The long New England nightmare is over, the Red Sox are in the playoffs for the first time in four seasons. There will be no high school graduating classes that will be forced to say that they didnít bear witness to a Sox playoff series during their secondary school tenure. Itís time to rejoice, and time to let yourself go a little.
Thatís what weíre going to do here. There are still regular season games to be played and a yet-unnamed gauntlet of American League teams to navigate on the way to their ultimate goal, but for now letís throw caution to the wind and let speculation take us, and the Red Sox, straight to the World Series. Why, you might ask? Well, because, the way the NL is shaping up, each potential Fall Classic matchup would have special significance for Boston No random Colorado Rockies or San Diego Padres in this bunch. Each of the five possible opponents would provide plenty of fodder for any series preview.
Hereís what I mean:
1) Los Angeles Dodgers Should the Red Sox win this bi-coastal series they should probably award Magic Johnson (and the rest of L.A.ís new ownership group) a championship ring and playoff share for allowing them the clear the books of the likes of Josh Beckett, Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford last season. The players the Sox got back in return (Allen Webster, Rubby de la Rosa for two) havenít made much of an impact yet, but with those big contracts gone, Boston was able to sign Dustin Pedroia to an extension, re-sign David Ortiz, sign Koji Uehara, Mike Napoli, Shane Victorino (above right), and Jonny Gomes as free agents and trade for Jake Peavy.
Also, letís not forget the Yankees connection, as the Dodgers are managed by Donnie Baseball himself, career Yankee and Steinbrenner antagonist, Don Mattingly.
And for those who want to dig deep, thereís even an ancient history element to this potential series: These two franchises faced off for the 1916 title, with the Bill Carriganís boys taking down Wilbert Robinsonís Brooklyn Robins 4-games-to-1. Whatís interesting is that although Fenway Park existed and was the regular home of the Sox, all of the Boston World Series games that year were played at Braves Field.
2) Atlanta Braves Thatís a perfect segue to Bostonís other team, the Braves, who look set to clinch the NL East at any moment. Although the Bravos the Sox never met in the World Series, the two teams kept the World Series championship in Boston all but two seasons from 1912 through 1918. A charter member of the NL, the Braves were originally the Boston Red Stockings before undergoing a transformation to the Beaneaters, Doves, Rustlers, Braves, Bees and then finally Braves again. They abandoned Boston in 1953 for Milwaukee and left there for Atlanta in 1966. Handlebar moustaches and barbershop quartets will surely be out in force if these old Olde Towne neighbors square off.
3) Pittsburgh Pirates Itís back to the beginning should the Sox and Bucs make it to baseballís finals. You see, the very first modern World Series between the upstart American League and the much more established National League featured the Boston Americans against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Bostonís games were played at the old Huntington Avenue Baseball Grounds and the starteróand loserófor Boston in the inaugural game was none other than Cy Young (right). Heíd redeem himself with two victories later in the series, but it was Bill Dineen who pitched four complete games, going 3-1 including allowing no runs and just four hits in the eighth and clinching game of the best-of-nine set.
4) St. Louis Cardinals The NLís most frequent World Series champion has been a regular October opponent for the Red Sox. The two storied franchises have met three times (1946, 1967, 2004) with St. Louis taking the first two by holding Ted Williams to five singles in 25 at bats in the seven-game Ď46 Classic and making the 1967 teamís dream really impossible by taking the decision in another seven game set. All was forgotten and forgiven in 2004 when the Sox vanquished the Cards in four straight, thus putting the Curse of the Babe to rest forever. This year Boston has a chance to even the score.
5) Cincinnati Reds These two teams played what is considered by many the greatest World Series in history, another seven-game classic that provided perhaps the most iconic moment in Red Sox history: Carlton Fisk waving his high fly ball down the left field line fair and over the Green Monster for a walkoff series-extending home run in Game 6. You can be sure to see Fisk everywhere should these teams square off again.
An interesting sidebar to a Cincinnati-Boston meeting would be the presence of one of the key members of the 2004 Red Sox, Bronson Arroyo, who has gone 13-11 with a 3.56 ERA for the Reds this season.
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He has also authored or made contributions to many books, including the Sports Illustrateds 100 Fenway: A Fascinating First Century.
Now living in Marblehead, hes focusing his attention on the Boston sports scene, specifically delving into the numbers affecting the Red Sox, Patriots, Celtics and Bruins, with the goal of informing and entertaining real fans. You can follow him on Twitter at @SabinoSports.