There are still members of the Red Sox’ 2004 championship team making significant contributions to a playoff team in 2008. Unfortunately, these contributions are being made for the Los Angeles Dodgers. While the Dodgers lean heavily on 2004 World Series MVP Manny Ramirez and the pitcher who won the clinching game in each playoff series in 2004, Derek Lowe, the Red Sox seem to be nearing a point where they will have to find a way to win in spite of the last few holdovers from that legendary 86-year-drought-ending roster. When Mike Timlin, shown here in a 2006 card, entered the game in the eleventh inning on Saturday night, weary Sox fans watching at home began to get ready for bed, knowing things would be ending badly soon. And yesterday, before the game became a blowout, Jason Varitek continued to display his flagging offensive skills by failing to get a runner home from third with no outs (he struck out with his bat on his shoulder), then in the following inning he committed a passed ball that allowed the Rays to take their first lead. Throughout both of the losses, the Red Sox offense was crippled by cleanup hitter David Ortiz’ inability to hit anything with authority. (One member of the 2004 Red Sox has been effective in the current series against the Rays, but that player, Kevin Youkilis, was not someone the Red Sox counted on in the playoffs in 2004—he got two at-bats in the division series, then was not used again.)
Perhaps it’s fitting that the only remaining member of the 2004 Red Sox yet to appear for the Red Sox in the 2008 playoffs now seems to be the 2008 Red Sox’ last hope. If the Red Sox lose tonight, they will be down 3 games to 1, and though they found themselves at a similar disadvantage in last year’s ALCS and an even worse hole in the 2004 ALCS, it seems unlikely that they would be able to dig themselves out of such a hole once again. They pretty much have to win tonight. And to do so, they pretty much have to get a good game from Tim Wakefield.
Wakefield has been my favorite Red Sox player for a long time. First of all, he throws a pitch so erratic and unpredictable it resembles life itself. Also, it is starting to seem that he has always been on the Red Sox (besides being one of the last of the 2004 Red Sox, he’s also the last of the 1995 Red Sox). And I just like the way he quietly goes about his business. According to his peers, he has always been a great teammate, an attribute most famously on display in the 2004 ALCS playoffs, when he volunteered to sacrifice his game 4 starting assignment in order to save the bullpen in the 19-8 massacre in game 3, a sacrifice that is pointed to by his manager as a turning point in the series that was the turning point in Red Sox history.
As can be seen in the following video clip from the immediate aftermath of the Red Sox World Series victory last year, no one will be rooting harder for Wakefield to come through tonight than the only other pitcher left from the 2004 squad: