. Varitek's aging, Mirabelli needs to be replaced. So there are things to do. That said, there is every reason to expect this team to enter the 2008 season as one of the pre-season favorites again.

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