FIVE FAVORITE PLAYERS:
Ortiz's second season in Boston proved that his 2003 season was not a fluke. Ortiz was a first-time All Star, won the Silver Slugger as he finished second in the league in home runs, RBIs, and slugging percentage. Ortiz hit .301/.380/.603 with 41 home runs and 139 RBIs as he finished fourth in the MVP vote. The best was yet to come in the postseason.
2004 was one of the Boston catcher's best seasons. He achieved career highs in hits, stolen bases, batting average, and on-base percentage. Varitek hit .296/.390/.482 with 18 home runs and 73 RBIs. He also stole 10 bases on the season. He was also a calming presence behind the plate and had a memorable scuffle with Alex Rodriguez in July.
After being put on irrevocable waivers the previous winter and subject to trade rumors, Ramirez returned to have quite possibly his greatest season with the Red Sox. Ramirez lead the league in home runs with 43 and slugging percentage and OPS. He hit .308/.397/.613 with 43 home runs and 130 RBIs. He was also an All Star, won the Silver Slugger, and finished third in the MVP vote. He was the World Series MVP as well.
The great right-hander was slightly more human in 2004 and particularly had difficulties with the Yankees. It was his final season in Boston, but he still finished the season 16-9 with a 3.90 ERA and 227 strikeouts in 217 innings. He was fourth in the Cy Young vote.
After suffering a concussion in the ALDS in 2003 from running into Damian Jackson, Damon returned with long hair and a full beard. He had a terrific all-around season in 2004 hitting .304/.380/.477 with 20 home runs, 94 RBIs, and 19 stolen bases. He also had an impressive performance in the playoffs, hitting two home runs with six RBIs in Game 7 of the ALCS.
It was not a successful season for Lowe, despite winning 14 games. He had an ERA of 5.42 and lost 12 games. However, he won the deciding games in all three playoff series. It was his final season in Boston as well, but he had a memorable stint with the team.
The original Dirt Dog was injured for a large chunk of 2004 and only made it into 48 games in the regular season, but when he did return he hit .315/.377/.510 with six home runs and 23 RBIs. He also hit particularly well in the World Series.
Millar followed up his successful 2003 season with another good season in 2004. He hit .297/.383/.474 with 18 home runs and 74 RBIs. He lost a little playing time after the acquisition of Doug Mientkiewicz.
The third-baseman also had a solid season in 2004. It was not quite as impressive as his 2003 season, but Mueller still hit .283/.365/.446 with 12 home runs and 57 RBIs.
Schilling had been in the Red Sox system before. He was drafted by the team and was traded to the Orioles in 1989. He returned in a blockbuster trade around Thanksgiving and immediately paid dividends. He lead the league with 21 wins and finished second in the Cy Young race. He was 21-4 with a 3.26 ERA and 203 strikeouts and of course was one of the biggest heroes in the postseason after he had an experimental surgical procedure on his ankle.
The major thing Boston lacked in 2003 was a shutdown closer. They got that with Foulke in 2004. Foulke saved 32 games with a 2.17 ERA and was lights out in the postseason.
FAVORITE MIDSEASON ACQUISITIONS
Acquired in the four-team trade which sent Nomar Garciaparra to the Cubs and also brought Doug Mientkiewicz to the Red Sox, Cabrera had some big shoes to fill. But he performed well, hitting .294/.320/.465 with six home runs and 31 RBIs and played terrific defense.
Roberts's acquisition flew under the radar a little bit but he proved to be an exceptionally valuable player off the bench. He only stole five bases in the regular season but he stole a base against Mariano Rivera in Game 4 of the ALCS that was the turning point in the series.
Filling in for injuries to Bill Mueller, Kevin Youkilis made his Major League debut in 2004. He displayed his impressive ability to get on base but only hit .260/.367/.413 with six home runs and 35 RBIs. He was on the postseason roster but only played in one game.
Nomar was hurt by his inclusion in trade rumors and the inability to reach a contract agreement. He was also hurt physically. He played well when he was active, hitting .321/.367/.500 with five home runs and 21 RBIs, but he was clearly angry and definitely hurt. Boston decided it could not rely on him that season and did not see it as likely that he would re-sign and traded him to the Cubs.
There were a number of heroes in 2004. Curt Schilling, Alan Embree, Keith Foulke, Johnny Damon, Mark Bellhorn, Manny Ramirez, Trot Nixon, Derek Lowe, and Jason Varitek all were memorable for one reason or another. But when one looks back at the 2004 postseason, one thinks of David Ortiz who had walkoff hits in three games and hit five home runs.