Tagged: 2004 World Series

Nomar: the Hall of Fame career that wasn’t

From: The Boston Globe

Pedro HOF PresserThe drumbeat of Pedro Martinez’s Hall of Fame candidacy resounded with the same air of anticipation and inevitability that accompanied a two-strike count when he occupied his stage at Fenway Park. The opportunity to reflect on his career is as much visceral and emotional as it is statistical; to remember Martinez on the mound is to recall a spectacle rarely matched, the unusual experience in which all parties – fans, hitters, the pitcher himself – knew that greatness and artistry were transpiring.

Yet for a time, as brilliant as Martinez was, he did not stand alone inRed Sox Spring Training Boston atop a baseball Olympus. For a time, Martinez enjoyed a peer whose performances nearly matched the pitcher for brilliance. Yet the fact that Nomar Garciaparra once occupied the same rarefied air as Martinez is now a largely forgotten footnote to a pre-championship era in Red Sox history.

Indeed, on a day when Martinez garnered more than 91 percent of votes from eligible members of the Baseball Writers Association of America for a landslide first-ballot election, Garciaparra just barely gleaned the 5 percent of votes needed to stay on the ballot beyond his first year of eligibility. In the late-1990s, the idea that Garciaparra wouldn’t even sniff the Hall of Fame seemed unfathomable.

He was as iconic a presence in many ways as Martinez, the stands at Fenway Park blanketed in equal measure by fans wearing No. 5 and 45, a shared tribute to the pitcher with boundless self-confidence based on an unmatched pitch mix and the shortstop with a million superstitions and quirks, who winged the ball across the diamond with a signature cross-body, sidearm delivery and who displayed a preternatural ability to hit the snot out of the ball.

Number 5

Garciaparra was a force like few others in the game’s history. Between 1997 and 2003 – when he amassed a Rookie of the Year trophy, finished in the top five in AL MVP voting five times (topping out at second in 1998), made five All-Star teams, won consecutive batting titles with marks of .357 and .372 in 1999 and 2000 (becoming the first righthanded hitter to win back-to-back batting titles since Joe DiMaggio) – he donned the mantle of greatness.

“From 1997 to 2003, Nomar offensively, in the batter’s box, was just a different animal than most. It screamed Hall of Famer,” said Garciaparra’s former teammate and current WEEI radio host Lou Merloni. “In 2000, I’ve never seen anyone barrel up balls on the consistent basis he did that year. That was the most legit .372 I’ve ever seen in my life.

Nomar on SI

“He would go 2-for-5 with two lineouts. It was ridiculous. As far as the barrel-up rate, it was probably more like 75 percent of the balls he hit were on the barrel. It was just preposterous what he did that year. Everybody watching him would say the same exact thing: ‘I’ve never seen a guy barrel up the ball more than him.’

“I’ve seen his bats. He’s very superstitious, but I’d see him go for a year with two or three bats. You’d pick one of them up, his gamer. The ball mark – he used brown maple – the ball mark, there wasn’t anything on the label and there wasn’t anything on the end of the bat. Everything was within probably three inches of the barrel, every single mark that the ball made on contact. You could tell he used it for about two months. … It was unbelievable.”

It was the sort of skill set that permitted Garciaparra to commune with baseball legends. Ted Williams was mesmerized by the shortstop, believing that he possessed the skills to become his successor as a .400 hitter, a player who hit for average, displayed 30-homer power and a skilled baserunner who often delivered double-digit stolen base totals.

Nomar Turn Back the Clock“Nomar was a uniquely gifted player, a six-time All-Star and two-time batting champ. He followed another great righthanded hitter, Joe DiMaggio. That’s an extreme, unique combination, plus he played a skill position at shortstop,” recalled Orioles GM Dan Duquette, who occupied the same role with the Red Sox for most of Garciaparra’s big league tenure in Boston. “He had all the skills [to be a Hall of Famer]. He got to the big leagues quickly, won the Rookie of the Year, won a couple of batting titles early in his career. It was just a matter of whether he could stand the test of time.”

He couldn’t, of course. Though Garciaparra came back in startling fashion from a 2001 season lost largely to wrist surgery with a pair of All-Star campaigns in 2002 and 2003, he suffered an Achilles injury during spring training in 2004 that set in motion both the end of his Red Sox career and represented the starting point of a late-career crumble.

Still, on a day that could have marked a formal closing of Cooperstown’s doors to him, it’s worth remembering a time when it seemed like Garciaparra was going to knock on the Hall’s gates, to remember a Hall of Fame-caliber peak that lacked the requisite longevity for enshrinement.

