The Red Sox ended history too, vanquishing the Yankees in '04, and then finally finishing ahead of the Evil Empire in the A.L. East in '07. In '08, with a Bronx regime in transition, an aging ballclub and a pre-industrial crop of rookies, the sagging Yankees fell off the postseason map, off the edge of the globe, even. And with young stars the Sox seemed poised to enjoy the fruits of the end of history as the sole remaining A.L. East superpower.
That didn't last long. The Rays, all of a sudden, have the bomb. The balance of power has shifted. (And just as America owes a trillion to China, the Sox' luxury tax revenues help fund the emergent Rays; our profligacy has aided our enemies.) No one can be elected anything in America without asserting America's perpetual supremacy, and no Sox fan can concede too much to any opponent's acumen. But dominance is never guaranteed, it is not a given. The Sox were beaten, their title defense penetrated by a guerrilla Tampa club.
Tampa may have landed a blow, but the Sox are set up to continue their run of dominance. After 2 world series titles, 4 ALCS appearances, and 5 postseasons in 6 years, the Sox' current rotation has a 24 year old ace in Lester, and two 28 year olds in Beckett and Matsuzaka. A 23 year old Masterson, 26 year old Delcarmen, and a 27 year old Papelbon fill out the staff. On the field, Pedroia is 25, Lowrie 24, Ellsbury 25. Crisp, Youkilis, and Bay are between 28 and 30. This team has a foundation for years to come. They are hypermodernizing, taking the new scientific approach to scouting and development, investing in the raw talent of rookies that is green technology.
But the Rays are even younger. James Shields is their oldest starting pitcher, and he's 26. Garza and Kazmir are 24, Sonnanstine and Edwin Jackson 25. David Price is 23. They are not going anywhere.
The Sox, of course, can win any arms race with their superior financial resources. Their diversified wealth and geographical advantage dwarfs the banana republic that is the orange groves of St. Pete. But the Rays have locked up their talent, and will compete for years. There is a new world order.
It is the Yankees, the Europe of the A.L. east, that will lag behind. Stuck in their old world ways, slow to adapting to the changing demographic reality, shamed over past atrocities (or they should be), they will lose out to the modernizing forces and superior organization of their playoff-contending neighbors.
Of course, it was foolish to think history could end, that some stasis other than complete destruction could be achieved. Victory is always short lived; there are always further battles. I often object to McCain's calls for "victory" in Iraq because war is not a sport, and the game never ends. Winning settles nothing. America won world war 1 and established the conditions that fomented world war 2. To win we all must hang up the spikes and go home. War has no rules, no final buzzer, no bottom of the 9th. Winning is not clearly defined.
But perhaps baseball isn't so different after all. We won in '04, and I distinctly recalling thinking baseball should just stop. The narrative was complete, now I can die in peace. But it doesn't stop. There are always new battles, new struggles. There is victory, but there is never total victory.
Today I watched the movie Babe, about the sheepherding pig. Spoiler: the farmer says 'that'll do, pig, that'll do,' after a job well done. It is reassuring, a job well done. Now it can end. The world is safe, finally, at long last, peace. But the Sox must battle on. '08 was just the prologue, the beginning of this next chapter of the rivalry with the Tampa Bay Rays. An ALCS just won't do. Sadly, though, even a championship won't do. They even made a sequel of Babe.
But of course each victory is an end in itself, and there are moments when time does stop, when victory is now and now is all there is. But losses get stretched out in time, and losing is always a hard blow, no matter the consolations or other joys in which we might now indulge. I, for one, can now actually return to writing my dissertation, which has been patiently waiting. And watch more G-rated animal fable movies.
Or at least I won't have any more excuses for not doing either.
Though I started this blog in midseason, I think I posted enough for this to qualify as my official rookie year. I enjoyed it, and I want to thank you all so much for reading. I'm not sure how much I'll write this off-season; I guess it will depend on how philosophical the Sox' free agent signings are. But don't hesitate to check back in. I hope everyone has a nice offseason, be well, and spring training is just 4 months away.
And as Socrates once said: "I like baseball."