When Jed Lowrie grounded out to end Game Seven of the American League Championship Series late last night, I found myself to be in remarkably good spirits. I actually managed a smile as I watched the Rays celebrate in a large pile on Tropicana Field, despite the fact that it would be Tampa Bay, and not my guys, who would be moving on to face the Phillies in the Fall Classic.
Maybe I am still too buoyed by the Red Sox's victory in 2007 to be upset about the way this year ended. After all, wouldn't it be a tad ridiculous to complain not even a year after winning our last title?
Maybe it's that the Rays are just the kind of team I would want to see succeed (that is, after the Red Sox, of course). Who wouldn't want the World Series go to a small-budget enterprise built by talent, effective management on the field and in the front office, and interesting risk-taking (the signing of Boston native Carlos Pena and the trade of top prospect Delmon Young for Game Seven ace Matt Garza come to mind).
Or maybe it's just that the cathartic effect of the 2004 championship has allowed me the perspective to enjoy baseball for what it is, a game, and let things go when they don't turn out exactly as I would like.
Whatever the reason, instead of mourning the end of Boston's playoff run, last night I found myself simply thinking back on all of the moments I enjoyed during the season. In essence, I was saying thank you, and goodbye, to the 2008 Red Sox.
I thought back to getting up so very early (5:30 AM, if memory serves) to watch the opening game between the Sox and the Athletics played in Japan. I was rewarded by seeing Brandon Moss' game-tying blast in the ninth inning, and Manny's game-winning double in the 10th (interestingly, neither of those two first-game heroes are with the Sox now).
I remembered relishing the home opener against Detroit, which featured the distribution of World Series rings to the 2007 championship team, and an emotional first pitch by Bill Buckner. Six innings of shutout pitching from Daisuke Matsuzaka in that game were a harbinger of his great 2008 performance.
I recalled listening to a Boston game on the radio (during the ride home after seeing the Paw Sox play) in which I heard Jason Bay's 12th-inning triple clang off of the Green Monster in his first game in a Red Sox uniform. That two-out hit led to a victory when Jed Lowrie drove Bay home with a single.
Finally, I reflected on two great playoff series, punctuated by a historic come-from-behind victory in Game Five of the ALCS that invoked all of the best feelings from 2004 and 2007.
Mostly, I thought back to many joyful moments I spent watching games and talking about baseball with the people who I am lucky to spend my life with. I can only hope that I have much more of the same in the future.
In the end, the Rays were just a bit better than the Red Sox. We saw that in the regular season, and we saw it again this past week. So I wish Tampa Bay good luck (especially New England boys Pena and Rocco Baldelli), and I look forward to the promise of another great season in 2009.
Thanks for a memorable 2008, Red Sox.
See you next spring!
P.S. I'd love to hear about any of your Red Sox memories from this season in the comments section. It would be interesting to see different perspectives on the best moments of 2008.