Garciaparra had an .882 career OPS, the best of all-time by a shortstop who spent at least half his career at the game’s most demanding position with at least 5,000 career plate appearances. How good is an .882 OPS for a shortstop? It’s better than Hall of Fame shortstops Arky Vaughan (.859), Honus Wagner (.858), Joe Cronin (.857), Barry Larkin (.815), Hughie Jennings (.797), Lou Boudreau (.795),Cal Ripken (.788) and Robin Yount (.772). Derek Jeter achieved an .882 OPS in just three of his 20 seasons.

Top shortstop career OPS
Based on minimum 5,000 plate appearances and more than 50% games played at shortstop.
Nomar Garciaparra                                                   0.882
Hanley Ramirez                                                         0.873
Arky Vaughan                                                             0.859
Joe Cronin                                                                   0.857
Honus Wagner                                                            0.853
Derek Jeter                                                                  0.817
Barry Larkin                                                                0.815
Vern Stephens                                                             0.815
Joe Sewell                                                                    0.804
Carlos Guillen                                                              0.798
DATA: baseball-reference.com

Of course, league context is important, since Garciaparra thrived during the Nintendo Numbers era. But even relative to his league, he stood out from most of the Hall of Fame pack as measured by OPS+ (OPS relative to the league average, adjusted for parks, in which a 100 OPS+ is average). Among Hall of Fame shortstops, Garciaparra ranks only behind Wagner (151 OPS+) and Vaughan (136 OPS+), well ahead of Larkin (116), Jeter (115), Yount (115), Ripken (112) and Alan Trammell (110).

Nomar The Cub

The crux of Garciaparra’s irrelevance in the Hall of Fame conversation is the brevity of his stardom. He was a singular force from 1997 to 2003, but while he remained a passably productive hitter after that peak, posting a .291/.343/.446 line with a roughly league-average OPS+ of 102, he averaged just 84 games over the last six years of his career from 2004-09.

Nomar the Dodger

He fell off a cliff rather than enjoying a gradual decline, and ended his career with just 6,116 plate appearances. There are position players in the Hall of Fame with fewer plate appearances, but none who played after 1957 (the last season of three-time MVP Roy Campanella’s career). His 44.2 career WAR (as tabulated by Baseball-Reference.com) wouldn’t be the lowest ever by a position player with a plaque in Cooperstown, but no position player who has played since Bill Mazeroski (retired in 1972 with 36.2 WAR) has been enshrined.

Nomar the Athletic at Fenway

Still, the cavalier dismissal of his Hall of Fame case (particularly in light of the 10-vote limit at a time when a PED-era traffic jam has created an electoral mess) belies the time when Garciaparra clearly represented one of the game’s greats, when he and Pedro represented the same sort of first-name luminaries in Boston and the game.

Nomar Garciaparra“I knew when I was playing against a Hall of Famer or playing with one. It was just a step above. And there’s no question that he was that,” said Merloni. “If he had two more Nomar-type years and maybe a couple more after [2003], or three more years, I don’t think there’s a question that he’s a Hall of Fame-type of talent. There’s no question that he was a Hall of Famer in his heyday. He just wasn’t there long enough.”

The fact that his career won’t conclude in the Hall does not diminish the idea that Garciaparra enjoyed a historic start to his career. And at a time when Martinez rightly will take his bows, it’s worth remembering the teammate whose career once merited an almost-equal measure of awe, and whose not-quite-Hall-worthy career now stands as a monument to the great separator of durability and longevity.

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Well, it has been a while….

The opportunity to see the Boston Red Sox win a World Series at home for the first time in a lifetime has turned Game 6 at Fenway Park into the most expensive local ticket in the city’s history.

As of 10 a.m. ET Tuesday, the average list price on the resale market for a ticket to Wednesday night’s game was $1,860, according to TiqIQ, a ticket tracking company.

Fenway in her WS glory 2013

Bleacher seats to the game, which could have been had for $300 last week, were selling for $1,100 on Tuesday morning.

On Monday night, someone who wanted two of the best seats in the house paid $24,000 on StubHub for a pair of tickets in the first row in a dugout box between home plate and one of the on-deck circles.

“There was this type of excitement in 2004 for the Red Sox home games because people thought it would never come again,” said Jim Holzman of Ace Ticket, a Boston-based brokerage that has been in business for 33 years.

The Red Sox went on to win the World Series in 2004 and again in 2007, ending it on the road both times. The last time the Red Sox won it all in Boston was with a victory over the Chicago Cubs on Sept. 11, 1918.

Monstah Seats

“People want to see them win it here,” Holzman said. “That’s what has made this the biggest ticket we’ve ever seen. It’s the Super Bowl except people don’t have to pay $1,000 for a hotel and $2,000 for airfare.”

Holzman said fans began buying tickets in earnest Monday night after the Red Sox scored in the top of the first inning during their 3-1 Game 5 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals.

“Prices were going up $50 an inning,” Holzman said.

 

Let’s take a look back some highlights of that infamous 1918 Series:

1918 Red Sox

The 1918 World Series featured the Boston Red Sox, who defeated the Chicago Cubs four games to two. The Series victory for the Red Sox was their fifth in five tries, going back to 1903. The Red Sox scored only nine runs in the entire Series; the fewest runs by the winning team in World Series history. Along with the 1906 and 1907 World Series, the 1918 World Series is one of only three Fall Classics where neither team hit a home run.

The Series was held early in September because of the World War I “Work or Fight” order that forced the premature end of the regular season on September 1, and remains the only World Series to be played entirely in September.

1918 Logo FenwayThe Chicago home games in the series were played at Comiskey Park, which had a greater seating capacity than Weeghman Park, the prior home of the Federal League Chicago Whales that the Cubs were now using and which would be rechristened Wrigley Field in 1925. The Red Sox had played their home games in the 1915 and 1916 World Series in the more expansive Braves Field, but they returned to Fenway Park for the 1918 series.

Game 1 of the 1918 World Series marked the first time “The Star Spangled Banner” was performed at a major league game. During the seventh inning stretch, the band began playing the song due to the fact the country was involved in World War I. The song would be named the national anthem of the United States in 1931, and during World War II its playing would become a regular pregame feature of baseball games and other sporting events. The winning pitcher of Game 1 was none other than Babe Ruth, who pitched a shutout.

Ruth warming up 1918

The Red Sox, who had won the American League but lost the Series in 1946, 1967, 1975, and 1986, finally won the World Series in 2004 and then won again in 2007.  The drought of 86 years was often attributed to the Curse of the Bambino. The alleged curse came to be when the Red Sox traded the superbly talented but troublesome Babe Ruth (who was instrumental in their 1918 victory) to the New York Yankees for cash after the 1919 season.

Game 6

Wednesday, September 11, 1918 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts

Attendance for Game 6 at Fenway on Wednesday, September 11, was down from over 24,000 on Tuesday to a mere 15,238, but the Red Sox went home happy. Max Flack’s third-inning error allowed two Sox runs to score, which were all they needed for a 2–1 victory and the World’s Championship of 1918 behind Carl Mays’ second win of the Series.

Team 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Chicago 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 3 2
Boston 0 0 2 0 0 0 0 0 X 2 5 0
WP: Carl Mays (2–0)   LP: Lefty Tyler (1–1)

After Game 6, it would be some 87 years until the Cubs and Red Sox would play again. A three-game interleague matchup at Wrigley Field began June 10, 2005 and was Boston’s first ever visit to the park. The Cubs would not return to Fenway Park for nearly 94 years until a three-game interleague matchup beginning May 20, 2011.

 

 

 

 

BBWA, We need to talk…

If David Ortiz gets into the Hall of Fame, people will point to the 2013 World Series as the stretch that put him over the top.

Ortiz flashes his TreasureBefore this postseason, Ortiz had already established himself as a clutch playoff performer en route to Red Sox championships in 2004 (two walk-off hits) and 2007, but this October might just be his best one yet. We’ll acknowledge that his ALCS performance was subpar overall (just two hits in six games), but one of those hits was a Game 2 grand slam that rallied the Sox past the Tigers and served as the turning point in the series.

In the World Series, he’s been untouchable, as locked in as perhaps any player in postseason history.

Consider the following:

• He is 11-of-15 (.733 batting average) against the Cardinals with six runs batted in, four extra-base hits, four walks and no strikeouts. He has an OPS of 2.017 (let that one sink in). Those 11 hits are two shy of the record for most in a World Series, which is shared by Bobby Richardson (1964 Yankees), Lou Brock (1968 Cardinals) and former Red Sox second baseman Marty Barrett (1986 Red Sox). The only player other than Ortiz in major league history to reach base (by hit, walk or HBP) at least 15 times over the first five games of a World Series is Barry Bonds in 2002.

Ortiz Celebrates WS 2013

• As a team, the Red Sox are hitting .205 in the World Series. If you take away Ortiz, that number drops to .151.

• Ortiz became the third player to reach base safely in nine straight plate appearances in the World Series, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, joining Joe Gordon (1939/1941 Yankees) and Billy Hatcher (1990 Reds). Ortiz and Hatcher are the only two to do so in a single World Series.

“I’ve got my mindset. I’ve been playing this game for too long, and when I go to the plate, I try to look for a strike and try not to get out of it,” Ortiz said after Monday night’s Game 5 victory. “And that’s pretty much what I’ve been doing all year.”

• He became the first Red Sox player ever with consecutive three-hit games in the World Series. According to Elias, Ortiz (37) is the oldest player in MLB history with back-to-back three-hit games in the World Series.

• With his first-inning RBI in Game 5, Ortiz now has 14 career RBIs in the World Series. That ties the team record, held by Dwight Evans.

Dewey Evans 1986

• Among players with at least 40 World Series at-bats, Ortiz has the highest OPS in major league history.

