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Monday, October 04, 2004

Faith

Like most Red Sox fans, I'm a pessimist by nature, and not without reason. Time and time again they've let me and the rest of Red Sox Nation down, often in the most improbable and painful fashion. Most of you, dear readers, know the litany - I am not here to repeat it. A remarkable string of letdowns it is indeed.

Trying to brace myself for what I've heretofore seen as an inevitable letdown has never worked.

This team's never-say-die performance in August and September has persuaded me to cast off the pessimism. So many moments in the last few months have made me a believer again. Jason Varitek stood up for his pitcher when Alex Rodriguez tried to intimidate Bronson Arroyo after an errant pitch struck A-Rod. Trot Nixon came back late in the season and thrived. Arroyo was great down the stretch, and Tim Wakefield turned a late-season slump in the final weeks. Pedro is struggling, but he's still Pedro. And Schilling almost makes me feel the way Pedro used to make me feel when he pitched. Instead of wilting on the customary late season trip to the West, they tore through that division, not only dealing Oakland a blow from which they never recovered, but taking down hot Anaheim and Texas squads as well. I've seen more walk off hits happen at Fenway this year - specifically, in the second half - than I can ever recall before. They can hit, they can catch, they can throw, they can run, they can start, they can finish.

Though they may not need to do so, they are more than capable of beating the Yankees. Pedro may have said the Yankees were his "daddy" (actually, this year, Baltimore has been his daddy) but I wouldn't put money on him being any worse than whatever the Yankees throw up against him. The Yankee hitters specialize in killing lefties, but the Red Sox won't put lefties out there. Apart from Mariano Rivera, whom the Red Sox have proven they can get to at times, Torre's pen is weak and he knows it. The Yankees have offense, but the Sox have more offense.

Though I respect their bullpen, no one in the Angel rotation scares me. Among their hitters, I fear only Vlad Guerrero. The Angels' baserunning is intimidating, but their power and their batting eyes aren't. They're pretty good - don't get me wrong - but I think the Sox are better.

I'm in awe of Johan Santana. But he and Joe Nathan aren't going to be enough in a seven-game series after they've been battling the Yankees. Their bats don't really frighten me, and the ones that should cause the most concern are largely unseasoned. Nor does, at least in a seven-game series, the Metrodome, scare me, however hideous it may look from inside and out. The Twins are good, but I think the Sox are better.

The National League? Some good teams there, to be sure, but I don't know if any of them have what it takes to go into Fenway Park and get out alive. Not even the admittedly powerful Cardinals offense is as relentless up and down the order as the Boston attack. Houston's got the best one-two pitching punch of the lot, but I think Boston's is just as good. I'm unimpressed by the Dodgers, but the other three teams (Braves, Cards, 'Stros) all have a lot going for them. I think the Red Sox have more going for them.

There are some who say that Bambino's Ghost walks the earth and makes sure that the team that cast him away (and, by extension, their fans) shall forever suffer. If that's the case, I think that it's high time the Babe went to a higher plane and gave himself a well-deserved rest. And force Fox to use a little more creativity the next time they put together an opening montage for a Sox-Yanks game. And irritate the hell out of Dan Shaughnessy and everyone else in Boston who thrives on negative vibes.

If the perennial sad-sack Patriots can bring a ticker tape parade to the streets of the Boston, so can the storied and capable Red Sox. Let's get it done.

As for me, pessimism has never worked. Perhaps faith will.


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