Take it From Kevin Millar, It’s Not Too Late for Your Favorite MLB Team
A member of the 2004 Red Sox team that came back from an 0-3 series deficit against the Yankees, Millar knows about the art of the comeback
Trailing the New York Yankees three games to none in the 2004 American League Championship Series after getting sent packing the previous year in the infamous Aaron Boone game, the Boston Red Sox were able to score a run in the bottom of the ninth inning of Game 4 and then won the game in the bottom of the 12th when David Ortiz hit a two-run walk-off home run to right field.
Series extended, the Sox were again able to force extra innings by tying things up at four runs apiece in Game 5 and once again won in extras when Ortiz singled to center on the 10th pitch of his at-bat to bring home Johnny Damon in the bottom of the 14th. That brought on Game 6, which began with Curt Schilling taking the mound wearing a bloody sock and, unbeknownst to anyone outside of the dugout at the time, Red Sox players taking shots of Jack Daniel’s from Gatorade cups, a practice that continued throughout the playoff as the Sox vanquished the Yankees and went on to win the World Series for the first time since 1918.
Kevin Millar, who drew a lead-off walk in the 9th inning of Game 4 of the ’04 ALCS to help get the Sox comeback in the series started, was the source of the Jack Daniel’s story. As part of a partnership with Twisted Tea, 50-year-old Millar is once again promoting drinking within the friendly confines of Fenway Park and is encouraging fans to sip on the booze brand’s new Sweet Cherry Lime flavor when the Sox do their daily playing of Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” at the ballpark.
“You’re going to end up singing ‘Sweet Caroline’ when you’re drinking it,” he says. “There’s no doubt we would have had these Twisted Teas if they were available at the time. We had to go ahead and start getting a little swing lube. That got us by. When you’re down three games to none, something’s got to happen. And that happened.”
Whether it’s Twisted Tea, Jack Daniel’s or something else entirely, the 2022 Red Sox could certainly use some swing lube as they are nine games below .500 on the season (10-19) and hitting under .230 as a team, putting the club toward the bottom of the American League. Currently in last place in the AL East behind the Yankees, Toronto Blue Jays, Tampa Bay Rays and even the Baltimore Orioles, Boston is trending in the wrong direction after a run to the ALCS in 2021 and Red Sox Nation is worried. Millar, who has experience with snatching victory from the jaws of defeat, assures there’s no cause for panic.
“It’s so early and we play so many games. That’s what’s awesome about our sport. There are your ups and your downs and your struggles and your pluses,” he says. “At the end of the year, you look back and it’s an average. The Red Sox are not going to go 9-14 in May and the Yankees aren’t going to go 17-6. I promise you that.”
Per Millar, Memorial Day is too early to determine if a ballclub is a contender or pretender. Even late June is too early. In fact, he believes nothing is truly set in stone on the diamond until the trade deadline passes in July. (This year it has been pushed back until early August due to the season being delayed because of the lockout.)
“August is when you start looking because you have to get through July,” he says. “I’m speaking from experience. Even in ’04, we were like a .500 club late. We forget how the Atlanta Braves, who were the World Series champions last season, started last year. It was terrible. Even in August, they were struggling. And then you go off on a 21-7-type run and get back in the mix. It’s looking like the sky is falling in Boston and we forget there are 135 games left. April’s funky. April showers bring May flowers. Let’s see if they can turn into a flower in May.”
For talented teams who’ve gotten off to slow starts like the Red Sox, Braves and White Sox, a lack of at-bats in spring training could be an issue. Another potential problem that can be solved during the season? Injuries.
“The White Sox have gotten off to a slow start. They’ve had the injury bug. Lance Lynn hasn’t started a game this year because of knee surgery. Eloy Jimenez has been on IL,” Millar says. “The Red Sox have a guy like [pitcher] Chris Sale sitting out. When he comes back, that could be a shot in the arm. It’s like a trade. You kind of hold your ground until you have a full squad.”
And once that squad is fully healthy, they all have to be on the same page — and possibly passing Gatorade cups in the dugout — to turn things around if they are headed south.
“You need a good group of guys. At some point, you get together, you go have a steak dinner on the road or you go to somebody’s room on the road for a player’s only meeting no one knows about,” Millar says. “You talk about the struggles and you talk about the positives, but you need dudes to step up. That comes with a lot of intangibles and guys starting to say, ‘Hey, let’s go out and try to win the series. We don’t have to go win 10 in a row. Let’s go take two out of three or three out of four. That’s how you start piecing it together.”
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