• Unlike other Cardinals pitchers, Game 5 starter Adam Wainwright challenged Ortiz instead of working around him. Wainwright changed his windup to try to disturb Ortiz’s timing. The slugger still went 3-for-4.

Ortiz looks on 2103 WS“I wasn’t paying any attention to that,” Ortiz said. “To be honest with you, he threw me some tough pitches tonight.  He was throwing me cutters in.  And I know that pretty much after he gets ahead with two strikes, he wants to strike me out with a breaking ball.  So you make up your mind.  It’s a battle when you face that kind of pitcher, as good as he is, and as good as the rest of the pitchers that they have — they have a great pitching staff.  And if you try to look for everything they throw, you definitely are not going to hit anything.”

Ortiz has been at his best in the seasons in which the Red Sox reached the World Series (perhaps not coincidentally). In 2004, he reached base in 13 of 14 games and had back-to-back walk-off hits in the ALCS against the Yankees. He had 19 RBIs during that playoff run with a .400 average, .515 OBP and 1.278 OPS. In 2007, he put up a similar line: He reached base in 13 of 14 games, had a .370 average, .508 OBP and 1.204 OPS.

Even factoring in his below-standard ALCS performance this October, he has reached base in 13 of 15 games and has a .360 average, .476 OBP and 1.196 OPS.

“I was born for this,” Ortiz said after Boston’s Game 5 victory.

Most Hits By A Red Sox Player In A Single World SeriesHenderson 1986

Player Year Opponent Hits
Marty Barrett 1986 Mets 13
David Ortiz 2013 Cards 11
Dave Henderson 1986 Mets 10
Carl Yastrzemski 1967 Cards 10
Chick Stahl 1903 Pirates 10

Highest Career OPS In World Series HistoryBabe Ruth 1918 Sox

Player OPS Team(s)
David Ortiz 1.370 BOS
Lou Gehrig 1.214 NYY
Babe Ruth 1.214 BOS/NYY
Reggie Jackson 1.212 OAK/NYY
> Minimum  40 ABs

David Ortiz In Postseasons In Which Red Sox Reached World Series

Year Reached Base AVG OBP OPS
2004 13 of 14 games .400 .515 1.278
2007 13 of 14 games .370 .508 1.204
2013 11 of 15 games .360 .476 1.196
> In 2013 World Series, Ortiz is 11 of 15 (.733) with a .750 OBP and 2.017 OPS

10 Reasons to get Excited about the 2013 World Series

This probably isn’t the World Series most baseball folks wanted, assuming you don’t root for the Red Sox or Cardinals. After all, both franchises have been to the World Series multiple times in the past decade and both have won twice. So maybe you wanted some new blood.

Instead you’ll get beards. Lots of them.

But you also get two great teams, with no shortage of reasons to watch. Here are 10:

1. Adam Wainwright. He was a rookie closer when the Cardinals won the World Series in 2006 but was injured when they won again in 2011. In a season where much of the attention for pitchers went to Clayton Kershaw, Max Scherzer, Matt Harvey and Mariano Rivera, Wainwright quietly went 19-9 with a 2.94 ERA while leading the majors in innings pitched. This is his chance to make his October mark in Cardinals history alongside the likes of Bob Gibson and his mentor Chris Carpenter, who won two games in the 2011 World Series. He has that big curveball — maybe the best since Bert Blyleven was spinning his own — that he’ll throw on any count but is especially deadly with two strikes, when opponents hit .118 with 130 strikeouts in 238 plate appearances.

2. David Ortiz versus Carlos Beltran. They’re not facing each other, but you sort of get the feeling they are. Few hitters have delivered in their playoff careers like these two, although Ortiz did go just 2-for-22 in the American League Championship Series. Beltran had six RBIs in each of the Cardinals’ first two series and now gets the opportunity to play in his first World Series … and perhaps make a Hall of Fame statement.

Lackey 2013 PS3. John Lackey’s redemption. Two years ago he was the most hated man in Boston after posting a 6.41 ERA in 28 starts and ordering lots of fried chicken between starts. Now, after beating Justin Verlander 1-0 in the ALCS, he’s going to start Game 2 of the World Series. Remember, he’s familiar with the pressures of a big game: As a rookie with the Angels in the 2002 World Series, he was the winning pitcher in Game 7.

4. Yadier Molina. One of the memories of the 2011 World Series that stuck with me was the ovations Molina received from his home fans — louder than those given Albert Pujols. Perhaps Cardinals fans anticipated Pujols’ departure, or maybe they just appreciated everything Molina does for the team, from his hitting to his defense to the confidence he instills in his pitchers. Few players ever perfect their jobs on a baseball field, but you get the idea Molina has perfected playing catcher. Appreciate and enjoy. And then see if the Red Sox — who set the all-time record for stolen-base percentage (123 for 142) — attempt to run on him.

5. Power versus RISP. Each team led its league in runs scored, just the fourth time since 1976 that’s happened (1976, Reds-Yankees; 2004, Cardinals-Red Sox; 2009, Phillies-Yankees), but did so in different ways. The Red Sox, while not as powerful as some Red Sox teams of the past, hit 178 home runs (sixth in the majors), but also pounded out 363 doubles (first) and drew 581 walks (third). The Cardinals ranked 27th in the majors in home runs and don’t steal many bases (just 45), but they put the ball in play, an attribute that allowed them to hit .330 with runners in scoring position, the highest figure in the majors since that stat has been recorded beginning in 1961. The Red Sox beat the Tigers largely because of three key home runs — the grand slams from Ortiz and Shane Victorino plus Mike Napoli’s solo shot in the 1-0 victory in Game 3 — and while the Cardinals have hit just .210 in the postseason they’ve hit .286 with RISP.

6. Michael Wacha. In the span of 16 months he’s gone from Texas A&M to … well, almost unhittable. In his past four starts, going back to his final outing of the regular season, he’s allowed an .093 batting average — 9 for 97. In his three postseason starts, he’s allowed one run for a tidy 0.43 ERA. He has a chance to become just the sixth pitcher to have four starts in one postseason where he allowed one run or less, joining Blue Moon Odom (1972), Burt Hooton (1981), John Smoltz (1996), Ryan Vogelsong (2012) and Curt Schilling (2001, the only one with five). I can’t wait to see what the rookie does.

Xander Bogaerts Fenway7. Xander Bogaerts. He just turned 21 and had just 18 games of big-league experience before the playoffs began. Now he may be starting at third base, like he did the final two games of the ALCS. He’s going to be a big star down the road so this is kind of like a sneak preview. He’s had 11 plate appearances in the playoffs and drawn five walks while going 3-for-6. How can a kid have such a mature approach at the plate?

8. Cardinals relievers. Speaking of kids, the Cardinals’ top four relievers right now — Trevor Rosenthal, Carlos Martinez, Kevin Siegrist and Seth Maness — are all rookies. Teams have won before with rookie closers — Bobby Jenks of the White Sox in 2005, Wainwright in 2006 — and the Cardinals had some inexperienced relievers in 2011. But four rookie relievers in key roles? (Five if you include starter Shelby Miller working out of the bullpen.) How can you not be pumped watching Rosenthal and Martinez throwing 100 mph in the eighth and ninth innings?

Koji 20139. Koji Uehara’s splitter. It’s the most dominant 81 mph pitch in baseball history, a force of nature that breaks the natural laws of baseball, a pitcher who turns skilled batsmen into helpless amateurs. Including the postseason, batters are hitting .134 off Uehara. Against the splitter, they’re hitting .096. Since the All-Star break, they’re hitting .074 against the splitter, just 6-for-81 with 37 strikeouts and no walks. He’s 38 years old and basically the opposite of the gas-throwing Rosenthal and Martinez. The contrast in styles should make for some exciting late-game drama. One more thing: In what other sport could a 38-year-old guy, who while a good pitcher was never to be confused with Mariano Rivera, suddenly have a year better than any season Rivera ever had?

10. The best against the best. For the time since 1999, the teams with the best records in the majors will face off in the World Series. For the time since 2004, the teams with the best run differentials will face off. The rejuvenated, bearded Red Sox against the youthful, talented Cardinals. Players trying to create postseason legacies, others trying to add to existing ones. Big stars and future stars on the rise. It’s a World Series that has the elements for a classic duel. I think we’re going to get one.

As if you didn’t already know…..

Game 1 2013 WS

Starting pitchers: Adam Wainwright (19-9, 2.94 ERA) vs. Jon Lester (15-8, 3.75 ERA)

Scouting report on Wainwright: To win the ALCS, the Red Sox had to overcome one of the best starting pitcher trios ever seen in the form of Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer and Anibal Sanchez of the Detroit Tigers. Now, Game 1 of the World Series has them facing one of the best starting pitchers they’ve never seen in the form of Wainwright.
“I know I’ll have my work cut out for me,” Wainwright said. “One of my favorite things to do in the world is game plan for a game. I’ll spend a good amount of time today and tomorrow coming up with a nice plan.”
If it’s anything like the plan Wainwright has had in place for his three postseason starts so far, the Red Sox may be in trouble. The 32-year-old has gone 2-1 with a 1.57 ERA in those starts, including the only complete game thrown of the postseason (Game 5 of the NLDS against the Pittsburgh Pirates).
Despite the unfamiliarity with Boston, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny believes the team is similar to his own.
“You hear some of the things that they say and it’s a lot of similar things that have been preached in our clubhouse,” Matheny said. “Grinding out at-bats and playing tough, playing hard, playing all the way through nine. Those are the things that I believe set good teams apart and that’s what they’re all about.”
Grinding out at-bats will be tough against Wainwright, who walked only 35 batters in 241 2/3 innings pitched during the regular season and has walked only one batter in the postseason (23 innings pitched). However, the right-hander also allowed a NL-high 223 hits.

