Blast From The Past, Reviewing the 2007 Postseason Contenders, 10 Years Later!
With the 2017 MLB postseason underway, fans across the country can fantasize about champagne-soaked celebrations, parade’s down city streets, and exorcising the ghosts of seasons past.
Sadly for nine teams, this postseason will amount to nothing more than a “what could have been?” conversation at sports bars for decades to come. For many disgruntled fans, the wounds of years past are still too fresh, and the anniversary of the 2007 postseason brings back some especially harrowing memories.
Surprisingly, many of the 2017 postseason contenders also had their chances in 2007, but it remains to be seen if the results will be the same.
If the thought of the 2007 postseason still triggers clenched fists for you, read at your own risk. In this series, we’ll take a trip down memory lane to revisit the contenders in the 2007 playoffs, what got them there, and where they went in years to come.
Next up, the 2007 Boston Red Sox
2007 Red Sox (96-66, 1st in NL East)
The Red Sox 2007 season was shaping up to be a great one, even before the calendar turned to 2007. Signing Japanese phenomenon Daisuke Matsuzaka to a six-year deal in December only solidified a rotation already led by Josh Beckett and Curt Schilling. The $52 million given to Daisuke wasn’t the largest check the Red Sox wrote that winter though, also signing J.D. Drew to a $70 million dollar contract, to fill the right field void left by Trot Nixon’s departure. The Red Sox were also counting on rookie second baseman Dustin Pedroia to make an impact, starting Opening Day at the keystone position.
As the season progressed, it was clear the Red Sox had something special brewing. Their lineup was among the best in baseball, featuring seasoned veterans like David Ortiz, Manny Ramirez, Mike Lowell, and Jason Varitek, to go along with emerging rookies Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury. The bullpen was equally impressive, anchored by young star Jonathan Papelbon’s first All Star appearance, and a 1.85 ERA along with 37 saves. Papelbon joined five of his teammates at the All Star game, where Josh Beckett earned the win. By September, the Red Sox team had proven they had the legs to go the distance, and the good vibes only continued when rookie righty Clay Buchholz pitched a no-hitter in just his second big league start. With the AL’s best record, Boston marched into the playoffs with confidence high.
Manager: Terry Francona (4th with team)
End Result: Won World Series over Rockies in four games
Despite being the Wild Card team, the Rockies entered the 2007 World Series as favorites to many. They’d won 21 of their last 22 games, had an incredible play-in game to win the Wild Card spot, and seemed to be the team of destiny. The Red Sox just fought through a tough seven game series against the Indians, and skeptics wondered how much they had left in the tank. It didn’t take long for the Red Sox to remind the Rockies who baseball’s best team was.
Dustin Pedroia would get the Fenway faithful involved early in Game 1, with a leadoff home run, and Josh Beckett was dominant again. Beckett pitched to a tune of one earned run in seven innings, but never needed the support. Boston scored seven more runs in the fifth inning, teeing off against future Red Sox champion Franklin Morales. After a 13-1 victory, the wily Curt Schilling was competent in Game 2, making way for the bullpen in the 6th inning after allowing one run. RBI knocks from Jason Varitek and Lowell would be all the scoring Boston would need, as their bullpen shut the door, securing the 2-1 win.
The Rockies hoped returning home to Coors Field would give them the boost they needed, but the Red Sox were writing their own story. Boston would get to Rockies starter Josh Fogg for six runs in the third inning, including two RBI from Matsuzaka. Ellsbury and Pedroia showed baseball they were here to stay in the eighth inning, combining for three RBI, and ending the Rockies chances of a Game 3 comeback.
After the 10-5 loss in Game 3, it was now or never for Colorado. Continuing with the 2007 theme, rookie Jon Lester was handed the ball for Boston, and pitched 5.2 scoreless innings. The Rockies would make things interesting in the eighth, getting to Red Sox reliever Hideki Okajima for two runs, cutting the score to 4-3 Boston. Terry Francona would turn to Papelbon for the four-out save, and the fiery closer wouldn’t be denied in his quest to bring another World Series to Boston.
ALCS MVP: RHP Josh Beckett (2-0, 1.93 ERA, 18 K/1 BB)
World Series MVP: 3B Mike Lowell (.400/1/4, 3 2B)
2008 Record: 95- 67 (2nd in AL East)
Following their 2007 World Series win, the Red Sox turned to largely the same roster for 2008. Following his Rookie of the Year win, Dustin Pedroia stepped up even more, taking home the MVP award in 2008. Pedroia would be one of seven Red Sox All Stars, with J.D. Drew being named the game MVP. Jon Lester would take his Game 4 start in the 2007 World Series, and run with it, throwing a no-hitter in his spectacular season. Despite finishing two games behind the Tampa Bay Rays in the AL East, the Red Sox were still viewed as favorites to repeat as World Series champions. After overcoming a 3-1 series deficit in the 2007 ALCS, Boston again found themselves trailing 3-1 to Tampa in 2008. Again they’d rally to force a Game 7, but this time would lose the final game, ending the season in heartbreak. They’d return to the playoff in 2009, only to be swept by the Angels. Their next postseason appearance would come in 2013, when they’d clinch the World Series at home for the first time in 93 years.
Top Draft Pick: Nick Hagadone (55th overall, LHP- University of Washington)
Though Hagadone had more success than many of the top draft picks in this article, his MLB career still left much to be desired. He reached the status of Red Sox 3rd best prospect in 2008, before being traded to the Indians in the Victor Martinez deal. Hagadone made the news in 2012, for the wrong reasons. In a fit of anger, he slammed a clubhouse door, breaking the radius bone in his forearm. This stemmed to a grievance being filed by the Players Association, when Hagadone didn’t receive pay. Over the next few years, Hagadone would appear limitedly for Cleveland, last pitching 27 innings in 2015. With a career 4.72 ERA, Hagadone played this season for Seattle’s Triple-A Tacoma.
It wasn’t too long ago that Will Middlebrooks was viewed as the heir-apparent to Kevin Youkilis. In the minors he combined plus power with a .300 batting average, but only half of those skills would make it to the big leagues. Middlebrooks became too home run happy after hitting 15 in 2012, and his .288 average dropped to .227 in 2013. Following a .191 season in 2014, Boston traded Middlebrooks to San Diego, where his struggles continued. He received a handful of at bats with the Rangers this season, Middlebrooks still seems to be searching for his batting average.
Even though Adrian Gonzalez was everything the Red Sox could have asked for in the 2010 trade, it’s hard not to wonder what Anthony Rizzo would look like in a Red Sox uniform. He’d later be traded again for Andrew Cashner (sure the Padres regret that one), and has since become a superstar with the Cubs. There aren’t many blue-chip prospects who have been traded twice before they reached the majors, but then again Rizzo is special in many ways.
Now a teammate of Rizzo in Chicago, Grimm elected not to sign with the Red Sox. Selected by the Rangers in 2010, he like Rizzo arrived to Wrigley via trade, in the Matt Garza swap. His best season came in 2015, with a 1.99 ERA in 49.2 innings pitched.
Another of these successful draft picks to never actually play for the Red Sox, Strickland has been a key piece of the Giants bullpen since 2014. He was shipped away from the Red Sox in the trade that brought in Adam LaRoche, though LaRoche’s Boston stint would be short-lived.
Yasmani Grandal chose not to sign with the Red Sox in 2007, but would be selected by the Reds three years later. Grandal would make a name for himself in San Diego, when he was traded in a package for Mat Latos. Now with the Dodgers, Grandal can’t be relied on for average, but has become one of baseball’s best power hitting catchers, reaching the All Star game in 2015. With 27 in 2016 and 22 this season, the Dodgers can live with the strikeouts and low average.
Nick Tepesch, like Justin Grimm, would get his start in Texas. Tepesch would sign with the Rangers after opting to attend the University of Missouri following the 2007 draft. Though not particularly effective, he made 39 starts for the Rangers between 2014 and 2014, before missing all of 2015 with injuries. Since then, he’s barely pitched, making a combined nine starts in stints with the Dodgers, Twins, and Blue Jays.
Matsuzaka was the talk of baseball when he signed with the Red Sox before the 2007 season, considered the best prospect in the game. His first two seasons gave fans reason to believe, striking out 201 batters in over 200 innings as a rookie, despite a high 4.40 ERA. Year two was even better, when he went 18-3 with a 2.90 ERA, good for fourth in AL Cy Young voting. After 2008, Daisuke was never the same. Injuries took their toll, and after missing most of 2009, he returned in 2010 with a 4.69 ERA. After failing to live up to expectations in his six years with Boston, he pitched two years for the Mets, with a respectable 3.89 ERA for the Amazin’s in 2014. He’s returned to Japanese baseball since leaving MLB.
It’s tough to admit for Red Sox fans, but Jacoby Ellsbury was a fantastic Red Sox. While playing a premiere center field, Ellsbury was one of the Red Sox best leadoff hitters of all-time, when there from 2007-2013. He made his impact early, hitting .353 when called up mid-2007. He’d steal 50 bases or more three times, including a franchise record 70 stolen bases in 2009. Though an anomaly, Red Sox fans will never forget his surprise 2011 season, when he hit .321/32/105 with 29 stolen bases, finishing 2nd in MVP voting. Ellsbury stunned Red Sox Nation when he jumped ship to the Yankees weeks after winning the 2013 World Series, but the numbers speak for themselves. Now in the Bronx, nagging injury issues have followed Ellsbury from Boston, but he still remains an on-base threat. It may be a long time before Ellsbury can step on the field at Fenway without being greeted to a chorus of boos, but you can’t deny the mark he left in Boston.
Clay Buchholz’s years in Boston will always be somewhat of a mixed bag. With the Phillies now, it’s hard to measure up his time as a Red Sox. Some years, he was one of baseball’s best pitchers, and others, one of the worst. Aside from a no-hitter, the 2010 season was the highlight, when he went 17-7 with a 2.23 ERA. It’s fair to say his inconsistency was a result of health problems, as he never made 20 or more starts in back to back years. While in Boston he had ERA seasons of 2.33, 3.48, 1.74, and 3.26. On the flip side, he also had poor seasons of 6.75, 4.21, 4.56, 5.34, and 4.78. He only made two starts this season with the Phillies, before being shut down once again, so it remains to be seen what the future has in store for Buchholz.
Daniel Bard is a name that will still induce groans from Red Sox fans. He could routinely reach triple-digits on the radar gun, and the duo of he and Papelbon in the back end of the bullpen was a scary sight for opponents. In 2010 he dominated with a 1.93 ERA in 74.2 innings as the set-up man, and seemed to be the closer of the future. Everything changed in 2012, when the Red Sox decided to convert him to a starting pitcher. Bard was never the same, losing all control of his pitches, with a 6.22 ERA. He pitched one inning for the Red Sox in 2013, allowing a run. Since then, he’s still been fighting for an MLB comeback, in the minor leagues with the Cubs twice, Rangers, Pirates, Cardinals, and Mets. Struggling even at the lower levels, it seems unlikely Bard will ever get another shot at major league redemption.
Michael Bowden was a name Red Sox fans were hearing for years. He was always mentioned among the top prospects, seemingly always in the mix for a starting job next season, but time passed and Bowden never arrived. The Red Sox never gave him a chance at the MLB level, making just two starts with the team over five years. When he was traded to the Cubs midseason in 2012, he received his best chance, and succeeded with a 2.95 ERA in 30 games. Unfortunately, he would struggle in 2013, and that was the last we’ve seen of him in the majors. He still pitches in Korea, so a MLB return one day is not out of the question.
- BA: Mike Lowell- .324
- HR’s: David Ortiz- 35
- RBI: Mike Lowell- 120
- SB: Julio Lugo– 33
- W: Josh Beckett- 20
- ERA: Josh Beckett- 3.27
- SO– Daisuke Matsuzaka- 201
- SV– Jonathan Paplebon- 37
Individual Awards: Dustin Pedroia (AL Rookie of the Year), Kevin Youkilis (Gold Glove- 1st base), David Ortiz (Silver Slugger- DH),
Ten years later, baseball may have changed, but it’s not hard to see reminders of years past! Be sure to check out my recap of the 2017 postseason, coming in 2027!