Sunday, October 02, 2005

Where Has The Season Gone?

Bright sides of accepting the wild card and not having to play a one game playoff:

- Being able to pitch Clement on full rest on Tuesday instead of Wells on short rest or possibly Arroyo.
- Having an off day to travel, get settled, have team meetings and prepare
- The fatigue factor of flying to New York for one game, then back to Chicago only if we win
- Playing the less dangerous White Sox in a shorter flight than going from Boston to LA like the Yankees

To sum it up, the wild card isn’t nearly as gratifying as winning the division and dethroning the Yankees, but I think we did a little of that last postseason. Our goal now is to continue the trend of wild card tradition over the last few years, repeat, and hopefully get a “second greatest Red Sox team ever assembled” toast from Schilling. Watching the guys pour champagne in the locker room brought back some great memories, and I have a good feeling this won’t be the last time in October.

The main reason why I’m confident in this years team- there is not one single clear cut team better than everyone else in either league. No team really sticks out as the fearsome bunch that has a loaded offense, amazing staff and nasty bullpen. The great thing about this years playoffs is the parity and how no team will be completely favored over the other. Would it surprise me if the Padres-Cardinals series goes to five games? Not at all. We could be seeing the majority of these series going the distance.

Today, the Red Sox got the job done with homeruns from Billy Mueller and another colossal shot from Manuel Aristides, along with Dougy chipping in with a three run dinger when the game was already put to sleep. The only players missing from that Yankee lineup late in the game were Clay Bellinger, Mike Figga and Homer Bush. Schilling held the fort strong with only one earned in six innings, as the Red Sox finished the season with the exact same record as the Yankees. I still consider us Co-American League East Champs, but whatever.

The bottom line? The playoffs will soon be with us. Constant analysis and second-guessing of every managerial move. Late night finishes and dramatic walk offs that could save seasons. Series going the distance and the real players stepping up in the spotlight. When the leaves start to change and the temperature drops, I’m only thinking about one thing: the big playoff game that night. Let’s hope and pray this Red Sox team can stay alive for as long as possible and bring us to the promised land once again. Nothing would make me happier than rubbing it in the Yankees faces once again. Believe!

And now some quick final regular season grades:

Damon-: A Set the table all year, and is the perfect fit for this dynamic lineup behind him.
Renteria: C- Struggled in big situations this season, and made way too many errors at short.
Ortiz: A+ The MVP of baseball is the number one reason we’re in the playoffs.
Ramirez: A- More outstanding power numbers for Ramirez- an A if not for off-the-field problems.
Nixon: B Another stellar year for Nixon both offensively and defensively.
Varitek: B+ Started off huge in April and May, then dipped, but still is the Captain.
Millar: D Worst season for Millar in a Red Sox uniform, probably won’t be here next season.
Mueller: B Flirted with .300 for a while and played tremendous defense at third- always hustling.
Graffanino: B Been a savior for us at second base after the dismantled Bellhorn left town.
Olerud: B+ Over .300 for most of the season in limited time, outstanding defensive player.
Mirabelli: B- Always a solid backup catcher, and shows power at times.
Bellhorn: D- Formally one of my favorite players constantly struck out and failed to deliver.
Cora: B Brings a spark to the lineup with his glove and bat, does all the little things to win.
Kapler: C Great clubhouse guy and a solid hitter, but was inconsistent at times and got hurt.

Wakefield: A- Completely carried this pitching rotation in the second half with great numbers.
Wells: B Wells won a lot of games this year, ERA too high but pitches well in big games (Friday).
Schilling: C Pretty much sacrificed this season for last year, and I think we’re fine with that.
Clement: B- Started off 10-2, but began to crumble in the second half and is prone to being hammered.
Arroyo: C+ Way too inconsistent for my liking, but always shows potential to be an All-Star.
Timlin: A He may have trouble with inherited runners, but posted the best season of his career.
Myers: A- Always stopped the big lefty late in the game.
Foulke: F Struggled during his time as closer and turned out to be a negative factor this year.
Embree: F Knocked around whenever he took the hill and continued that trend with the Yankees.
Papelbon: A- Has showed signs of being a future stud with a live fastball and curve.
Bradford: B- Done the job pretty well since coming here…been to the postseason before.
Gonzalez: B- Perfect mop up guy, and did OK in his few starts.

Francona: A- With all the changes to this roster, Francona kept the team happy and winning.