The Boston Red Sox are the champions of baseball again, having disposed of the Colorado Rockies in four games, a result that has become depressingly habitual in the Fall Classic.
The Sox dominated in just about every way a team can dominate. In the first inning of Game 2 the Rockies pushed across a run on a hit batsman, an infield single, an error and a ground-out. The Red Sox tied that game in the fourth inning and that was the end of the only lead the Rockies had the entire Series.
Boston outscored Colorado 29-10 in the four games. Red Sox starters had a 1.54 earned run average, Rockies starters had an 8.83. The Red Sox hit .333, the Rockies .218. The Red Sox had a .407 on-base percentage and slugged .525 for an OPS of .932. The Rockies had a .273 on-base percentage and slugged .346 for an OPS of .619.
In other words, the Red Sox in this series hit roughly like a team of nine Derrek Lees, only a little better. The Rockies hit like a team of nine Julio Lugos, regular-season version, only a little worse. They hit like Jay Gibbons, like Bobby Crosby, like Jose Molina.
I'm giving you several names because when guys hit for a whole year like the Rockies did in the World Series, you forget who they are. Here's another one whose hitting numbers this season looked like the Rockies in the Series: Brad Penny.
I could go on here, but suffice to say the Rockies, who got to the World Series with one of the hottest hot streaks in baseball history, 21 wins in 22 games, including a tiebreaker for the wild card and seven straight playoff wins, were demolished.
It wasn't a freakish thing, except that any four-game sweep in the big leagues is a little bit freakish. The Red Sox were clearly better, top to bottom. The Rockies would have had to continue hitting on all cylinders to beat them -- or the Red Sox would have had to go into a funk, as they did early in the American League Championship Series, when they lost three of four to the Cleveland Indians.
Neither happened. From the three-run first inning that led to a 13-1 rout in Game 1 to the lockdown five-out save by Jonathan Papelbon in Sunday night's 4-3 coup de grâce, it was a Boston beat-down.
In both Games 3 and 4 in Denver the Rockies rallied valiantly to within a run. In Game 3 they clawed back from 6-0 with two runs in the sixth inning and then Matt Holliday's three-run homer in the seventh. In Game 4 they were down 3-0 when Brad Hawpe hit a solo homer, 4-1 when Garrett Atkins hit a two-run shot. But in Game 3 the Sox pounded home three more runs to reestablish control. In Game 4 Papelbon came in and slammed the door.
How would you like to be beaten? The Red Sox have you covered.
It's tough to draw definitive conclusions from a single series, but it sure looked like the record eight-day layoff between the National League Championship Series and Game 1 did the Rockies in. This was not the same dashing team that roared through the end of its schedule and the first three weeks of the playoffs. The hitters never hit their stride. The pitchers were a mess. They allowed 66 base runners in the four games.
Rockies manager Clint Hurdle said he couldn't gauge how much the layoff hurt, then brushed off the question so as not to make excuses. "We got outplayed," he said. "We tip our hats to them."
That's fine, but the quality of play in the World Series is threatening to become a serious issue. There's only so much baseball can do about a layoff when the League Championship Series is best-of-seven. Even without the extra off days added to an already leisurely October schedule this year, the Rockies would have had to wait around for the Red Sox for at least five days after sweeping Arizona in the NLCS because the ALCS went the full seven.
Who knows if five days is a significantly different layoff from eight, but it can't be worse. Anything the commissioner's office can do to try to improve the quality of play, it should do. Maybe it's all just a historical anomaly and everything, but we haven't even had a Game 6 since 2003. The eventual series-losing teams in the past four years have gone 1-16.
None of this is to take anything away from the Red Sox, who almost went wire-to-wire in the A.L. East, easily dispatched the Los Angeles Angels in the first round of the playoffs, stumbled against the Indians in the ALCS before winning three straight games for the pennant, then destroyed the Rockies.
This championship is very different from the era-ending title in 2004 in ways that are being masticated in every corner of the media. The Red Sox have gone from bullied to bully, from expecting to lose to expecting to win and so on. But the most interesting way this title is different is that the Red Sox look like a team on the rise this time.
Though this team, like that one, is led by veterans, it also has a future that's clearly visible. Pitching star Josh Beckett is only 27. Daisuke Matsuzaka and Papelbon are 26. Jon Lester, who started Game 4 and pitched five and two-thirds shutout innings, is 23. Clay Buccholz, who had a no-hitter this year, is 22.
Second baseman Dustin Pedroia, the presumptive Rookie of the Year, is already ensconced. Center fielder of the future Jacoby Ellsbury made his presence felt in the World Series. Yes, the Red Sox have a huge payroll. So have the Baltimore Orioles over the years. Payroll isn't everything, though of course it's a lot.
More important than the big salary bill is that the organization is running like a top right now. Bostonians hoisting the championship trophy could become depressingly familiar in the coming years too -- to everyone who doesn't root for the Red Sox, that is -- if that keeps up.
It would be a little better for the rest of us, though, if the National League team put up a little more of a fight.
And what of this year's National League team? The Rockies came out of nowhere, emerging from that clump of mediocre-to-decent teams that annually scrum around for the various N.L. playoff spots. They got crazy-hot to end up a 90-win team, and you are what your record says you are.
But there isn't much reason to believe the Rockies blossomed permanently after Sept. 15. They just got hot. They'll probably open 2008 as one of that clump of mediocre-to-decent teams that'll scrum around for a playoff spot.
But there's good reason for optimism. They were headed in the right direction before that hot streak. They've got a good lineup and they've figured out how to find pitchers who don't get chewed up by pitching at altitude. And they're young. Everybody who matters is under 30 except Todd Helton, who's 33, and Brian Fuentes and Kaz Matsui, who are both 31 and don't matter as much as Helton. Their star rookie, 22-year-old shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, might not win the Rookie of the Year, but he should.
And the Rox have got their up-and-coming starting pitchers too, Ubaldo Jimenez, 23, and Franklin Morales, 21. The Rockies might not open 2008 as the favorites to win the National League, but a repeat wouldn't be anything like a surprise.
So Boston celebrates its second World Series win in four years and now turns its attention to rooting for a fourth Super Bowl win in seven years, not to mention Boston College's run at the BCS championship and the Celtics transforming themselves back into a glamour team. Hub fans should enjoy it. Fortunes can change in a hurry.
Just ask the Rockies. It took 22 games to transform their franchise from also-rans to champs. Then it took eight days to turn them into pumpkins. And four games to carve them up.
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