'Idiots Revisited' comes at just the right time
Book offers insight, perspective on most amazing season in Red Sox history
Ask any baseball player who has just been part of a significant event -- whether it's a personal milestone or an important win for the team - about what it all means and his answer will almost always be the same. He'll say that he hasn't really had time to think about it, that it hasn't sunk in, that he probably won't fully appreciate the magnitude of what just happened until much later.
That's because only time can add perspective to memories -- not to mention that, after a decent interval, a certain now-it-can-be-told sensibility sets in. The statute of limitations runs out on stories that might once have been deemed better left inside the clubhouse.
Longtime MLB.com Red Sox beat writer Ian Browne has deftly tapped into that reality with "Idiots Revisited: Catching Up with the Red Sox Who Won the 2004 World Series." It is both an in-depth remembrance of the team that broke the franchise's 86-year championship drought and a behind-the-scenes look at one of the most charismatic clubs in recent memory.
Consider: Everybody knows that the Red Sox acquired Dave Roberts at the Trade Deadline to give them some speed off the bench. And that he came through with one of the biggest stolen bases in history during Game 4 of the American League Championship Series against the Yankees. That put him in scoring position for Bill Mueller to single against Mariano Rivera, driving him home with the tying run in the ninth inning. That in turn made the greatest comeback in postseason history possible. Down three games to none, the Red Sox became the first team in baseball to ever overcome that deficit in the playoffs.
There's so much more to the story than that, though, and it's all here. How, when the deal was made, most of the front office was focused on the trade that would send franchise icon Nomar Garciaparra to the Cubs. How one of general manager Theo Epstein's lieutenants, Zack Scott, actually laid the groundwork for the Roberts deal. How Roberts wouldn't have been available at all if the Dodgers hadn't traded for Steve Finley earlier in the day.
And there's more. In a September game against the Yankees, Roberts was on first base with Rivera on the mound. He carefully noted how Rivera held the ball to keep him close and used that to his advantage a few weeks later. Or how about this: In the AL Division Series against the Angels, Roberts was sent into the game as a pinch-runner but didn't steal and was forced out at second on a grounder.
"After that game, I was so frustrated in myself -- that I had an opportunity to run and I didn't run. So I told myself, 'If I ever get that chance going forward, I'm not going to miss it,'" he told Browne.
Browne covers all the bases. With a decade to reflect, for example, several players are now willing to admit that no matter what they said at the time, they didn't really think they had a chance to come back to beat the Yankees.
Right-hander Derek Lowe, who sternly denied at the time that he was letting concerns about his impending free agency impact his performance, freely concedes that it did just that. Lowe ended up being a postseason pitching hero even though he threatened to leave the team when informed that he wouldn't be in the postseason rotation.
There are insights into how much of a team effort it was to keep volatile superstar Manny Ramirez in line, what adding Curt Schilling to the roster meant to Pedro Martinez, why closer Keith Foulke's impending divorce was a motivation in October, Schilling's impact even before the famous Bloody Sock game -- and how he injured the ankle in the first place -- and why Johnny Damon showed up at Spring Training that season with the long hair and beard that became his trademark.
Some of those Red Sox players, notably David Ortiz, went on to experience further highlights in their careers. Inevitably, though, most never came close to those heights again, and they can look back on that magical season and better understand what it meant to them.
Ten years later, this is a book whose timing is perfect.