Scouting report on Lester: Unlike Wainwright, Lester has faced his opposition before, throwing 7 1/3 innings and allowing two runs on nine hits in a June 2008 start against St. Louis at Fenway Park. The only remaining Cardinals hitter from that game is Yadier Molina, who started at first base and went 0-for-3 against Lester.
“I’m a visual person so I like to prepare for a team by watching what I’ve done against them in the past,” Lester said. “That’s going to be a little tough [with the Cardinals] but that’s where you rely on your scouting department.”
The most blaring statistic Boston’s scouts will tell Lester? St. Louis’ batting average with runners in scoring position is a robust .330. Considering that reliable RISP statistics started being kept in 1961, the total easily topped the previous high set by the 2007 Detroit Tigers (.311)
“You just have to bear down in those situations,” Lester said. “The biggest thing is don’t let it turn into a big inning, that’s where you get into some trouble in the postseason.”
Lester has gone 2-1 with a 2.33 ERA in three postseason starts for Boston so far. The 29-year-old was on the mound for Boston’s last World Series win, Game 4 of the 2007 sweep against the Colorado Rockies.

Three Cardinals players to watch

Allen Craig, DH: The leading candidate for player to watch during the entire series, Craig hasn’t played in a game since Sept. 4, a result of a foot injury. Before going down, the 29-year-old was considered a candidate for the NL MVP, hitting .315 with 13 home runs and 97 RBIs. Craig’s .454 batting average with runners in scoring position was the best in the majors during the regular season. Matheny expects to keep Craig limited to designated hitting at Fenway and pinch hitting at Busch Stadium for the time being.

Holliday 2007 WS Matt Holliday, LF: Part of the 2007 Rockies team that lost to the Red Sox in the World Series, Holliday has been up-and-down the past two months. September saw the 33-year-old hit .378 in 23 games before slumping to a .244 average in 11 October games. Holliday has found success in his six games at Fenway, hitting .346 with a home run and three doubles. Holliday has faced Lester six times, getting two hits in the process.

Carlos Beltran, RF: Oft-described as the Cardinals’  postseason inspiration, Beltran will be playing in his first World Series. With 45 playoff games already under his belt, the 36-year-old should be no stranger to the big stage as he has hit .337 with 16 home runs in his previous postseason experience. Beltran has faced Lester three times without being retired, going 1-for-1 with two walks.

Three Red Sox players to watch

Ells 2013 PSJacoby Ellsbury, CF: All eyes figure to be on Ellsbury for the Red Sox this series as the speedy outfielder takes his 92.8 percent stolen-base success rate up against Cardinals catcher Molina’s 43 percent caught-stealing rate. Ellsbury has stolen six bases in seven attempts so far this postseason.

David Ortiz, DH: Wednesday will mark Ortiz’s ninth career World Series game as this is his third time playing in the Fall Classic. In his previous eight games, the left-handed slugger hit .321 with a home run and eight RBIs, four coming each year (2004 and 2007).

Stephen Drew, SS: After a poor performance in the ALCS that saw Drew collect one hit in 20 at-bats while striking out 10 times, the World Series will represent a clean slate for Boston’s shortstop. Unfortunately Drew’s numbers against Wainwright don’t bode well for him as he’s collected only two hits in 21 plate appearances against the Cardinals ace.

Three Key Considerations:
The Man vs The Kid 1946• The Red Sox and Cardinals have met three times in the World Series before (1946, 1967 and 2004), with the Cardinals winning the first two matchups in seven games and Boston sweeping St. Louis in 2004.

• Farrell said Monday that he plans to utilize Ortiz at first base when the Red Sox play with NL rules at Busch Stadium. Farrell is unsure how many games Ortiz will play, but the move will shift regular first baseman Mike Napoli out of the lineup.

• Starters John Lackey and Clay Buchholz were once again flipped in the rotation, as Lackey will draw the start in Game 2 and Buchholz will pitch in Game 3. Farrell said the move was motivated by the chance to get Lackey to pitch as soon as possible from his last start Oct. 15 in Game 3 against Detroit.

A little History of our Game 1 History…

With Game 1 of the 2013 World Series between the Boston Red Sox and the St. Louis Cardinals only a few hours away, here’s a look back at the first games of the 2004 and 2007 Fall Classic.

Bellhorn 2004 WS

In 2004, Red Sox second baseman Mark Bellhorn hit a two-run homer off reliever Julian Tavarez in the bottom of the eighth inning that rang off the right-field foul pole to lead Boston to an 11-9 win over the St. Louis Cardinals.

Ortiz 2004 WS

Red Sox DH David Ortiz (please note the St. Louis catcher in the photo above) hit a three-run homer and finished with four RBIs. Closer Keith Foulke recorded the final five outs of the game.

