Red Sox follow their leaders
Henry, Epstein, Francona set tone for entire organization
DENVER -- For John Henry, principal owner of the Boston Red Sox, the 2007 World Series championship is validation of the highest order."To our organization," Henry was saying following the completion of four-game sweep of Colorado on Sunday night at Coors Field, "it means 2004 was not a fluke. "We're an all-around organization. We were aggressive and bold -- bold general manager, bold partnership group. To be able to do what these guys have done two times on the brink of elimination, they've showed this is a special group of players -- and a special manager." The 2007 Red Sox, like their band of brothers from '04, were down and seemingly out in the American League Championship Series. Each time, reflecting the spirit and leadership of a core group of athletes and manager Terry Francona, the Sox rebounded fiercely, taking four in a row from the '04 Yankees and three straight from the '07 Indians to save their seasons. Riding the momentum on each occasion into the World Series, they eliminated the National League's best in four straight. Henry was a gracious winner, making sure to commend the Rockies for their remarkable run to the Fall Classic when he was asked if the AL has established clear superiority. "Right now the American League is a little better in general," Henry said. "But I'll tell you what, the Colorado Rockies accomplished something no team has ever done [winning 21-of-22] important games to get to the World Series. "I hope that's not forgotten in this loss." What will be remembered, for certain, is the resilience of the Red Sox -- and how they've erased for all time any suggestion of curses of Bambinos or any other kind. "It may not have been a curse," Henry said, "but there was a monkey on our back; [we were] waiting for the other shoe to drop. Red Sox fans seem to be confident now. When we went into the Anaheim series, confidence was extraordinary. They expected us to win. "Winning raises expectations. I'm sure expectations were somewhat diminished when Cleveland went ahead. Cleveland is a great baseball team, and I'm sure they'll be great next year. To come back against them was an incredible accomplishment." Francona felt the Red Sox moved to another, elite level when they began to win the arms race. "I don't know that [curse] was ever a big deal to us -- maybe a long time ago," he said. "But when our organization started adding pitching, the curse kind of went away.
"I'm supposed to have a lot of things to say, and maybe be a little bit profound. But it's hard to come up with the right words. To go through this from Day One until now with people that you really, really care about, that makes it special."Francona is 8-0 in World Series games, a record he'd love to embellish in seasons to come. He, like all those who were there, carry a special feeling for the 2004 outfit that eradicated all those ghosts of horrors past. "What happened in '04 we'll never forget," Francona said. "So many people we're indebted to, so many good players. But this is '07, and we said that from Day One. We accomplished our goal, and it's not easy to do." Asked if he could identify what makes the Red Sox tick, Henry pointed toward the clubhouse. "What seems to be contagious is the feeling of camaraderie," he said. "You never hear a player say a bad word about another player. These guys seem to have true chemistry." Called a boy wonder when he put together the 2004 champions at age 30, general manager Theo Epstein is four years older and no doubt a little wiser, a two-time champion at 34. "I'm proud of the whole organization," Epstein said, praising the scouting and player development departments for their roles in finding and molding the superior young talents who helped David Ortiz, Manny Ramirez, Josh Beckett, Jason Varitek, Curt Schilling and Co. carry out the latest mission. "We've got a clubhouse full of guys who rise to the occasion. We've started to build a great organization -- development, scouts, players, everything." Francona, his boss suggested, finally might have bought some good will with the Red Sox Nation's hardcore critics with his latest triumph. "Managers very seldom get the benefit of the doubt," Henry said. "Fans don't realize why they make the decisions they make. "I think Terry will start to be even more highly regarded now in Red Sox Nation."
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.