Team of the decade? With two World Series championships and six postseason appearances, it would be hard to argue against the Red Sox. Certainly, the past 10 years have provided Red Sox fans with plenty of memories to last throughout the 21st century.
So voluminous were the moments — both good and bad — it is easy to forget a few tasty morsels. So before we turn our attention to the teens, here’s a look back at 10 moments from the past decade you might not remember, but probably should.
June 30, 2000 — Jimy’s Substitution
It was a moment that should have remained forgotten forever, and for the most part, it has. Why would anyone remember Jeff Fyre pinch-hitting for Mike Stanley in the eighth inning of a 10-4 loss to the White Sox on the last day of June?
Like most great disasters, it’s the little moment that starts the chain reaction, ending with the spectacular event. In this case, Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy happened to notice some commotion between Frye and Carl Everett in the dugout after Frye’s at-bat, and went digging, and Everett sprung his infamous leak.
July 2, 2000 was the day Everett went from the brash, toothpick-chewing, dinosaur-denying slugger on a division contender to the biggest clubhouse distraction this side of Oil Can Boyd in 1986. Inside the visitor’s clubhouse in Chicago, Everett blew up at Shaughnessy for prying into the team matter, the first of Everett’s explosive tirades on and off the field that sabotaged the season, gave rise to the nickname “Curly Haired Boyfriend” and ultimately cost Jimy Williams his job in 2001. So, long story short, Jimy never should have pinch hit for Stanley.
June 7, 2001 — Varitek’s Disastrous Dive
The Red Sox were in the final season of ownership by the Yawkey Trust — a 70-year run without a single World Series title. This last chance started off promising, with Manny Ramirez in the first year of his eight-year contract and Pedro Martinez coming off perhaps the greatest single season by a pitcher in baseball history. But by season’s end, the Red Sox were in disarray.
The turning point came on June 7, when Jason Varitek dove to make a spectacular catch behind the plate at Fenway Park. But back in 2001, the cut-out area around home plate was covered in a rubberized substance, and Varitek landed awkwardly on it, shattering his right elbow.
The team, in first place at the time of the injury, could not overcome it. Pedro was lost to an arm injury just three weeks later, and when the Red Sox lost an 18-inning heartbreaker in the Texas heat in late August, the wheels came off completely. Had Varitek, who was hitting .293 with 7 homers and 25 RBIs through 51 games at the time of his injury, not gotten hurt, might the Red Sox have challenged longer for the postseason? Varitek would return to fight another year. The Yawkey regime would not.
July 23, 2002 — The Longest Day
The 2002 season was about as frustrating as any in the decade, the Red Sox bolting to a 40-17 start, only to melt during the summer in Grady Little’s first season as manager. One late July day (and night) came to symbolize the lost season. The day after the stirring Fenway memorial for the late Ted Williams, Nomar Garciaparra celebrated his 29th birthday in style, hitting three homers over two innings while driving in eight as the Sox routed Tampa Bay 22-4 in the first game of a day-night doubleheader.
Heavy rain pushed back the start of the second game, and during the delay it was learned that legendary Red Sox voice Ned Martin, who had attended the Williams ceremony the night before, had collapsed and died at a North Carolina airport. Then in the second game, the Red Sox took a 4-0 lead into the ninth behind Derek Lowe. A sweep would have given the Red Sox' postseason hopes an enormous boost. Instead, the Rays scored five times in the ninth off Chris (Don’t call me Mister) Haney and Ugueth Urbina to spoil Nomar’s party.
Oct. 6, 2003 — Nomar’s “Heads Up” Play
The first part of the play will never be forgotten. There is Johnny Damon, rushing in, glove raised, eyes on the ball, tracking a critical out in the seventh inning of the deciding ALDS Game 5 in Oakland. Then, suddenly, Damian Jackson enters the picture in a blur and collides head-to-head with Damon in a sickening sight. In that moment, as Damon lay motionless on the ground, it was if the world had come to a screeching halt.
But in what remains arguably the most overlooked hustle play in recent Red Sox postseason history, Nomar Garciaparra kept his wits about him as his teammates laid injured, retrieving the live ball from short center field and flipping to Bill Mueller to nail Jermaine Dye trying for a double, ending the inning and keeping the Red Sox' lead at 4-2. Given the drama that was to follow in the ninth, that play by Nomar likely saved the game and the series.
Oct. 18, 2004 — Timlin’s Strikeout
So much of the 2004 ALCS comeback against the Yankees can be defined by S-words: The Steal, The Sock, The Slap, The Slam. But none of it would have mattered without The Strikeout. With the Red Sox already trailing 4-2 in the top of the eighth of Game 5 and Miguel Cairo at third base with one out, the legend of “Alex Rodriguez chokes in the clutch” officially began.
All A-Rod had to do was put the ball in play against Mike Timlin and the Yankees would have led 5-2 and likely closed the series out in five games. But Timlin struck A-Rod out, keeping the Sox within striking distance. Papi homered in the bottom half and the rally was on. For all the heroics by Keith Foulke in that wild four-game comeback, Timlin’s singular strikeout remains an equally critical moment.
