They dazzle observers merely by emerging from their clubhouse, one stud at a time.
Manny Ramirez. David Ortiz. Jason Varitek. Josh Beckett. Jonathan Papelbon. Daisuke Matsuzaka.
And so on, and so on.
The Boston Red Sox, simply, are a who’s who of baseball brutes and distinctly dangerous dudes. And, as spring training 2008 winds down here in Florida, the Sox are favoured to repeat as World Series champions.
“It’s been a long time since a ballclub won (the Series) back-to-back,” Ortiz, the enormous designated hitter, offers with a grin that masks his competitive mentality. “It’s what we’re aiming to do, of course, and we’ve been told a few times at camp here this year that we have what’s needed to do it.”
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The source of the motivating information is Mike Timlin, who’d know. He’s been there and done that. He was in the bullpen with the Blue Jays in 1992 and 1993, when they seized consecutive Series titles.
Timlin, for trivia buffs, is the last active major-leaguer from those Toronto teams. He has defied the odds. He has not always been dependable, and he has suffered his share of injuries, including shoulder tendonitis with the BoSox last season, yet the right-hander ranks as one of only 13 MLB pitchers to ever appear in 1,000 games. And, although he turned 42 nine days ago, he was granted a one-year, $3-million US contract by the Sox and is preparing for his 18th season in the bigs.
“Guys look at me like they’re confused,” Timlin concedes. “They’re like, ‘How old are you? I can’t believe you’re still playing.’”
Timlin has been around long enough to know how not to provide bulletin-board material, which is why he doesn’t rave about his team’s potential championship defence this season.
“People will want to beat us more after last year,” acknowledges Timlin, who actually has four World Series rings, including one from Boston’s triumph in 2004.
“There’s a way to prepare for that. In ’93, (ex-Jays manager) Cito Gaston was good at reminding us about how we needed to stay level-headed and focused to repeat. We have to do the same thing this season. We have to pace ourselves and we can’t let up, and then we’ll see what happens at the end of the year. But I do think we have tremendous talent.”
Yep. The BoSox went 86 years without winning a Series. Now, they seem poised to win their third in five years. And Timlin is poised to win his fifth in 18 years.