Watching the 2004 postseason on NESN last week was tremendous fun, reliving moments where I could not only recollect where I was, but probably also who I was with and what I was wearing too. As the games went along, there were several discussion points that I came across in the 16 years of hindsight.
Which is the most underrated home run? ALCS Game 6, Mark Bellhorn off Jon Lieber or World Series Game 1 Mark Bellhorn off Julian Tavarez.
The ALCS home run gave the Sox a 4-1 lead, on the way to a 4-2 win in game 6, while the World Series homer broke a 9-9 tie in the 8th against the Cardinals. Even though the Cardinals homer was more clutch, any one thing that happened in the Yankees series is more important.
Mark Bellhorn has been completely lost to history apparently. (Did you know that the Sports Illustrated cover that came out during the series featured Bellhorn leaping over a takeout slide at second? The most forgotten man of the 2004 Red Sox was the cover boy, can you believe it?)
Who would you rather have kept: Orlando Cabrera or Bronson Arroyo?
The Sox let Cabrera walk after 2004 and then set out on a 10-year odyssey at shortstop that included cameos by Edgar Renteria, Alex Gonzalez (liked him too) Julio Lugo, Marco Scutaro, Mike Aviles and Jose Iglesias before we ultimately settled in with the franchise’s biggest star, Xander Bogaerts. Cabrera would go on to play for 7 teams over the next 7 years, but he was a guy who would’ve thrived in Boston. OC was a leader from the moment he was cast into the difficult situation of replacing Nomar Garciaparra and maybe could have kept Manny sane during his crack up in 2008.
Bronson Arroyo was never a star in his years in the National League but he didn’t deserve to be traded for Willy Mo Pena either. Arroyo was dealt before 2006 and all he did for the next 10 years was start over 30 games a season and become the most durable starter in baseball. With an ERA usually between 3.50 and 4.50, Arroyo took the ball every 5th day for a decade. How great that would have been in seasons like 2011 where relievers like Alfredo Aceves were starting on short rest due to the Sox’ battered arms. The kid Curt Schilling dubbed “Saturn Nuts” in 2004 could’ve been a part of atleast 2 more World Series teams in Boston, but you know, Willy Mo Pena can hit the ball really far……….. sometimes!
Was Johnny Damon ever really interesting?
Damon grew his hair long and sported a beard for the 2004 season and immediately Damon went from good solid leadoff hitter to this cult hero in Boston. He was seen as colorful, brash and was certainly one of the faces of the 2004 Red Sox but looking back I can’t help but wonder why?
Sure he was a fine ballplayer but he wasn’t very charismatic, he wasn’t a great quote (aside from saying “I guess we’re just a bunch of idiots”) and he didn’t do anything that outlandish except not cut his hair or his face. He was interviewed post-game on a few of the replays and I was struck by just how monotone and subdued he was. This wasn’t the Damon I remembered.
In fact, in one of the post-game interviews after winning the series in St. Louis, Damon was the first guy Fox grabbed out of the pile to talk to. After 30 seconds of Damon saying how great it was to win, Kevin Millar “interrupted” and stole the spotlight. Right in that moment you could see the future, Damon would never make it as a television personality and Millar would become the face of MLB Network.
Damon was maybe the first player in the modern era to grow a full beard, but I think that should essentially be his legacy, because besides that he just wasn’t that colorful of a character as he seemed in 2004.
BY STERLING PINGREE