Red Sox have successfully broken from their tortured past
DENVER -- There was a period of about 60 years when you could count on two things about the Boston Red Sox being in the World Series.
The Red Sox have taken on a similarly devastating look, and it should be noted that the accomplishments of the men in uniform are starting to take on a frightening formidability. Mike Timlin nears his fourth World Series title; Manny Ramirez -- who is appearing in his fourth Series -- will have his second title. So will David Ortiz and the rest of the Red Sox who were on the 2004 team. Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell will also secure their second titles. Terry Francona is the most successful manager the Red Sox have had since World War I.This complete and total personality change is jarring, especially to those who remember and lived the history. In 1946, the Red Sox were the best team from dawn to dusk, so good in fact that they had to sit around while the Dodgers and Cardinals played a three-game playoff. Ted Williams got hit in the elbow during a tune-up game and hit .200 in the World Series against the Cardinals. Johnny Pesky hesitated while Enos Slaughter scored from first base in Game 7, and the Red Sox lost. It was true in 1967, forever the most important season in the franchise history, when the Red Sox were the Cinderella club that faced the powerhouse Cardinals in the Series, fought them for seven games before succumbing to Bob Gibson at Fenway Park. Even in defeat -- especially in defeat, actually -- baseball in Boston was reborn. In 1975, long considered the greatest World Series ever played, the Red Sox lost in seven, but not before the names Luis Tiant, Bill Lee and Carlton Fisk bred a new generation of worshippers. And in 1986, the Red Sox won the first two games against the 108-win Mets, led 3-2 in games, led with one strike left in Game 6, lived Bill Buckner's tragedy and blew a 3-0 lead in Game 7 before losing. As of today, that 8-5 Game 7 loss to the Mets is an interesting trivia question, for it was the last time the Red Sox lost a World Series game. Those memories of battle, triumph and loss have been erased. These Red Sox have not produced moments beyond victory. There are no epic clashes, only Curt Schilling and Beckett, Ortiz and Ramirez -- and now even Dustin Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury -- imposing their October will on teams that once appeared dangerous and now look hopelessly overmatched. During these combined runs of 2004 and now 2007 with possibly just one game left, the Red Sox have broken with their past. The Red Sox are now immersed in a new history. Now when they qualify for the World Series, it is safe to expect two very different things. The first is that they will win quickly. If you're looking for a nail-biter, try a Patriots Super Bowl. The second is that the games will not be exciting, or historic, or legendary. Fisk and Buckner, Tiant and Jim Lonborg, sympathy and sentimentality have been replaced by a cold, hard efficiency and excellence that does not lend itself to suspense or mythology. The Red Sox have been transformed from Greek tragedy to industrial machinery. And certainly, on the cusp of a second World Series title in four years, it doesn't appear anyone in Boston is complaining.
Howard Bryant is a senior writer for ESPN.com and ESPN The Magazine. He is the author of "Shut Out: A Story of Race and Baseball in Boston" and "Juicing the Game: Drugs, Power and the Fight for the Soul of Major League Baseball." He can be reached at Howard.Bryant@espn3.com.
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