Yet no sooner had the players union nixed the trade than those
damn Yankees swooped in and stole our thunder. Pulling off a deal
that put Rodriguez in pinstripes instead of red stockings, George
Steinbrenner and Co. fanned the flames of what is already the
hottest rivalry in sports.
But all hope is not lost. Here’s just a few of the reasons why.
The 2003 Red Sox were one of the most potent offenses in Major League history. They led the league in several major hitting categories, including runs scored, runs batted in, hits and batting average, and even set the all-time team record for slugging percentage in a season. That same powerhouse crew is mostly intact for 2004.
Perennial All-Stars Garciaparra
and Ramirez return, as well as 2003 batting champion Bill
Mueller, Kevin Millar, David Ortiz, Jason Varitek and long-time
stalwart Trot Nixon (currently hobbled by a bad back), all of
whom put up career numbers last season. And let’s not forget
leadoff hitter Johnny Damon, who looks to rebound from a sub-par
The biggest change has been the addition of the aforementioned pitchers. On the other side of the plate, playoff hero Todd Walker has been replaced with the smooth-fielding (but light-hitting) Pokey Reese, a two-time Gold Glove winner. In a serious case of deja vu, once-and-future Sox sluggers Brian Daubach and Ellis Burks return to provide power off the bench.
The most important new face,
however, won’t be seen on the diamond, but in the dugout. New
manager Terry Francona replaces fired playoff scapegoat Grady
Little, who, although well-liked by the players, was dismissed
not long after that agonizing Game 7 ALCS loss in which he left
Martinez on the mound just a few pitches too long. So far,
though, it appears Francona has won over his new team, no doubt
helped by his friendships with Schilling, who Francona managed as
the Philadelphia Phillies’ skipper, and Foulke, who he coached in
The “Cowboy Up” slogan may have been mercifully put out to pasture, but these Sox are still considered a strong playoff contender, and some even believe the team’s pitching is good enough to challenge the dreaded Yankees for the AL East crown. And if the power surge continues on offense, who knows? The Patriots may not be the only ones to hold a parade in the Hub this year.
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HOW TO SCORE
Even with the addition of new seats, Fenway is still the smallest ballpark in major league baseball. That means tickets are pricey and hard to come by—especially at the last minute. But diehard fans always find a way to see the game even if it’s “officially” sold out. Here’s how: