The 2004 Boston Red Sox miraculous post-season run culminated with an 86-year-old, curse-breaking World Series victory. Due to the nature of the situation, many people tend to forget just how great their roster actually was. Pedro Martinez, David Ortiz, Manny Ramirez and Curt Schilling were just a few of the key players in the Red Sox arsenal that season. However, two of the most overlooked members of the ’04 team are Terry Francona, the current manager of the Cleveland Indians, and Theo Epstein, the current President of Baseball Operations for the Chicago Cubs.
Francona played a key roll in the Red Sox 2004 success. One of the most important and memorable plays of the post-season occured when Dave Roberts, current manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers, pinch ran and stole second base during Game 4 of the NLCS against the Yankees. Tito had to manage a roster full of ridiculous personalities, such as the aforementioned Manny Ramirez, who was stellar at being himself. Tito’s role in bringing that team back from the brink of defeat against the Yankees to the pinnacle of baseball after sweeping the Cardinals is one of the most impressive managerial feats of all time.
Theo Epstein was instrumental in cultivating the roster, which led to the end of the “Curse of the Bambino.” It was Epstein who brought in guys such as Kevin Millar and Curt Schilling, as well as leading the talks to trade Red Sox legend Nomar Garciaparra mid-season. At just 30 years old, Epstein was younger than some of the guys he was making deals for. His incredible deals gave the Red Sox the tools that they needed to win the World Series that season.
The fingerprints of the 2004 Red Sox are all over this year’s postseason. Tito is looking to bring a World Series back to Cleveland — something that hasn’t been done since 1948. Cleveland is a city starving for success, and with the Cavs winning the NBA Championship, Cleveland fans learned that it’s alright to trust in their teams again. You would be hard-pressed to find a better manager in baseball right now. Tito has two championships on his resume, and the only other manager with that many is Bruce Bochy, who has three. Francona is the right man for the job, and has put his team in place to be champions at the end of the year.
Theo Epstein must love to challenge himself. He left the Red Sox after winning two World Series, only to go to a team with even less World Series success, the Chicago Cubs. It has been almost 100 years since the Cubs have won a World Series, a period during which they’d experienced multiple curses and heartbreaks. The Curse of the Billy Goat in 1945, the Black Cat in 1969 and the infamous Bartman play have become polarizing moments in Cubs history. After multiple years of mediocrity to begin his run, Epstein has helped turn the “Lovable Losers” into serious contenders. He brought Kris Bryant up through the farm system, traded for Anthony Rizzo, a guy he drafted to the Red Sox in 2007, and signed Jon Lester, who won two World Series with the Red Sox. Epstein has put the Cubs in the perfect position to win it all.
The post-season has been a rollercoaster ride, with no clear-cut winner separating themselves from the field yet. The Indians would appear to be the favorite to win it right now, but the Cubs aren’t far behind. It would be fun to see two Boston heroes in Tito and Theo go head to head for the World Series. Both would be attempting to quench the thirst of cities that are desperate for a World Series, and those two men know what it takes to take a team there. The only way they won’t face each other is if Dave Roberts steals another one.