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There’s no relaxation in baseball. After waiting 86 years for a world championship, and finally attaining the Holy Grail, you can’t just rest on your laurels. There was absolutely no temptation to try and repeat with the same winning team. The Red Sox assessed Pedro Martinez as too fragile to commit to for four more years, and they let him leave to the Mets. They signed Matt Clement for three years at $25 million and David Wells for two years at $8.15 million. They let Orlando Cabrera leave as a free agent and signed Edgar Renteria for four years and $40 million to replace him. In a brilliant PR move, the team pledged to bring the 2004 World Championship trophy to each one of the 351 cities and towns in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and also to each of the New England states, as well as dozens of other places across the nation, in the Dominican Republic, and in Canada. When the Commissioner’s Trophy (as it is formally known) arrived in Gosnold (pop. 86) on June 24, 2005, it had reached the smallest town in the state and the 351st stop on the tour. The 2005 Red Sox opened on the road. When they lost both the first and second games of the season, it was the first time since April 9, 2000 that the team was two games below .500. During the home opener on April 11, after they raised the World Series flag and completed the presentation of World Series rings, the Yankees lined up on the third-base line for pregame introductions – and Mariano Rivera drew a huge ovation, in effect thanking him for the blown saves in Games Four and Five of the LCS. He waved his cap, good-naturedly acknowledging the humor of the moment. Tim Wakefield held the Yanks to one run, and Boston won easily, 8-1. Wake won more games than any other Boston pitcher in 2005, 16-12. Wells won 15, Arroyo 14, and Matt Clement won 13 – but the team ERA was a high 4.74. Both Schilling (8-8) and Foulke (5-5) struggled physically. Mike Timlin appeared in exactly half the games – 81 – and recorded an excellent 2.24 earned run average. The 3-4 hitters in the lineup both had immense years: Ortiz homered 47 times and drove in 148 runs, and Manny was right with him at 45 and 144. Tek was third in homers with 22; the team home run total dropped from 222 to 199. The differential in runs scored and runs allowed dropped considerably: from 181 in 2004 to 105 in 2005. Giving the left-field foul pole a name, June 13 ceremonies dedicated the Fisk Pole as a companion to right field’s Pesky Pole. On July 13, over 2,000 people crowded into a Lansdowne Street nightclub to celebrate the release of pitcher Bronson Arroyo’s new CD, Covering the Bases. Arroyo was joined on stage by teammates Johnny Damon, Kevin Youkilis, and Lenny DiNardo, and Standells front-man Dick Dodd to perform the Standells’ classic "Dirty Water." It had been more than four decades since the last Red Sox player held a record release party; that was Tony Conigliaro on January 19, 1965. On July 22, the Sox filed the first part of an application with the National Park Service to have Fenway Park recognized with landmark status on the National Historic Register, offering significant tax advantages as they poured money into renovations of the park and bought up other properties in the neighborhood. The team flirted with first place most of the year, actually held the top spot for all but one day from June 24 to September 20. With a 95-67 record, they had the exact same totals as New York, but there was a tie-breaker provided for in league rules – a look to see who prevailed in the head-to-head matchup during the 19 times two teams in the same division face each other. The Yankees narrowly edged ahead, having taken 10 to Boston’s nine wins. It had taken the Red Sox a last-minute push to get there, just barely beating out Cleveland in the final three games to be able to claim the wild card. For the Red Sox, they had at long last gotten to the point where they’d made the postseason three years in a row. Their postseason didn’t last long. It was the year of the White Sox, who swept the Red Sox in three games, beat the Angels in five in the ALCS, and swept the Astros in the World Series. In the offseason Boston let the Yankees heavily outbid them for outfielder Johnny Damon, and by assuming much of his salary, in effect paid Atlanta to take a very disappointing Renteria off their hands as well. There was one more major contractual negotiation that fall – after protracted negotiations, and being offered a massive raise, GM Theo Epstein resigned his post on Halloween. To escape media scrutiny, he literally dressed in a gorilla costume and walked away from the park. The issues weren’t financial. A leaden press conference followed, with principal owner John Henry clearly emotionally distraught. Matters were ultimately worked out, and Theo apparently was in informal talks about players with interim GMs Ben Cherington and Jed Hoyer, but may not have himself made the big trade of the offseason, sending hot shortstop prospect Hanley Ramirez to the Florida Marlins for pitcher Josh Beckett and an agreement to take the salary of third baseman Mike Lowell off the hands of the Marlins. Lowell, the ”throw-in”, turned out to be one of the more popular Red Sox players of recent times and the World Series MVP in 2007.

By Bill Nowlin
 

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Tagged:
Bronson Arroyo, Curt Schilling, David Ortiz, David Wells, Edgar Renteria, Hanley Ramirez, Johnny Damon, Josh Beckett, Keith Foulke, Kevin Youkilis, Lenny DiNardo, Manny Ramirez, Mariano Rivera, Matt Clement, Mike Lowell, Mike Timlin, Orlando Cabrera, Tim Wakefield

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