Collecting Cutch is having another one of his awesome contests! The challenge: write about your favorite team that didn't win the World Series. The prize: a Carl Yastrzemski/Green Monster relic card - how amazing is that?
|2004 Topps #642 Boston Red Sox (TC)|
We Red Sox fans have been very blessed for the past 15 years. That team has won four titles since 2004 after a drought of 86 years. Although 2004 is remembered as the year "The Curse" was broken, the seeds were actually planted the year before. Granted, Red Sox Nation doesn't like dwelling on how that year ended, but I truly believe that before the ultimate high, the team had to endure one last low.
Let's start with the preceding off-season. The new ownership group, led by John Henry, made history by appointing 28-year old Theo Epstein as the youngest General Manager in MLB history. Theos's first off-season was filled with under-the-radar acquisitions: Todd Walker, Jeremy Giambi, Mike Timlin, Bill Mueller, Bronson Arroyo, Kevin Millar, and some Twins castoff named David Ortiz. The biggest story-line in Boston that winter was Millar's unusual saga. (He was initially sold to a Japanese ball club, but the Red Sox made a waiver claim instead, breaking one of the "unwritten rules" of baseball.)
|2004 Topps #17 Kevin Millar|
This team formed a new Red Sox culture, one that still resonates with the team today. For whatever reason, this team just clicked, and it resulted in one of the greatest offensive teams in MLB history.
"The Red Sox led the major leagues in nearly all offensive categories, including runs scored (961), batting average (.289), on-base percentage (.360), and perhaps most impressively, a .491 team slugging percentage, which set a new record previously held by the 1927 Yankees. They also had 649 extra-base hits, the most ever by one team in a single season."The offense was unstoppable! 6 players hit 25 or more home runs. Mueller and Manny Ramirez finished first and second for the AL batting title. Manny also took the on-base percentage crown, while Ortiz, Ramirez and Trot Nixon finished among the top five in slugging percentage.
|2004 Topps #337 AL Batting Average Leaders|
On the pitching side, the rotation was led by the incredible Pedro Martinez. This was also the year of the infamous "closer-by-committee" experiment, which lasted 2 months and resulted in the trade for Byung-Hyun Kim from Arizona.
The team won 95 games that year, and secured the AL Wild Card. Although the ALCS with the hated New York Yankees is most remembered, the ALDS against the Oakland Athletics was also memorable, as the Red Sox became the latest of three teams that came back from an 0-2 deficit to win a best of 5 ALDS. Of course, the season would end with the Yankees and Aaron "F'ing" Boone. Still, this season set the bar for the following season, and the history of Red Sox baseball hasn't been the same since!
|2004 Topps #405 Pedro Martinez|
Hall of Famers: As of right now, just one - the great Pedro Martinez. He'll be joined eventually by David Ortiz and Theo Epstein. Also, I'm willing to bet that sometime in the distant future, a committee will elect the shamed Manny Ramirez someday.
|2004 Topps #164 Bill Mueller|
Unsung Hero: Bill Mueller, baby! This guy came out of nowhere and won the AL batting title while hitting primarily 8th in the lineup! He also a game for the ages on July 29th when he hit 3 home runs, which also included the first time anyone had hit two grand slams in the same game from opposite sides of the plate. This guy did nothing but come through for the team again and again.
|2004 Topps #623 David Ortiz|
Key Transaction: Rather than go through arbitration with their part-time first baseman/designated hitter, the Minnesota Twins unceremoniously cut David Ortiz from their team. He was signed to platoon with Jeremy Giambi, but eventually broke out and became "Big Papi"!
|2004 Topps #359 Bill Mueller (AS)|
All-Stars: Manny Ramirez (starting OF, but was "injured" and didn't play), Nomar Garciaparra (backup SS), and Jason Varitek (Fan Vote Winner).
Silver Sluggers: Manny Ramirez and Bill Mueller
Who's your favorite team?