June 2, 2005 — Edgar’s Bunt
Maybe it was no accident that Edgar Renteria, wearing the Babe’s No. 3, made the last out of the curse-busting 2004 World Series. Maybe the Bambino had one final hex to impart, even as the ghost of Octobers’ past was finally put to rest. Renteria joined the Red Sox before the 2005 season, and a new curse was born: A five-year run of rotating — and disappointing — shortstops. Renteria was arguably the biggest failure of all (Julio Lugo might argue otherwise), bumbling his way through a miserable 2005 at the plate and in the field.
But on one glorious Thursday afternoon, Renteria came through in a big way with a little play, setting the stage for a more familiar hero. With the Red Sox trailing the Orioles 4-3 in the ninth, with two outs and one on against closer B.J. Ryan, Renteria kept the inning alive with a perfect bunt down the third base line for an infield single. That gave David Ortiz a chance to win the game, and Big Papi didn’t disappoint, rocketing the ball into the center-field bleachers for a walk-off, three-run bomb.
Literally within minutes, down in New York, WFAN’s Mike Francesa, informed of the latest Papi walk-off — and still stinging four days after Ortiz homered twice in a rout of his beloved Yankees – actually asked Joe Torre during their weekly interview why the Yankees don’t intentionally throw at Ortiz to cool him off.
May 28, 2006 — Gathright’s Gamble
Joey Gathright always seems to find a way into Red Sox lore. In 2009, Gathright was a member of the Red Sox, assuming the Dave Roberts role for the postseason. But Gathright’s claims to Red Sox fame come as a Tampa Bay Devil Ray. In spring training before the 2006 season, Gathright was at home plate when Julian Tavarez punched him, earning Tavarez some unscheduled time off.
But it was Gathright’s second incident at home plate – again with Tavarez on the mound — that made for a wild finish to a crazy Sunday at Fenway. In the reverse of the “Mother’s Day Miracle,” the Red Sox took a 5-0 lead into the ninth behind eight brilliant innings from Tim Wakefield. But the knuckleballer did not come back for the ninth, leaving it to Rudy Seanez and Tavarez to finish off an easy win.
But the only easy part was the final out. After the Rays rallied within 5-3 — helped by four walks and a potential game-ending strike three that eluded catcher Doug Mirabelli — Gathright found himself at second with two outs. Carl Crawford then singled to left, scoring the runner from third to make it 5-4. But Willie Harris, who had virtually no experience as a left fielder, easily gunned the speedy Gathright out at home to end the game.
April 26, 2007 — Thorne’s Bloody Mess
In what would become the second championship season of the decade, the Red Sox were still reliving their epic triumph in 2004 — only not in the way they intended. With the Red Sox in Baltimore in late April, a controversy blew up, courtesy of Orioles’ TV voice Gary Thorne, who claimed during a broadcast that Curt Schilling’s famous “Bloody Sock” was a fake; a condiment-based contrivance. Thorne even revealed his source: Red Sox backup catcher Doug Mirabelli.
The next day, Mirabelli was forced to hold an impromptu press conference in the Red Sox clubhouse, denying Thorne’s accusation and claiming his ketchup tale was merely a joke that Thorne, unfortunately, took seriously. Out on the field, a gathering worthy of a presidential press conference converged on the contrite Thorne, who restored Mirabelli’s good name, as well as a cherished legend in Red Sox history.
March 19, 2008 — The Fort Myers Revolt
The decade began with the Yankees three-peating in 2000, but no team has repeated since. The 2008 Red Sox came close, losing in Game 7 of the ALCS, despite a grueling regular season wracked by injuries and beset with strife literally from the beginning.
The regular season began in Japan — a difficult, exhausting journey under normal circumstances. But before the giant 747 left the relatively tiny airport in Fort Myers for Tokyo, the Red Sox staged a dramatic rebellion against Major League Baseball, refusing to make the trip unless the coaching staff was properly compensated — as was originally promised, then taken away.
What should have been a ho-hum final exhibition game at City of Palms Park turned into a circus, with bold proclamations by defiant players on the field and frantic negotiations with MLB from within the clubhouse. Ultimately, an agreement was reached, and the show went on. But this bizarre chapter was just the first of many in 2008, the cumulative effect denying the Red Sox a third title in the decade.
Aug. 14, 2009 — Feet Of Clay
It was quite a year for Clay Buchholz. In his personal life, Clay made a great deal, locking up No. 26 (the lovely Lindsay Clubine from Deal or No Deal) to a lifetime contract. On the field, Buchholz enjoyed a comeback season, proving his doubters wrong with six masterful weeks of pitching, keeping teams throughout the league seeking his services via trade.
What teams are not looking for Buchholz to do is pinch run. He only did it once in 2009, and it did not go well. With the Red Sox trailing 4-3 in the ninth to Texas in — at the time — a must-win game in Arlington, Terry Francona had Buchholz run for Jason Varitek at second base with one out. When Dustin Pedroia followed with a double, it seemed certain Buchholz would score the tying run. But in a trip around the bases that would make Jason Marquis cringe, Buchholz got thrown out at the plate for a critical second out. Only the clutch hitting of Victor Martinez rescued Francona from his salivating critics and rendered Buchholz’s failed feet a minor footnote.
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