How times have changed for Red Sox

Tim Brown
Yahoo! Sports

DENVER – After an off century, the Boston Red Sox are making a little more of this one.

Sprung from their past, freed from the dramas and misfortunes that corroded a franchise seemingly born to be the New York Yankees' valet, the Red Sox are world champions for the second time in four Octobers.

Remember when they'd settle for one, the now-I-can-die-in-peace era?

Turns out, you've lived long enough to witness the Red Sox as persistent winners, as budding dynasty, and just as the Yankees have fallen into a period of uncomfortable transition.

On Sunday night, about the time the Red Sox had their group hug at Coors Field, Scott Boras was spreading the news of Alex Rodriguez's opt-out intentions, and Joe Torre was getting around to that honey-do list, and Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada and Andy Pettitte probably weren't sure if they were Yankees or not. The once veteran Yankees pitching staff seems sure to be decorated with the likes of Joba Chamberlain, Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy, introducing growing pains to an organization that traditionally grows only payrolls.

And who's going to play third in the Bronx? Mike Lowell? The Red Sox's World Series MVP?

Not if the Colorado branch of Red Sox Nation has any say. More than an hour after Jonathan Papelbon blew that victory fastball past Seth Smith, fans bunched at the Red Sox dugout and chanted for their free-agent to be, singing, "Re-sign Lowell! Re-sign Lowell!"

They had other advice for Red Sox brass, full-throated, ringing in the mountain air.

"Don't sign A-Rod!" they shouted. "Don't sign A-Rod!"

As the Yankees were preparing to announce Torre's successor and a whole new personality, the Red Sox were kind enough to clear Monday's schedule for them by playing a familiar game at a familiar time of year, then hoisting a familiar trophy.

In a soggy visitors' clubhouse, Mike Timlin's arms grew weary. It is a big trophy. Jason Varitek slipped between reporters and doused his old batterymate.

"I love you, Tek," Timlin bellowed, and Varitek laughed.

"Hold this for me," Timlin said. "Hey, Tek!"

"Yeah," Varitek said, "I haven't been able to hold it yet."

They are part of the core group that changed everything in Boston. The old culture is gone, not replaced by a single championship in a single magical, paranormal fall, but now by two, and in the amount of time it takes to pay off a new car.

They are not cursed by their past; they are blessed by their present, and their future. They have pushed young and old into the top end of the organization, Jon Lester beside Curt Schilling, Josh Beckett beside Tim Wakefield, Dustin Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury beside David Ortiz and Varitek.

The winning formula, ever a moving target, is for the moment theirs. Again.

"The goal all along has been to build an organization that can sustain success," general manager Theo Epstein said. "But, there are no guarantees. When you think you have everything figured out, it puts you on your ass."

The Red Sox, as an organization, as an institution, and as a nation, had lived 80-some years in that very position, put there by so many teams and so many unbearable episodes that the counting became incidental. But, battleships do turn, an inch at a time, and they go pretty good in the open water.

"When I first got here, we had a lot of selfish guys around," Ortiz said. "I didn't think it was going to work that way. It looked like it was going to be impossible to walk into this two times."

Take that, Nomar.

But, on a warm October night, three years and a day after the dress rehearsal in St. Louis, the Red Sox fell into each other's arms again. They celebrated what they had done, the life in their games and the vitality in their organization. If the MVP had not been the 33-year-old Lowell, it might just as easily been the 24-year-old Pedroia. After the final pitch, the 26-year-old Jonathan Papelbon threw his glove so high, the 35-year-old Varitek arrived at the mound almost before it had landed.

The future – Kevin Youkilis, Pedroia, Beckett, Papelbon, Ellsbury, Lester – has barely reached its prime. The past still has some years left.

Five seasons later, Ortiz said, "I'm happy what is going on around here. The front office, the owner, they have done unbelievable. It's the way it's supposed to be. We've got two."

Five minutes after the last pitch, Troy Tulowitzki stood with his bat in his hand, his helmet on his head, in the on-deck circle. It's where his rookie season would end, watching the Red Sox hug and laugh and cry.

Finally, with a heavy sigh, he trudged into the dugout, tossing his batting gloves into the crowd as he did.

The Red Sox have been there, left holding their bats, waiting on a chance that wouldn't come. Now, here they are, in a place of massive payrolls, smart games, grand expectations. They look a little like the Yankees, of course, when one championship necessarily meant another, when they pieced together 26 of these nights before the Red Sox really got going.

Could that be the Red Sox's tomorrow?

"The future can be tremendous," Timlin said. "The young guys that will occupy the team when the veterans leave will be stars."

That would be guys like Papelbon.

"We've got a chance to be here year after year," Papelbon said. "But we're in the toughest division in baseball."

They make it so, as it turned out. The Yankees now live in a Red Sox world, which aligns exactly with the organizational plan, set at the turn of the century. It went something like this, according to Epstein:

"Win multiple World Series."

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