In 2007, the Red Sox crushed the Colorado Rockies 13-1 at Fenway Park. Rookie second baseman Dustin Pedroia led off the bottom of the first inning with a home run and the Red Sox never looked back. Starter Josh Beckett worked seven strong innings and allowed one run on six hits with nine strikeouts.

World Series: Boston Red Sox v Colorado Rockies - Game 4

The Red Sox swept both of those series in four games.

Playing Catch Up…

A few days taken for a family emergency… but nothing too exciting had been missed, in Red Sox Nation anyway.

The Patriots won 23-20 over the Ravens in the AFC Championship Game:  The Patriots advance to Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis on Feb. 5.  It will be the team’s fifth Super Bowl appearance in Bill Belichick’s tenure as coach (2000-present) and is the Patriots’ seventh Super Bowl appearance in franchise history.  Tom Brady and Bill Belichick become the first starting quarterback/head coach combination to advance to five Super Bowls.  For Brady, he ties his boyhood idol, Joe Montana, with his  16th career postseason win as a starting quarterback.

Just a ‘Classic’ game.  At one point, Brady’s emotions showed as he was jawing with Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis after the quarterback scored on fourth down goal-line drive in the fourth quarter, a play in which he took a big hit from Lewis.  The Ravens had a chance to win with 22 seconds left when Lee Evans dropped a touchdown pass. Then, after cornerback Sterling Moore deflected a pass on third down, Billy Cundiff missed a 32-yard field goal wide left that would have tied the game. A breath-taking ending.

The Red Sox signed free agent outfielder Cody Ross to a one-year deal worth about $3 million:  Boston had maintained an interest in Ross throughout the signing season, but pounced after his asking price dropped significantly (initially, he was seeking a three-year deal) and after left fielder Carl Crawford underwent surgery last week to address an arthritic condition in his left wrist.   The signing followed the Sox’ trading of infielder Marco Scutaro and his $6 million salary to the Rockies, which freed up the money they privately said they needed to have before making additional upgrades.   Even before Crawford’s injury, the Sox had maintained a healthy interest in Ross, who has hit left-handed pitchers well, with a career .912 OPS, even though his 2011 season could be considered a slight disappointment.  Ross, 31, is a .261 career hitter with 100 homers in eight seasons with Detroit, the Los Angeles Dodgers, Cincinnati, Florida and San Francisco.

Right-hander Scott Atchison was designated for assignment to create space for Ross on the team’s 40-man roster.

The Sox are still interested in adding another starter to the mix at the right price.  Roy Oswalt remains their No. 1 target, though a team source acknowledged fears that Oswalt would prefer to pitch for either the Rangers or Cardinals (the free-agent turned down an offer from Detroit).  If they do not succeed in signing Oswalt, to whom they have made an offer (supposedly for $5 Million), a team source said Wednesday night, they most likely will shift their focus to trying to swing a deal with the Chicago White Sox for right-hander Gavin Floyd, with free agent pitcher Edwin Jackson a long-shot option at this stage.

The Sox also are thin at shortstop after dealing Scutaro, with veterans Nick Punto and Mike Aviles and rookie Jose Iglesias their only options at this time. The Sox have indicated they do not want to rush the 22-year-old Iglesias, who has fewer than 700 professional at-bats, and with neither Punto and Aviles the answer on an everyday basis, the Sox are expected to seek more help there. Punto is the better glove of the two, Aviles a better bat.  At first glance, there doesn’t appear to be much shortstop help available. Even the soon-to-be 45-year-olds have signed, Omar Vizquel coming to terms Monday with the Toronto Blue Jays.

Clay Mortensen, received from Colorado in the Scutaro trade, will compete for a spot in the bullpen, but more likely will open the season in Pawtucket.  Don’t look now, but the Sox have the makings of a potentially strong bullpen, especially if Franklin Morales and Andrew Miller can click from the left side.  If the Sox succeed in acquiring another starting pitcher and elect to return Alfredo Aceves to the pen, on paper they look strong with Andrew Bailey closing and Mark Melancon sharing setup.  If Bobby Jenks can be healthy and Matt Albers proves he just ran out of gas last season, the Sox pen has a chance to be strong and deep.  If.. If.. If…

With Jorge Posada announcing his retirement Tuesday after 17 seasons with the Yankees, it would appear to be a matter of time before we hear similar announcements from Tim Wakefield and Jason Varitek.  Wakefield’s agent, Barry Meister, said the 45-year-old knuckleballer just returned from a vacation in Mexico, and that he hasn’t had substantive conversations with him in about 10 days.  He acknowledged that while there have been inquiries from other teams, there’s nothing in the works.  As Bobby Valentine noted the other day, it’s inconceivable that Wakefield would accept a minor-league offer from the Red Sox.  Varitek turns 40 just after Opening Day and got married in the offseason. No word from the player or his agents on Varitek’s plans, but the signing of Kelly Shoppach virtually closed the door on a return to Boston, and while Varitek last spring expressed a desire to play for as long as he can, he may have reached the endgame.

