Eight years ago this fall, the then-Florida Marlins held one of their many fire-sales.
Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell were on the block. The team was desperate to rid itself of the duo, as Lowell was due $18 million over the upcoming two seasons and Beckett was soon to become arbitration eligible.
There were several suitors.
One of the key players in the deal that brought Boston those two heroes of the 2007 postseason and Red Sox world championship was minor-league pitcher Anibal Sanchez.
Sanchez would finally burn the Red Sox, even though it took until Game 1 of the 2013 American League Championship Series for him to do it. Sanchez combined with four other Tigers pitchers to keep the Red Sox hitless until Daniel Nava's bloop single with one out in the bottom of the ninth inning. Sanchez and his fellow feline fireballers would shut out Boston 1-0 in perhaps the best post-season, team-wide pitching performance in the history of Fenway Park.
Sanchez began the game on pace to strike out 36 batters, when he fanned four Red Sox in the first inning. Take that Roger Clemens. Sanchez was just the second pitcher in major-league history to do that in the post-season game, joining legendary Cubs right-hander Orval Overall, who did it Game 5 of the 1908 World Series against Detroit.
The Tigers' 10 arms combined for 17 strikeouts on 164 pitches as the Red Sox were left fuming at Detroit pitching, home-plate umpire Joe West and themselves.
Somewhere, the ghost of Dan Duquette is smiling. Duquette signed Sanchez as an international free-agent back in 2001.
Here's how The Parent Newspaper of This Blog reported the news of that deal eight years ago:
Sanchez, whom one high-ranking Sox executive projected this season as a middle-of-the-rotation pitcher when major league-ready, and the Sox didn't expect that to be until approximately 2007.
The 21-year-old Sanchez, a compact strikeout pitcher, has made only 40 professional starts (15 in short-season Lowell, 14 with Single A Wilmington, and 11 with Double A Portland) but has fanned 259 while walking only 66. He has only 11 starts above Single A, and went 3-5 with a 3.45 ERA this year in his Double A baptism, though he did whiff 63 and walk only 16 in 57 1/3 innings with the Sea Dogs.
When the Marlins were shopping Beckett and Lowell, they originally coveted another Red Sox prospect, Class A minor-leaguer Jon Lester. The Red Sox wasted Lester's 119-pitch Game 1 effort and now have played their ace while the Tigers still have Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer well-rested and untapped, not to mention home field advantage.
The Sanchez trade also sent shortstop Hanley Ramirez to Florida, along with pitchers Harvey Garcia and Jesus Delgato. It was executed by current Red Sox GM Ben Cherington and current Cubs GM Jed Hoyer, who were together filling in for the-then recently-departed-in-his-gorilla-suit-on-Halloween Theo Epstein. Theo would be gone for 80 days, finding himself and playing rhythm guitar with the band Buffalo Tom.
Theo returned and would eventually re-sign Beckett, twice. He departed just as the Red Sox were headed off the cliff into their Nuclear Winter. Cherington would perform the organ transplant that shipped Beckett and Friends off to Los Angeles. Beckett has been sidelined with surgery for months, but Ramirez is playing in the NLCS. Even if the Dodgers are down 2-0 to St. Louis after also being shut out 1-0 Saturday.
Take away that 2007 championship, and the Lowell/Beckett for Ramirez/Sanchez et. al. deal would be one of the most lopsided disasters in Red Sox history. The Red Sox returned to the ALCS in 2008 only to lose in seven games. Then they went nearly five years before winning another playoff game. Josh Beckett, meanwhile, became Josh Beckett. But even if Sanchez comes back to one-hit the Red Sox again in this series, there's no way that deal will ever be considered a flop because a World Series ring always wins those arguments. Especially in Boston when they come at the rate of two every 95 years.
Sanchez was brilliant Saturday, mixing pitches and slicing up the Red Sox like a pound of ham in the deli. He left after six hit-less innings, striking out a dozen and walking six. He kept the Red Sox off balance and Boston seemingly swung at as many pitches outside the strike zone as it did inside the strike zone.
It was this kind of night in Boston:
Red Sox ball girl just took one IN THE FACE https://t.co/Pn4MqHiZCF— Baron Damm (@barondamm) October 13, 2013
The term "strike zone" was an evolving space all night, stretching as wide as West's expandable Hagar slacks. Sanchez threw 116 pitches, 66 of which were strikes, at least according to West and his crew-mates along the first and third-base lines.
Shane Victorino summed up the frustrations of his Red Sox teammates and Red Sox fans everywhere with a "Are you sh-tting me?" after Jacoby Ellsbury took what was called strike two from Al Alburquerque on a 3-1 count with two out in the seventh. Ellsbury would strike out swinging on the next pitch.
Breaking bad, indeed.
Victorino, Ellsbury, Victorino and Lester, among others, along with the Fenway crowd, rode West all night. The veteran umpire and country singer seemed to feed off the hostility, much like he seems to feed off of everything else. Pedrioa was caught by the Fox cameras in the dugout in mid "mother[expletive]" after was called out on strikes in the eight with Jose Veras pitching.
Then there was the only RBI of the night. That came off the performance-enhancing-drug-enhanced bat of Jhonny Peralta, who was liked to the Biogenesis scandal, served a 50-game suspension in the summer to return in time for the postseason. Maybe the Tigers can have A-Rod throw out the first pitch in Game 3 Tuesday in Detroit in Peralta's honor.
But it would be too easy and extremely unfair and disingenuous to simply lay this loss off on bad umpiring and bad ex-Red Sox karma. Sanchez and his feline pals dominated, frustrated and embarrassed the Red Sox on their own field Saturday.
He was indeed the best beard in Boston.
Even if he once almost called it home.
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