ST. LOUIS - So what if there was a lunar eclipse.
And so what if Johnny Damon, looking as if he just walked off the set of “The Passion of the Christ,” sent the fourth pitch of the night rocketing through the dark blue sky and out of the park as an omen of things to come.
And so what if they came back from where no other team had ever come back before, against the “Evil Empire” no less, and they scored so often with two outs in an inning against the mighty Cardinals that it seemed as if the word “clutch” was invented for such an occasion.
The Boston Red Sox are just another baseball franchise now, backed by deep-pocketed owners willing to do whatever it takes to win a World Series. They are like the Florida Marlins the first time they won a title, or the New York Yankees — except the Red Sox have won 20 fewer of those.
But at least there’s this much to be said for Boston finally exorcising a century’s worth of demons:
Now, Bill Buckner, Johnny Pesky, Grady Little, Bob Stanley, Bill Lee, Calvin Schiraldi and who knows how many other mostly blameless souls stuck with a bad rap can go back to answering the phone at home without cringing first.
And now, we can go back to talking about teams whose fans really are cursed, namely the Chicago Cubs and White Sox. Unlike fans of the Red Sox, their teams rarely have been close enough during the decades-long droughts to break anybody’s hearts.
For all the things that happened in Boston this season, there was actually very little mystery about it.
Statisticians can explain any championship away in the cold light of probability, and psychologists will tell you the repeated inability to deliver in the clutch is simply a very human failure to deal with pressure and the burden of heightened expectations.
Of course, the longer such droughts continue, the easier it becomes to forget a very basic fact: Success in any endeavor, no matter how often or how little it graces a particular athlete or team, is the exception rather than the norm. Winning is, and always will be, a happy confluence of talent, timing, resources and luck.
And the Red Sox had all those in abundance. Maybe luck most of all.
The one deal that whiz-kid general manager Theo Epstein couldn’t seal, bringing Alex Rodriguez to Boston in the offseason, would have cost the team Manny Ramirez and blown up the roster.
The one deal Epstein did pull off against the advice of all New England, shipping local hero Nomar Garciaparra to the Cubs, shored up the defense and started the Red Sox on a roll that didn’t end until their stunning sweep of the Cardinals, the team with the best regular-season record in baseball.
Surprising? Hardly. Much closer to a miracle, given the economic reality of modern baseball, was when the Marlins won it all on a shoestring budget last year, or when a team like the Tampa Bay Devil Rays or Milwaukee Brewers wins it next year.
That won’t happen, at least not if Epstein has anything to say about it. Moments after the last pitch was thrown and commissioner Bud Selig handed the shiny trophy over to owners John Henry & Co., Epstein stood on a podium in the Red Sox taking a champagne shower.
“To all the Red Sox fans,” he said. “We’ll do it again next year.”
And so they might.
Epstein could be the sharpest GM in the business, and he’s backed by a checkbook every bit as fat as George Steinbrenner’s. Now all he has to do is figure out which of Boston’s 18 free agents he can’t afford to lose, sign them and find replacements for the ones who wind up walking.
It’s the same high-wire act that has caused his Yankees counterpart, Brian Cashman, to tear out his hair over the past 10 years or so. Still just 30, Epstein has plenty to spare.
The funny thing about it, however, is this: For all the railing they’ve done against the pinstriped Death Star just down the Eastern seaboard, the plucky Red Sox suddenly look an awful lot like the Evil Empire North.
What remains to be seen is whether their long-suffering fans will settle for anything less. Enduring heartbreak was the biggest chunk of the legacy passed on from one generation of Red Sox Nation to the next, and that’s been cut out of the equation.
Loving a loser is a lot easier on the nerves than expecting a winner year in and year out. But that’s the deal the devil just made with the Red Sox.
“I think it will be different,” Epstein said. “I don’t think it will be any worse. I think it will still be fun to be a Red Sox fan.”
It certainly was on the greatest night in Boston’s long and tortured baseball history. It ended with the players gathered at home plate in Busch Stadium passing the trophy around and a few thousand fans who made the trip to St. Louis lingering in the stands chanting, “Thank you, Red Sox!”
And if this thought didn’t sink in at the moment, it will soon enough: Hearing those same chants at the end of next season is going to require some serious work.
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