Tim Thomas Skipped the White House:  Boston Bruins president Cam Neely admitted Tuesday that he would have liked goaltender and Stanley Cup MVP Tim Thomas to be with the team when they visited the White House on Monday, but that Thomas “felt very strongly about not going” so the team respected his wishes.  He said the team didn’t make the event mandatory because “we didn’t think it would be an issue.”  Neely said he doesn’t expect the controversy to adversely affect the Bruins’ chemistry, pointing out with a laugh that not a lot of political discourse occurs in an NHL locker room.

Thomas explained Monday night in a Facebook page posting that he skipped the White House event due his disappointment in the federal government. His post read:

“I believe the Federal government has grown out of control, threatening the Rights, Liberties, and Property of the People.
This is being done at the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial level. This is in direct opposition to the Constitution and the Founding Fathers vision for the Federal government.
Because I believe this, today I exercised my right as a Free Citizen, and did not visit the White House. This was not about politics or party, as in my opinion both parties are responsible for the situation we are in as a country. This was about a choice I had to make as an INDIVIDUAL.
This is the only public statement I will be making on this topic. TT”

Later Monday night, Neely released this Bruins statement:
“As an organization we were honored by President Obama’s invitation to the White House. It was a great day and a perfect way to cap our team’s achievement from last season. It was a day that none of us will soon forget. We are disappointed that Tim chose not to join us, and his views certainly do not reflect those of the Jacobs family or the Bruins organization. This will be the last public comment from the Bruins organization on this subject.”

Of course, Timmy ‘The Tank’ is not alone.  Theo Epstein, who had made a campaign appearance on behalf of John Kerry, was not on the stage when President Bush honored the team in 2005, choosing to sit in the front row of the audience next to Stacy Lucchino, wife of the Sox CEO.  The reason, he said, was because he wanted attention focused on those most deserving.  Epstein was with the group of players who subsequently visited wounded vets at the Walter Reed Medical Center.  Bush was still in office when the Sox won again in 2007.  Epstein did not attend the ’08 ceremony, citing “family reasons,” and his absence barely registered.  It was overshadowed by the no-show by Manny Ramirez, whose absence from the stage was noted by the President himself.

 

And then of course… there’s this:

Prince Fielder stood with a smile and recalled his earliest memories of old Tiger Stadium, when he would hang out at the ballpark where his father hit so many massive home runs.  “For me, it was always Sparky saying I was going to pinch hit—and I really believed him,”  Fielder said, referring to former manager Sparky Anderson. “I’m just glad I get to come back.”  The Tigers introduced Fielder on Thursday after finalizing a $214 million, nine-year contract with the free agent first baseman, who is expected to hit a lot more home runs than his dad.  Detroit plays at Cecil Fielder (45) played for the Tigers from 1990 to 1996. His son, Prince (with ball), will follow in his footsteps after reportedly signing a nine-year $214 million contract with Detroit.Comerica Park now, and times have changed. Jim Leyland manages the Tigers, not Sparky Anderson.

Fielder was born in 1984, the last time Detroit won the World Series.  After luring him back to Michigan with the fourth-largest deal in baseball history, the Tigers are hoping Fielder will help usher in a new championship era for the Motor City.  “This is awesome, it’s kind of a dream come true. I’m excited.”  Detroit began seriously pursuing Fielder after designated hitter Victor Martinez tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee during offseason conditioning.  Now the Tigers have three of baseball’s biggest stars—Fielder, Miguel Cabrera and Justin Verlander—all in their primes. Detroit won the AL Central by 15 games last year but lost to Texas in the AL championship series.

It will be up to manager Jim Leyland to figure out where to play all of his powerful hitters. He said Thursday the Tigers will move Miguel Cabrera from first base to third to make room for Fielder. He also listed a possible batting order, with Cabrera hitting third and Fielder fourth.  It’s a lineup based on power, not speed.  That much is clear.  Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski indicated he’s satisfied with his roster heading into spring training, although it’s hard to rule out any more moves after the Tigers shockingly emerged with Fielder.  The pitching rotation is anchored by Verlander, who won the Cy Young Award and MVP last year, but Detroit’s fifth starter spot is still uncertain. Dombrowski said the Tigers could bring in some non-roster invitees to compete for that job.  “I think positional player-wise, we’re pretty well set,” he said.

Fielder’s father Cecil became a big league star when he returned to the majors from Japan and hit 51 home runs with Detroit in 1990.  Cecil played with the Tigers into the 1996 season, and young Prince made a name for himself with his prodigious power displays during batting practice at Tiger Stadium.