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Misfits Can Play Baseball, Too



People are always looking for the next great thing or what’s now in fashion. Next Tuesday, millions and millions of Americans will go to the polls, and millions will be looking to put a new man in charge at the White House. Similarly, Americans have been looking for a new team to call our own following the collapse of the Dallas Cowboys. On Wednesday night at about 11:00 p.m. Central time, a new Team America emerged, albeit one that isn’t operated by strings and electronics in a movie studio. In a way, however, it seems that the Boston Red Sox might as well have been, because stories like this just don’t present themselves in real life.

But it did happen in real life, and it’s for that reason all of us – whether we pledge our allegiance to the Sox, Yankees, Royals, Cardinals, or otherwise – should consider ourselves lucky that we were a part of this unlikeliest of events. The Sox winning the World Series has always been more than just a thing BoSox Nation has hoped and longed for for year after year; over time, it’s become an institution. The Curse kept the Sox chic, and was what the entire franchise – some might say the New England region – essentially used as its claim to fame. Boston’s front office certainly kept the team very competitive over the past decade bringing its fans to Fenway Park, but there can’t be any question that The Curse made the club interesting, especially to the national audience.

And until Dave Ortiz & Co. began living their impossible dream last week by ambushing the Yankees, the cloud of inevitable failure that hung over the franchise was the team’s main resource for staying relevant in the national spotlight. After Keith Foulke underhanded to Doug Mientkiewicz for the last out of the Series, however, the franchise (and this team especially) became forever relevant in American culture, or at least until their success cycle comes back around and the club has consecutive losing seasons.

Much of the credit for that has to be given to Boston’s 30-year-old wunderkind GM Theo Epstein who, in the true spirit of sabermetrics, made a very bold trade on July 31 when he shipped Nomar Garciaparra to the Cubs. Boston ended up with Orlando Cabrera and Mientkiewicz, both of whom were defensive upgrades. At the post-trade press conference, Epstein said that his team was better equipped to go to and win the World Series, and he was proven right by his players.

But as much credit as Theo deserves for putting together a group of 25 guys who won the World Series in convincing fashion, he deserves even more credit for finding players who baseball fans all over can relate to. Aside from players such as Johnny Damon and Pedro Martinez who are premiere physical talents, most of the people on this roster are rough around the edges to say the least. And in terms of baseball skills, most of them are quite limited in what they can do. In other words, previous organizations chose to focus on what the Kevin Millars, Mark Bellhorns, and Dave Robertses of the world couldn’t do at a championship-caliber level, rather than what they could do. Fans can relate to players like that because they seem like ordinary guys who just play baseball because they want to. That’s opposed to watching amazing talents like Carlos Beltran float around center field, playing like they were born to play baseball. The 2004 Red Sox are baseball’s Oakland Raiders, its long-haired renegade team.

Sadly, more than a few members of this team are free agents, with Martinez and game four winner Derek Lowe among the headlining names. I don’t claim to know how many championships this group could win together if the roster stayed intact, but that isn’t the point. The ’04 Red Sox were a team of everyday dudes who, if kept mostly intact, will win the hearts of all those who just love good stories about good guys winning when it’s all said and done.

They are America’s Team.
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