The playoffs can be a time of despair and disappointment.
But the playoffs are also a time of despair and disappointment. Every failed sacrifice bunt takes on added importance; every wind-blown double becomes catastrophe.
With that in mind, I give you the 2007 Red Sox and seven reasons why they won’t hoist the World Series championship trophy.
1. EVERYONE ELSE
I don’t remember a playoff season where all four American League teams were this good and this equal to one another. It’s not a stretch to see the Angels, Indians or Yankees in the World Series any more than it is to see the Red Sox there. But the other teams, to me at least, seem to be more complete teams. They have deeper starting pitching, more speed and better lineups. Getting out of the league just looks tougher than ever this year.
2. NOT BUILT FOR PLAYOFFS
The mantra of 2004 was just get to the playoffs, the team is built for them. With Pedro Martinez and Curt Schilling at the top of the rotation, who could argue that? That’s not the case this year. Josh Beckett looks great as the No. 1 starter, but the No. 2 guy is a crapshoot. So is No. 3. Beyond that, there are outs in the lineup. The world champions of 2004 were a much better team.
3. JAPANESE PITCHERS
Daisuke Matsuzaka and Hideki Okajima were great - until September. Then, possibly because they’ve never played in a season this long, they’ve hit the wall. Neither was particularly impressive the final month of the season, and there’s little reason to think that will change in October. If they weren’t so vital to the Red Sox hopes, you could overlook them, but both are key, and that’s worrisome.
If his sore oblique is healed, that’s obviously good news for the Red Sox, but if it’s not ... Without him in the lineup, teams will be able to - and they will - pitch around David Ortiz. That will nullify the best hitter in the Red Sox lineup. And even if Manny’s oblique is OK, there’s no guarantee he’ll be in midseason form to give a boost to the lineup.
5. LACK OF EXPERIENCE
Look at the past few World Series winners, and they won with veteran units.
I know the Red Sox are veteran-heavy on their roster, but newcomers play vital roles on the team. Dustin Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury are rookies and will be called on heavily in the playoffs, and Matsuzaka and Okajima have never experienced October baseball. Maybe this won’t matter, but it could.
I’d feel a lot better if all four players were in their second year in the major leagues.
6. J.D. DREW
The remarkable thing about the season is that the Sox dominated the AL East while getting almost nothing from J.D. Drew. But do you really want to chance that in the postseason? A key strikeout or a double-play grounder might not just cost the Red Sox a game; it could cost them the series. If he comes through, the Sox stand a good chance of going to the World Series - his role in the lineup is that important. If he doesn’t come through, they could be going home early. And there’s been no signs of him coming through.
They say even a blind squirrel finds a nut some time; if that’s the case, then even the Red Sox can win a World Series every 86 years. But blind squirrels don’t tend to find many nuts, and the Red Sox don’t tend to win many World Series. This is still a team that has won just one World Series in 89 years, so the odds on them doing it again are long. They’ve got a shot, but they’ve had shots before. They won in 2004; I’m skeptical history can repeat itself.