Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Ye of Little Faith!
Shame on you. You Red Sox fans. You, of the Red Sox Nation. Quietly filing out of Fenway last week while those young upstarts from Tampa Bay were laying a drubbing on your beloved Sox.
By the time you got to your vehicle, you must have realized that something was amiss. There would have been great noises coming from the Park. For, in the seventh inning, the bats came alive.
For six innings, the Red Sox had failed to put a mark on the board at the bottom of the Green Monster. The Rays had taken advantage, and had chalked up seven runs. That would be considered a virtually insurmountable lead. Not on this night.
The Sox came roaring back and plated the winning run in the bottom of the ninth to win the game 8-7. Truly, one of the greatest comebacks ever. The Sox packed their bags for game six in Florida.
Not to much avail. The Red Sox made it close, very close. It was not decided until the bottom of the ninth in the seventh and final game, when Akinori Iwamura hustled over to touch second base with Jed Lowrie’s ground ball, with a force out to end the game.
Now it is down to two teams, the best from the National League and the American League in 2008. The Philadelphia Phillies have a long and storied tradition in Philadelphia, but only one World Series triumph to their credit. That came in 1980, when they knocked off the Kansas City Royals in six games. The winning pitcher in Game Six was Hall of Famer Steve”Lefty” Carlton.
Carlton led a crew including Tug McGraw, Mike Schmidt, Bake McBride, Larry Bowa, and Pete Rose. They got to the World Series two years later, but were knocked off in five games by the Baltimore Orioles. Their last trip to the championships ended in Toronto in 1993.
In the bottom of the ninth inning, Joe Carter was told to “touch ‘em all” by veteran Blue Jays’ announcer Tom Cheek as he rounded the bases. In one of the most dramatic home runs in World Series history, Carter’s three run shot dashed the hopes of the Phillies, and led the Jays to their second Series triumph in as many years. They were denied a “Three Peat” in 1994, due to the work stoppage.
The Tampa Bay Rays have never even come close to a World Series title. This is just their tenth year in the Big Leagues. In those ten years, they have been the worst team in baseball. They finished last again last year. They have never had a winning record. Over the last five years, they have drafted well, and have stuck to a developmental system. With the youngest team in baseball, they are now primed to win a few big ball games.
Players like Carl Crawford, James Shields, B. J. Upton, and Matt Garza bring an excitement to the ballpark. Lefty Scott Kazmir, following their American League Pennant victory stated: “I knew we were going to be good, but never in a million years would I ever have expected this.”
And so the young upstarts from Florida will host the boys from the “City of Brotherly Love”. These Phillies are no shrinking violets. They are also built from the draft, with a few pieces of the puzzle thrown in for good measure. Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Pat Burrell, and Ryan Howard all came through the Phillies system as first year draft players. Former Blue Jay Matt Stairs, the New Brunswick native, will come off the bench as a pinch hitter in the Philly cause.
Stairs has hit .385 with three home runs in 13 at-bats for the Phillies. Manager Charlie Manuel will use Stairs in the late innings, especially with runners on base. Incidentally, Manuel played in the Major Leagues for two teams, Minnesota and Los Angeles. His two managers were Walter Alston and Billy Martin-plenty to learn from both of them.
The World Series is truly the Fall Classic. No problems with weather under the dome in Tampa Bay. Better layer on some extra clothing for late October winds in Philly. Play Ball!