This is now not about yesterday or today or tomorrow.
It is now about all of the above.
The rules have changed for the Boston Red Sox. They changed late Sunday night in Denver, Colo. when they defeated the Colorado Rockies, 4-0, to win their second World Series title in four seasons.
For literally decades, the goal was one. Just win one in our lifetime.
The Red Sox finally did it, in crazy fashion by overcoming a 3-0 deficit against the New York Yankees before sweeping the St. Louis Cardinals in 2004.
The celebration, it seemed, was endless. Tears flowed like champagne. Everybody shared in the joy, grandfathers and grandsons, mothers-in-law and sons-in-law, complete strangers, it didn’t matter.
The reverberations of that victory lasted a few months, if not longer.
Honeymoons were handed out to everyone associated with the Red Sox. General manager Theo Epstein and manager Terry Francona got mulligans.
But the one last week was different. It was different because of age. The core of the 2007 Red Sox is led by six players 27 years old or younger | Josh Beckett (27), Jonathan Papelbon (26), Daisuke Matsuzaka (27), Dustin Pedroia (24), Jon Lester (23), Manny Delcarmen (25) and last, but definitely not least, Jacoby Ellsbury (24).
If you add in Kevin Youkilis, who is 28, that’s eight pivotal players who are entering … yes, entering, the prime of their careers.
With David Ortiz around for at least three more seasons along with Manny Ramirez, who has either one or three years remaining based on the Sox picking up the last two years of his contract, the Red Sox are in position to do this again. And again.
Dynasty is a strong word. Even in the watered-down version in the 21st century; three titles in four years, maybe four in six years or even five in 10 years would mean dominance. That’s a modern day professional sports dynasty. And particularly with the Yankees around, you can’t count on anything.
Ask baseball experts what struck them most about how the Sox came back against the Indians and eventually crushed the Rockies, and it’s the kids.
It wasn’t the pitching, which was fantastic. It wasn’t David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez, who were held in check since the middle of the American League Championship Series with Indians.
It was Youkilis, Pedroia and Ellsbury.
"The thing that surprised me was not their big hitters,” said Colorado Rockies rookie shortstop Troy Tulowitzki. “It was guys like Pedroia and Ellsbury. It was their young guys that surprised us.”
The fact that Beckett is only 27 gets lost because at 23 he was a World Series MVP. And watching Papelbon’s dominance makes it easy to forget he was a rookie in 2006.
Then add in the Red Sox ownership, which has shown, almost to a fault this past offseason, it’s willing to spend money to compete for a championship.
Shoe on the other foot
For years, the Red Sox have chased the Yankees, almost always unsuccessfully.
Before the 2007 American League East division title for the Red Sox, the Yankees had won nine consecutive division titles.
While the teams were almost even over that period, head-to-head, the Yankees always won the big games and always seemed to humiliate the Red Sox.
In October of 2003, the rivalry hit the pinnacle of shame for the Red Sox, who were two runs ahead and five outs away from beating the Yankees in Yankee Stadium. But manager Grady Little lost his mind, and star pitcher Pedro Martinez imploded, and before everyone knew it the game was tied and eventually won by the Yankees.
Afterward, Derek Jeter bragged that Yogi Berra walked over to him at some point during the 2003 game and said something to the effect, “They’re the Red Sox. We always beat the Red Sox.”
Well, the Yankees team and organization is being dissected as we speak. The manager, Joe Torre, was not re-hired. Alex Rodriguez, the American League MVP of 2007, has opted out of his contract. And Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada and Andy Pettitte, three oldies but still goodies, are threatening to join A-Rod in the outside world, too.
That means the Yankees, for at least the next two or three seasons, will be hunters. Unless two of those three free agents return to the Yankees, the Wild Card berth, not the division title, will be the goal.
Free agents won’t do it alone. The Yankees have proven this the last six seasons, adding nearly $400 million worth of stars in Mike Mussina, Jason Giambi, A-Rod, Hideki Matsui, Bobby Abreu and Roger Clemens, with not much to show for it outside of a few division titles.
The Yankees core group, even if it does return, is closer to 37 than it is to 27.
So that makes the Red Sox younger, better and more experienced heading into 2008 and beyond compared to the Yankees.
"The younger guys bring a lot of energy to this team," said Red Sox soon-to-be free agent third baseman Mike Lowell. "You have to give the organization a lot of credit. These guys were important to the success of this team. They produced all year, especially in the playoffs."
Epstein sticking to original promise
On the day he was hired, a then-28-year-old Theo Epstein talked about the tight-roping he would have to do running the organization’s baseball operations.
He said the goal, as is always the case in Boston, was to win now, always with an eye on the future, adding “our goal is to create one of the best farm systems in baseball.”
His wasted no time keeping his promise as the next three drafts brought Papelbon (2003), Pedroia (2004), Clay Buchholz (2004) and Jacoby Ellsbury (2005), all of whom were major contributors in 2007.
Considering the prospects Epstein drafted and dealt away | Cla Meredith (2004) to San Diego in the Doug Mirabelli trade; and Matt Murton (2005) to the Chicago Cubs in the Nomar Garciaparra trade | finding major league talent is maybe the organization’s biggest strength.
“I think there's a lot of pride in (winning with homegrown talent),” said Sox manager Terry Francona. “Anytime you talk with Theo, he'll bring that up right away. You know, we do, we have the ability to | our owners give us a lot of money to go out and spend and get good players. But having guys come through your system is a great way to do it. And when they're able to come and contribute, and not just contribute but be pivotal players, we've got guys hitting first and second, Papelbon is closing games, Youkilis playing first, it's a huge source of pride.”
Ownership devoted to winning
Former Red Sox catcher John Marzano was at Fenway Park for the American League Championship Series against the Indians.
He thinks the biggest difference between now and nearly every other generation of Red Sox teams is the ownership.
“If we had these owners around when I was here, we probably would have won a few championships in the 1980s and early 1990s,” said Marzano. “Do you think they would have let Bruce Hurst leave for a few hundred thousand dollars? Do you think Roger Clemens would have left? We had the talent. But we were always missing a piece or two. This team (in 2007) isn’t missing anything.”
Ex-Red Sox second baseman Marty Barrett still wonders about the departure of Fred Lynn, Rick Burleson and Carlton Fisk after the 1980 season.
“Those three were not good players. They were great,” said Barrett. “I look at this team and how they have re-signed guys like Jason Varitek, David Ortiz and Josh Beckett. They know a good thing when they have it.
“Then you draft players and bring them along,” said Barrett. “That was the thing about our 1986 team. So many of us came up together in the Red Sox system. You have a bond with those guys. I still can’t believe sometimes that we didn’t win a few championships.”
The bid just to negotiate an eventual contract for Daisuke Matsuzaka, which topped $100 million, best exemplies Barrett’s point.
“I give the new ownership credit for changing everything here,” said Sox pitcher Tim Wakefield, who has been with the team since 1995. “They want to win a championship every year. As a player, I can’t explain what that means.”
Add it all up and it means the future is now.
This is now not about yesterday or today or tomorrow.
PHOTO SLIDESHOW: GAME SIX WORLD SERIES
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- PHOTO SLIDESHOW: GAME SIX WORLD SERIES