Not everyone who roots for the Boston Red Sox is a New England Patriots fan, but I would venture to guess a lot of them are. That means when the NFL regular season got started last night, it was time to relive some memories many who share those allegiances had actively avoided for the last six months or so.
You couldn’t avoid them last night, as he Philadelphia Eagles began their title defense with plenty of highlights and mentions of their win over the Patriots in last year’s Super Bowl to be endured. Once the actual game started, the Eagles won, setting a positive note to their first season as defending Super Bowl champions.
Not all that long ago, the Red Sox took the field to defend a title that took a number of years to come to fruition. Exactly 86 years, actually. Following a magical end to 2004, the 2005 season started the Red Sox’s first title defense since 1919. Since then, the Sox have entered two more seasons as the champs. Even though one football game has a much greater deal of influence than a single baseball contest, let’s take a look back at how the Sox’s 2005, 2008 and 2014 seasons started, because the 2004, 2007 and 2013 ones ended so beautifully.
This was the ticket to have on Sunday April 3, 2005. Not only was it the Red Sox’s first game since Keith Foulke fielded a grounder from Edgar Renteria and tossed it to Doug Mientkiewicz at first for the final out of the Red Sox’s 2004 title, it was the first game of the entire season and it was against the New York Yankees. That is the same New York Yankees the Red Sox had defeated 4-3 in the previous year’s American League Championship Series after falling behind 3-0. It had never been done before and hasn’t been since. You should already know that, but I’ll never tiring of writing/saying it.
A brilliantly sunny afternoon in Boston was filled with enough pomp and circumstance to last a lifetime, with a giant 2004 banner coming down over the Green Monster. The actual baseball game itself was less perfect. The Red Sox got out to a 1-0 lead off of Yankees starter Randy Johnson, who was traded to New York from Arizona that January, on an RBI single from Jay Payton, but mustered very little offense from there. Meanwhile, the Yankees pounded out four runs on 10 hits off Opening Day starter David Wells (a phrase that hurts to write) before the fifth inning was over and went on to win 9-2.
The Sox would lose two of three in the series to New York, but go on to win 95 games and make the playoffs, where they were quickly swept out by the eventual World Series champion Chicago White Sox, who broke a title drought of their own.
Once again, the Red Sox were gifted with the first game of the entire season for MLB after winning it all in 2007. They played two games in Tokyo against the Oakland A’s a handful of days before the rest of the league got its start. Daisuke Matsuzaka started the game in his native Japan and after allowing two runs in the first, settle down to finish with a respectably effective five innings.
Manny Ramirez hit a two-run double in the top of the sixth and then scored on an RBI single from Brandon Moss, but the two biggest hits of the game occurred in the ninth and 10th innings. Moss and Ramirez had both of those knocks as well, with Moss hitting a game-tying home run in the top of the ninth and Ramirez following with a two-run double in the top of the 10th. Jonathan Papelbon didn’t have the cleanest bottom of the 10th but despite giving up a run, shut the door for the save in a 6-5 decision.
The 2008 Red Sox came much closer to repeating as World Series champions than the 2005 version. Finishing with a 95-67 record, they earned the American League Wild Card and knocked off the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in the ALDS before falling in seven games to the Tampa Bay Rays in the ALCS. The Rays would go on to lose to the Philadelphia Phillies in the World Series.
After capturing magic in a bottle in 2013, everything fell apart in 2014. Boston won only 71 games and came in last place. The season started on a down note as well, with the Sox losing a 2-1 pitcher’s duel to the Baltimore Orioles. Jon Lester threw seven innings of two-run ball after starring in the 2013 postseason and Grady Sizemore, who hadn’t played in the majors since 2011, hit a home run to account for Boston’s only run.
Obviously we don’t know when the Sox will have a chance to play an Opening Day game as defending champions again, but with how this year’s team has played, it could very well be 2019.
J.D. Martinez still has a shot at the Triple Crown. A really good shot actually. (Andrew Simon; MLB.com)
Brandon Phillips performed some magic on Wednesday and he could again in the postseason. (Alex Speier; Boston Globe)
Here’s an update on the Red Sox’s quest to wrap up a postseason spot. (Christopher Smith; MassLive)
Defense could be what holds some contenders back. (Mark Simon; The Athletic) ($$)