Millar and Manny: so many stories
Have a personal memory -- funny, poignant, sad, or glad -- to share about the 2004 World Series champion Red Sox? It could win you a free autographed copy of Miracle at Fenway, a book filled with reflections from players, front office personnel, and fans about that glorious year and those leading up to it.
Just include your story in the comments portion at the bottom of this entry, along with your name and contact information, and you'll be in the running. I'll announce my favorite tale here on Aug. 16. The winner will get a copy of Miracle at Fenway mailed anywhere in the country, inscribed however he or she wishes. (If, for some reason, you can't post a comment, please email it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Come up with the winner, and I'll even send a book to the Yankees fan of your choice -- provided I don't have to pledge my allegiance to The Evil Empire.
Here is a book excerpt to get the ball rolling featuring thoughts from Kevin Millar on his and the team's big August turnaround, which came after the three-team trade deadline stunner from GM Theo Epstein in which disgruntled shortstop Nomar Garciaparra was sent to the Cubs and Gold Glovers Orlando Cabrera (who also played short) and Doug Mientkiewicz (a first baseman) came to Boston:
Millar calls Cabrera the key. (Sports Illustrated)
"Sometimes you need a spark," Kevin Millar explains of the trades that saved the 2004 season. "We were just kind of there, just kind of spinning our wheels. It's the same for any sport -- any team. When you're in that kind of funk, you need something to get ahead. You saw that with Mike Trout and the Angels [in 2012] and Yasiel Puig and the Dodgers [in 2013]. That year, with us, it was Orlando Cabrera.
"Theo stood up there and made a bold move and you know what? If it didn't work out, he could have been blackballed for life. That was what made Theo so good; he had the ability to make decisions, and he believed at that point that it was time to move Nomar -- and Orlando Cabrera was an absolutely wonderful asset to this unit that we were trying to put together, and so were Doug Mientkiewicz and [fellow deadline pickup] Dave Roberts."
It wasn't just the newcomers, however. For much of the year the only consistent hitters on the team had been leadoff man Johnny Damon and sluggers Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz. Now it seemed like everybody else was getting hot at once.
Catcher Jason Varitek, at a time in the season when most receivers are beginning to wear down, hit an incredible .444 in August with nine doubles, five homers, 20 RBI, and an OPS of 1.339. Third baseman Bill Mueller, who had struggled through knee problems to a .257 average just one year after capturing the AL batting title, opted for July surgery and returned with a vengeance -- hitting .380 in August with numerous clutch hits. Cabrera, the man brought to town for his glove, was contributing a steady stream of doubles to the cause as well.
Varitek got hot at the right time.
Then there was Millar, the clubhouse character who in the past two years had helped as much as anyone to create an atmosphere where winning, friendship, and fun could all coexist. He had proven to be an overachiever at the plate with 25 homers and nearly 100 RBI in 2003 before falling back to earth for much of this campaign, and was scuffling along at .269 with very little production when a single impulsive move turned it all around.
"We were in Seattle for a game, watching the Mariners take batting practice," Millar recalls. "Their catcher Miguel Olivo [a .235 hitter] is just raking it, blasting bomb after bomb. He has an open stance, and I've never hit open in my life. So I came back to Fenway for the next series and figure I'm going to hit open like Miguel Olivo. I go deep with three hits, no joke, and then the Yankees come to town and I hit four home runs in a three-game series. It was all because of Miguel Olivo -- no hitting coach or nothing else."
Millar pauses and laughs, putting his story into perspective. "In this game, that's what drives me crazy. People don't adjust. When things aren't going right, you've just got to try something crazy, you know? I hit that way the rest of the year, and it absolutely turned my career around."
The hot streak, which raised Millar's average above .300 by mid-August, was indicative of the transformation overcoming the 2004 Red Sox. Free from the tension that hung over the clubhouse during the long months of the Nomar Watch, Boston players were enjoying themselves again.
Now it's your turn! Share your 2004 Red Sox story in the comments section below and win a chance to relive that year through the pages of Miracle at Fenway.