The Sox Are Back

“This is the yee-ah!” The token motto for each and every Boston Red Sox season in the last seven or eight decades has proven to be wrong more times than right (Exactly 0 years correct, 84 years incorrect). A franchise touted for its momentous failures, the Sox look to rewrite history in this year’s playoffs by bringing home the team’s first World Series Championship since God was a boy (or maybe just a teenager). And while some divine intervention from above would be gladly welcomed (hint, hint), most optimistic Boston fans have the faith to believe in another Red Sox rallying cry: “It’s different this yee-ah!” Sox fans might in fact be right this year. With the offense that wunderkind general manager Theo Epstein has put together combined with the steady hands of Grady Little at the helm, the Red Sox have had a year unlike any other in team history. The Sox’ regular season offensive numbers were staggering. The team broke the record for single-season slugging percentage, formerly held by the “Murderer’s Row” 1927 New York Yankees. However, the Red Sox face a difficult adversary in the AL Western Division Champion Oakland Athletics. Armed with the 2002 Cy Young Award winner Barry Zito and 2003 hopeful Tim Hudson, the A’s possess one of the most formidable pitching staffs in all of baseball. Mark Mulder, the team’s third ace, fell victim to a stress fracture in the hip in late August, forcing him to miss the remainder of the regular season and thus dealing a major blow to Oakland’s starting rotation. As a result, the A’s will go with a three-man rotation consisting of Hudson, Zito, and Ted Lilly, a former Yankees prospect who pitched an impressive month of September. While Boston’s starting pitching is good, the Athletics’ staff holds a slight edge. The bullpen, meanwhile is where the real difference between the two clubs is. The Sox have a pen about as stable as the Iranian Government. Boston’s pen, anchored by erratic closer Byung-Hyung Kim, blew numerous middle- and late-inning leads during the season and cost Pedro Martinez more than his share of victories. On the other hand, Oakland’s regular season bullpen provided excellent middle relief as Jim Mecir, Ricardo Rincon, and Chad Bradford accumulated 48 holds combined. Billy Beane, the Oakland GM, once again proved his genius in acquiring closer Keith Foulke during the off-season in exchange for Billy Koch. All Foulke did was lead the American League in saves with 43. Offensively, the Red Sox own a huge edge over an Oakland team that ranked 27th in the big leagues with a .254 team average. While Boston has All-Star caliber players at nearly every position, Oakland places most of its offensive pressure on Eric Chavez and 2002 AL MVP Miguel Tejada. Pedro Martinez’s historical playoff dominance could be the deciding factor, as the Sox can start Petey twice in the short series. The Sox’ bats will be challenged by the Athletics’ excellent pitching staff, but the Cookie Monster (David Ortiz) and the rest of the Boston Bashers should provide enough firepower to propel Boston to a five-game series victory. After all, this really could be the yee-ah!