These Sox fooled me once, but I won't be fooled again


October 07, 2005|By PETER SCHMUCK

I would love to gleefully tell you all about the imminent demise of the defending world champion Boston Red Sox, but I learned my lesson last year.

Lest anyone forget, here is an excerpt from my column on Oct. 18, 2004, after the Sox were obliterated by the New York Yankees, 19-8, to fall behind three games to none in the American League Championship Series:

Can't blame the Bambino for this one ... The Yankees squashed the Sox like so many bugs around a drain, leaving little doubt who would be the eventual American League participant in the World Series. The only thing haunting the Red Sox were those horrible hairdos, which don't look quite so rakish and charming when somebody's smacking you across the face.

Of course, that was four days before they left me with all kinds of egg on my handsome visage.

The Red Sox - who now face a seemingly insurmountable 2-0 deficit to the Chicago White Sox as their Division Series shifts to Fenway Park - staged the greatest comeback in postseason history and closed out a world championship season with eight straight victories over the Yankees and St. Louis Cardinals. Compared to that, this mountain isn't even a molehill.

Maybe I ought to get out of the predicting business, but I'm a glutton for reader rebuke, so I'm going to go out on a limb again and predict that the Red Sox have not seen the last of Chicago's ballpark this season.

It should be noted that some major league managers are firing themselves faster than the Orioles are making a decision on interim manager Sam Perlozzo or co-GMs Mike Flanagan and Jim Beattie.

Jim Tracy's abrupt parting with the Dodgers was announced as "mutual," and Ken Macha's departure from the Oakland A's was as much his doing as anybody in A's upper management.

Macha rightly figured out that he is a commodity after keeping the bargain-basement A's in contention throughout his tenure, so he held out for either a market contract or managerial free agency at a time when there seems to be an abundance of employment opportunities.

Tracy and Lou Piniella also seem positioned to land well, though Piniella has hinted he might take a year off before returning to the dugout.

Newly fired Devil Rays GM Chuck Lamar apparently wasn't holding his breath waiting to find out his fate. He cleaned out his office last week and, quite frankly, there weren't all that many misty eyes at Tropicana Field when his dismissal became official.

Shades of Arte Moreno ... New Devil Rays principle owner Stu Sternberg announced yesterday that fans attending D-Rays games next year will not be charged a dime for parking, and that every aspect of the way the struggling franchise has done business in the past will be re-evaluated.

The "Free Parking" announcement was reminiscent of Moreno's how-do-you-do in Anaheim, when he announced soon after taking control of the Angels that he had ordered concessionaires to slash beer prices.

One Orioles official rolled his eyes when I mentioned this year that the O's might benefit from a similar grand gesture - pointing out that the Angels make up for the reduction in the beer price in other areas. That might be true, but Moreno - the billboard king of Southern California - knew the importance of making a great first impression, and Sternberg is smart to take a page from his playbook.

The NHL's early attempts at fence-mending apparently paid off. Eleven of the 15 opening night games Wednesday were sold out, thanks to lower ticket prices, rules changes that encourage a more exciting style of play and - just maybe - a fan following that wasn't quite as turned off by the sport's year-long work stoppage as many of us in the media expected. Personally, I kind of enjoyed it.

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady responded testily after San Diego Chargers coach Marty Schottenheimer said this week that injuries might be taking a toll on the defending Super Bowl champions.

Brady publicly called on Schottenheimer to focus on his own team, thank you very much. I think he should have been grateful someone else was providing the excuses for Sunday's lopsided home loss.

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