The original Oktoberfest in 1810 celebrated the marriage of Crown Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen and featured a big horse race. This year, baseball's Oktoberfest celebrates the eight teams that were skilled enough to keep playing deep into October and, if they're lucky, finish the year with a trophy, a platter of sausages, and an imperial pint of Hofbräu. Next up, the Boston Red Sox, as penned by Kris Liakos.
The 2009 Boston Red Sox were a Duncan Yo-Yo of a baseball team. At times during the early part of the season they were thought of as nearly a consensus pick as best team in baseball, yet later in the year found themselves in real danger of missing the playoffs. All this before pulling away to an extent that they could back into the postseason while losing 6 straight. They went into the season dealing with a "surplus of arms" that had them dealing packages of young pitchers in nearly every trade rumor. With the various self immolations of Daisuke Matsuzaka, Brad Penny, John Smoltz and at times Josh Beckett (who at other times was the leading Cy Young Candidate) the team relied on second half emergency starts from Junichi Tazawa and Paul Freakin' Byrd.
All of this played out on the field in one of the streakiest teams I can ever remember watching. A full week would go buy where Boston couldn't buy a win, only to be followed by a 7 day span where they looked unbeatable. There was quite a bit of roster upheaval in early July with Theo Epstein quietly putting together one of the best front office summers in baseball. Our friend Brian MacPherson claims it was the GMs best year in Boston, including 2004. With a glaring hole at short and an aging lineup that could sometimes disappear, they nabbed Alex Gonzalez and Victor Martinez to deal with those respective needs. The cost to the team? Justin Masterson and Chris Carter. Gonzalez interjected the closet thing the Sox have had to consistency at SS since well, Alex Gonzalez, and Victor Martinez has been a revelation to Sox fans that didn't see enough of him with Cleveland.
But this team goes into the playoffs with the same feast or famine M.O. that has been theirs all year. If you weren't aware before this week that "momentum means nothing for the playoffs" the chorus of self-assurance from columnists, fans and even Theo here would have more than made up for it. Of course, it's true. That Silverman column gives concrete examples of teams that turned it around once the playoffs started, but people are talking so much about it, they doth protest too much. The thought of this team just going lights out, ice cold in the first round is too real. Even with Beckett and Lester.
If current momentum means nothing, than momentum from past postseasons means even less. You're going to hear a lot about the Angels having a mental block against the Red Sox in the divisional playoffs. It's all hooey. A ballclub is different each season, and the Angels are too well coached (brainwashed, conditioned, etc.) to buy into any hooey concerning the Sox. Expect nothing less than another high drama first round series with some testiness and some great starting pitching.
If Boston gets beyond that, expect nothing. You'll just have to wait and see which Red Sox show up for the ALCS.