When the Red Sox take on the Angels tonight, they will begin a road that many other teams have failed to follow. The road to a repeat World Series title.
People have different opinions about why it is so hard to do. Some believe that a team does not have the same drive or desire in the title defense year that it had the year before. The team's metaphorical cup has been filled.
The other line of thought is that the team is under so much pressure to repeat that it collapses. But this shouldn't be the case with this Red Sox group. In 2005, the Sox looked a lot like the 2004 club. The only major differences were in their starting rotation. This year, although the team looked almost identical to the 2007 team, that all changed when they traded Manny to the Dodgers and acquired Jason Bay. The Sox took on a new identity. The team is not Manny and Papi's Red Sox anymore, but is known for a lot of reasons.
The postseason itself will be different this time as well. The most obvious change is the fact that the Yankees will not be involved, and the Tampa Bay Rays will be. This team has a lot of heart and energy and they will be a tough challenger for anyone they face.
The Rays will square off with the White Sox, who won the American League Central Division Tiebreaker last night. The White Sox are a different team than the won that won it all in 2005, but they are still a great challenge for any opponent.
The Angels, who the Red Sox will face will not be at the disadvantage that they were at last year. They are fully healthy and their addition of Mark Tiexiera has made their offense much more dangerous.
As for the National League, the fight will be just as strong there. There are the Cubs who haven't won a World Series in 100 years. The Dodgers who have been on fire ever since Manny arrived. The Phillies may have a third straight MVP candidate. Finally the Brewers, who have not made the playoffs since 1982, have all the confidence in the world with CC Sabathia and Ryan Braun to lead their charge. Any of these fine teams could wind up in the 2008 World Series.
The road will be a long one, but if the Red Sox can overcome the injuries to Mike Lowell, J.D. Drew and Josh Beckett, they will be in a position to try and win a second straight World Series. The battle starts tonight against the LA Angels.