0

Fall not-so-Classic
Red Sox' sweep provides another Series yawner

DENVER - Three World Series sweeps in the past four years, with a five-game bore mixed in.

What happened to drama in October?

Josh Beckett, Manny Ramirez and the relentless Red Sox didn't do baseball any good by crushing Colorado in four games. It was a blowout from the beginning, when Boston took the opener 13-1 at Fenway Park.

And with the games regularly ending after midnight, there wasn't much reason for casual fans to stay up late and watch. That was the trend all postseason - five of the seven series ended in ho-hum sweeps.

Yawn. A trip to the dentist is more exhilarating.

But don't expect an apology from anyone in Boston.

'To go through this from Day 1 until now with people that you really, really care about makes it really special,' Red Sox manager Terry Francona said Sunday night after his team closed out the Rockies with a 4-3 victory at Coors Field.

Still, for many fans, the only real excitement this month came in the AL championship series as the Red Sox rallied from a 3-1 deficit to defeat Cleveland in seven games. Once the World Series got under way, the big boys from the American League easily dispatched their NL counterparts - again.

Starting with Boston's sweep of St. Louis to end an 86-year title drought in 2004, AL teams have dominated three drive-through Series in the past four seasons. The Chicago White Sox swept Houston in 2005, and the Red Sox outscored Colorado 29-10 this year.

The only exception was last season, when the Cardinals beat Detroit in five dreary games.

Not exactly scintillating stuff.

Colorado created some buzz by going on an incredible surge down the stretch. The young Rockies, picked by most to be an also-ran in the NL West, won 21 of 22 games to take the pennant for the first time in their 15-year history.

But then they had to wait around for eight days before the World Series started. When it did, they were rusty. The Rockies got blown away by Beckett's 97 mph fastballs as homegrown ace Jeff Francis struggled to find his command in Game 1.

'The layoff hurt us. There's no doubt about it,' Todd Helton said.

Colorado did put up a mild fight, losing a pair of one-run games. But the Rockies hit only .218 in the Series, squandering one scoring chance after another.

On the mound, they finished with an unsightly 7.68 ERA. The Red Sox batted .333, the second-highest average in Series history behind the 1960 New York Yankees - who lost to Pittsburgh.

Yet the Rockies earned Boston's respect.

'We beat a very good team. I hope nobody forgets that, because they gave us a battle to the end,' Francona said. 'I know when you look at 4-0 it may get lost. It won't on us. They're classy people and a classy organization.'

After decades of famous failures, the Red Sox have become a model organization themselves. They've reached the playoffs four times in the past five years, and there could be more championships to come.

This team is loaded with young talent: Jonathan Papelbon, Dustin Pedroia, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Jacoby Ellsbury, Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz.

'When our organization started adding pitching, the curse kind of went away,' Francona said.

Only eight players from the 2004 club were still around for this edition. So it's no wonder the Red Sox celebrated with such gusto Sunday night, as if they'd never won it all before.

'A lot of guys weren't here for that,' said Lester, the cancer survivor who pitched 52/3 shutout innings to earn the Game 4 win. 'This is exciting.'

Boston has a few important decisions to make this offseason: pitcher Curt Schilling and World Series MVP Mike Lowell can become free agents, along with several lesser players. But much of the team's core returns, including David Ortiz, Jason Varitek and Kevin Youkilis.

'I learned a lot from these guys this year and in the postseason,' Ellsbury said. 'This has been a great experience.'

The Red Sox have a knack for building dynasties at the start of a century. They won five titles from 1903-18, so perhaps they're in the middle of another big run.

'I mean it when I say that there's not a bad guy in this clubhouse,' Lester said. 'Hopefully, we'll be doing this a lot more, getting to the playoffs and having a lot of fun.'

Maybe their next postseason series will even be a thriller.