I still don't believe it's really true. Truth is, I'm still adjusting to the Red Sox having won a championship. If the Cubs win next year, my fragile brain will not be able to handle it. I'm going to have to relocate to rural England and blog Liverpool football.
Congratulations to Kenny Williams, to Scott Reifert, to Jerry Reinsdorf. Forget everything bad I ever said about you, Jerry. Congratulations to Paul Konerko and Jermaine Dye and Scott Podsednik and Tadahito Iguchi. Congrats to Carl Everett, reluctantly. Congratulations to the real playoff MVPs, the unflappable Sox rotation of Contreras, Buehrle, Garland, and Garcia. Congratulations to remarkable glove men Joe Crede, Aaron Rowand, and Juan Uribe. Congrats to role players Willie Harris, Geoff Blum, Timo Perez, and Chris Widger. Congrats to the bullpen: Bobby Jenks, Damaso Marte, Dustin Hermanson, Cliff Politte, Luis Vizcaino, and Neal Cotts (who my friends in Chicago Andra and Hannah think is very cute). Let's not forget the ageless Orlando Hernandez, now. Or the guys who contributed during the regular season but couldn't be fit on the playoff roster: Ross Gload, Brandon McCarthy, Joe Borchard, Jon Adkins. Special mention to Frank Thomas, who takes the Drew Bledsoe role of the superstar who watches from the bench as his team finally breaks through. (And I'd like to send a special shoutout to Shingo Takatsu, released at midseason but whom I've always really just liked.)
Congratulations to Ozzie Guillen. Rob Neyer might not like all the bunting, but how did the run that won the World Series score? Willie Harris got a pinch hit. Podsednik bunted him to second (on a tough pitch to bunt). Carl Everett hit behind the runner, moving Harris to third. Everett got him over, and Jermaine Dye got him in. Let's not get carried away crediting Chicago's "smart ball" prowess -- the White Sox hit 18 home runs in the postseason to their opponents' 9. But the fact is that the team found ways to win every kind of game there was (as they did in their interleague series against Colorado this year). Since Wednesday, September 28th Chicago is 16-1, including 11-1 in the playoffs. They might much resemble them, but the only other team to finish that strong is the 1999 Yankees.
Hey, here's some trivia for you. Boston (1918) and Chicago AL (1917) are off the schneid as far as championships are concerned. Everybody and their mother (hi, Mom) knows the Cubs lead the world as far as World Series droughts go. Among teams who have won at least once before, who's now second, third, and fourth? The answer to the last one is kind of surprising, I think. I'll get to it in a bit.
So what about the Astros? Obviously, they were the inferior team in this year's Series. Their "offense" during the last two games was so ugly that it kind of ruined the drama involved in four pretty close games. If not for injuries to the snakebitten Cardinals, this could have been a much more interesting Fall Classic. Of course, St. Louis got the last laugh. Albert Pujols' home run, in a losing cause the most exciting moment of the 2005 postseason, extracted the last great start Roy Oswalt had in him and insured that Houston would have nothing left for the World Series. Will Houston be back in the mix next year? I don't see where their offense is going to come from, and besides Oswalt there's not much chance of their starting pitching being again as dominant. Chicago too will face stiff competition from Cleveland and the always competitive Twins. Anybody want to lay odds the Red Sox and Yankees won't be back? Anaheim has talent aplenty and money to burn. Oakland's rotation will be scalding next year. And there will be teams in both leagues -- Milwaukee? Toronto? the Mets? Texas? Washington? -- that will come out of nowhere.
What do the Rockies have to learn from Chicago? Well, you can build around a star first baseman (check), solid but not ludicrously expensive starters (in progress), a versatile bullpen (ditto), and stout defense (um...we'll get back to you). Having a manager who emphasizes grinding skills is good, but hitting a ton of home runs is better. An offense-friendly home park is not a death sentence any more than a severe pitchers' park guarantees success (hello, San Diego). Nothing but good things can come of trading your second-best RBI guy for a spray-hitting speedster and a middle reliever. Well, that last one might be more of an isolated coincidence than a recipe for success. Et tu, Carlos Lee?
So begins the offseason. I'm still coasting on the wave of playoff excitement now, but in a few days it's going to hit like a bad hangover: no baseball that counts until April. Oh, man. On the other hand, the Rockies' record as of now is 0-0. They're on the same footing as everybody else. As of right now, anything is possible, and this should continue for at least six months and (say) three weeks. As much as I love October baseball, I might love March games even more. October is about how 29 teams aren't quite good enough. Spring training is about 30 teams looking for reasons to believe. I'll see you in Tucson. (Jeromy Burnitz, you need to sign with a Cactus League franchise, because I want to get your John Hancock on my home run ball.)
Hey, and your trivia answer: Cleveland (1948), San Francisco/New York (1954), Pittsburgh (1979). The rest: Philadelphia (80), St. Louis (82), Baltimore (83), Detroit (84), Kansas City (85), New York Mets (86), Los Angeles (88), Oakland (89), Cincinnati (90), Minnesota (91), Toronto (93), Bud Selig (94), Atlanta (95), New York Yankees (00), Arizona (01), Anaheim (02), Florida (03), Boston (04). And your 2005 World Champions are the Chicago White Sox. Yeah, saw that coming.