Column: The idiots are back
Published: Monday, September 16, 2013
Updated: Monday, September 16, 2013 22:09
In 2004, a group of unkempt, loud and flat-out weird, old-fashioned baseball players pulled off the most incredible feat in baseball history.
The Boston Red Sox, better known in 2004 as “the Idiots,” became the first baseball team ever to overcome a 3-0 deficit in a best-of-seven series, beating the New York Yankees in the American League Championship Series.
After beating their biggest rival for the American League pennant, the Sox went on to sweep the St. Louis Cardinals to win the World Series for the first time in 86 years.
“The Idiots” were a strange bunch. With their shaggy hair, untidy beards and baggy uniforms, they looked like a bunch of bums, a bunch of bums who didn’t give a rat’s behind about the “Curse of the Bambino.” They were baseball players playing baseball. That’s all. It just so happens that the team having the most fun went on to win the sport’s ultimate prize.
I’ll never forget that group, no Red Sox fan ever will. We will tell our kids and our grandkids why we are the only fans in baseball who call a stolen base one of the most important plays in our team’s history, why Kevin Millar is one of the all-time greatest players in our team’s history and why we think a bloody sock is sacred.
On Oct. 3, 2012, eight years removed from that special season, the Red Sox season came to an end with Boston on the wrong end of a 14-2 scoreline and a sweep at Yankee Stadium. The Red Sox only won 69 games and finished in last place while New York won the American League East once again.
That night, my roommate Matt, a Yankees fan, went to sleep satisfied. My other roommate, Kenny, stayed up with me, and we stayed up and consoled ourselves by watching “Four Days In October,” an ESPN documentary about the 2004 comeback against the Yankees.
When it was over, I wiped a joyful tear away and said, “Man, I really miss ‘the Idiots.’”
Almost one year later, the Red Sox are the best team in baseball. Better yet, “the Idiots” are back and better than ever.
It only took three hours and 37 minutes to convince me that the 2013 Red Sox could be special. Boston dominated the Yankees in an 8-2 win on Opening Day in the Bronx. Maybe it was a one-time thing, but I thought there was something about this team that seemed different.
Turns out, I was right.
With every special moment throughout the season, it has become more and more obvious how similar the 2013 Red Sox are to their 2004 predecessors.
The most obvious resemblance is in the fact that they really do look like a bunch of idiots, and it’s because of the beards. Mike Carp, Mike Napoli, Jonny Gomes and even Dustin Pedroia are the leaders of a group of shaggy animals who look like they belong in a cave inventing fire. The trend has heated up, so much so that the Red Sox are actually offering $1 tickets to fans that show up at Gate E with a beard – real or fake – on Wednesday.
But like the 2004 version of “the Idiots,” everyone on the team has a role to play, whether you are hitting clutch home runs for a team that has walked off more times than Dave Chappelle could possibly imagine or inspiring an entire fanbase with your infinite supply of energy and unbelievable ability to dominate opposing batters.
It’s hard to find a more popular man in New England right now than Koji Uehara. At 38, he is the most energetic player on the team, much to the dismay of his teammates, who are on the receiving end of the most powerful high-fives that have ever been given.
Uehara has every right to be having fun right now, and it’s not just because his team has a 9.5-game lead in the loaded AL East with 11 games left in the season. In 67.2 innings pitched during 67 games this season, Uehara is 4-0 with a 1.06 ERA, 19 saves and 94 strikeouts. He hasn’t allowed a run in 29.1 innings, an earned run since June 30, and he has retired the last 34 batters he has faced.
It seems ironic that in Mariano Rivera’s final season, the greatest closer in baseball history is only the second-best closer in the game, trailing well behind the closer of his team’s biggest rival.
The latest chapter of the 2013 season was written over the weekend, as the Red Sox swept the Yankees at Fenway Park. Boston had not swept New York since June 2011, and they did it without letting Rivera take the mound. The Red Sox outscored the Yankees, who they beat 13 out of 19 times this year, 22-7 and put a huge dent in the morale of a team that now needs a miracle if it wants to make the playoffs again.
Barring an even more improbable collapse than 2011, the Red Sox will be in the playoffs come October. They are 11-3 in September – 19-6 in their last 25 games – and seemingly unstoppable. There will be obstacles, but Boston looks like the team to beat in the AL pennant race.
I don’t remember enjoying a Red Sox team as much as this one, not even the world champions of 2004 or 2007. This is a special team. This is a special group of idiots.
Good times have never felt so good, so good, so good.
Follow Tim on Twitter @Tim_Fontenault