It's easy to embrace these Red Sox

October 29, 2007|By PETER SCHMUCK

Denver -- It all happened so fast, there almost wasn't time to fully appreciate what the Boston Red Sox accomplished with their second world championship in four years. They have, for the moment, supplanted the New York Yankees at the center of the baseball universe and reasserted the pre-eminence of the American League by overwhelming the upstart Colorado Rockies in the 103rd World Series. That might not come as great news to the many haters of Red Sox Nation, but given the choice between the complete team that just dispatched the Rockies in four and the one that just dumped nice guy manager Joe Torre for only making 12 straight playoff appearances, it's not hard to embrace the new World Series champions.

Quite the contrary, it was hard not to embrace the Red Sox last night, especially with recent cancer survivor Jon Lester taking the mound and pitching 5 2/3 scoreless innings to earn the decisive victory.

Don't misunderstand. The Rockies were the more likable team. They just weren't a viable option after exhausting 15 years of pent-up post-expansion mojo to get to the franchise's first World Series.

Rocktober turned out to be bittersweet for Clint Hurdle and his merry band of wild-card wonders, who traveled further this year than anyone thought possible but ended up looking as overmatched against the Red Sox as the oddsmakers said they would.

They deserve no criticism, not after staging an unprecedented late-season run that nearly ended in the 13th inning of that one-game National League West playoff against the San Diego Padres before carrying them to a pair of playoff sweeps and, finally, to the threshold of a seemingly impossible dream.

No one will ever know for sure if they were done in by the notorious eight-day layoff that followed their quick NL Championship Series victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks, but it's got to be tough to keep that kind of momentum bottled up that long.

The Red Sox, meanwhile, were staging another dramatic AL Championship Series comeback, which brought them into the Series with their game faces still attached. When they dealt the Rockies the most lopsided Game 1 defeat in the history of the Fall Classic, what other conclusion was their to draw?

Except the most obvious one: The Red Sox were clearly the superior team.

They came in with Josh Beckett blazing and got contributions from just about everyone on their postseason roster. Even the things that went wrong ended up going right, as evidenced by last night's strong performance by a fill-in starter who was undergoing chemotherapy at this time last year and would not have gotten the start except for the shoulder injury that forced Tim Wakefield off the postseason roster.

The one-sided series generated little controversy but lots of human interest, beginning with Hurdle's poignant story of personal redemption. The sentimental journey continued last night when Lester took the mound for Boston against Aaron Cook, who faced a life-threatening situation in 2004 when blood clots in his shoulder spread to both of his lungs.

There should be no suggestion that the less-traveled Rockies could not handle the pressure, because they really had nothing to lose.

The Curse of the Bambino is just a distant memory. Who knows, maybe the Babe has turned his attention to the Yankees for the way they treated Joe Torre. It was, after all, just a couple innings before the champagne started to flow that a report surfaced that presumptive AL Most Valuable Player Alex Rodriguez will opt out of the remaining three years of his contract and trade his pinstripes for another shot at free agency.

What more proof do you need?

By the way, the Bronx Bombers are expected to name their new manager as early as today and charge him with a daunting challenge - toppling this budding Red Sox dynasty.

peter.schmuck@baltsun.com

Listen to Peter Schmuck on WBAL (1090 AM) at noon most Saturdays and Sundays.

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