DENVER -- At the point of attack, baseball is fundamentally and beautifully an individual game. Batter faces pitcher, and somebody wins. But at every moment up to that point of attack, it's a collaborative effort. The Red Sox understand that as well as anyone, and it's part of why they're celebrating a second World Series championship in four seasons. The front office put the club together. The manager put the players in position. And the players play. Everyone in New England can tell you that much and can name people like general manager Theo Epstein, skipper Terry Francona and stars Josh Beckett, David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez.
Quietly, though, all of those people benefit from the work of Todd Claus and Dana Levangie, Boston's advance scouts. The Red Sox have committed to advance scouting, and they've reaped the benefits twice now. "We've had some continuity there with Dana Levangie and now Todd Claus leading the way," Epstein said on Sunday. "We've had some practice, because we've been in the postseason four of the past five years. So I think the system and the process that we've developed is sound. It's the result of a lot of hard work and a lot of great baseball people. But it doesn't mean anything unless you have a manager, a coaching staff, and most importantly, ultimately, players who buy into it." Go back to 2004, when Boston slowed the freight train that had been the St. Louis Cardinals' offense. The Red Sox won that World Series for a lot of reasons, but not least among them was that they scouted the Cards brilliantly and had a perfectly constructed plan for retiring St. Louis' sluggers. In 2007, they did it again, squelching the Rockies' bats and taking advantage of Colorado's pitchers. "As a unit, our team, the players themselves, they want the edge," Levangie said. "Any edge they can catch, they want to take. Whether it be on the bases, exposing arms in the outfield, all those things. So, as a whole, I would say that's our benefit." Levangie and Claus do the scouting. Allard Baird, formerly the general manager of the Kansas City Royals, coordinates their work. The coaching staff and players go over the information. Everyone works together to make the information work. Jonathan Papelbon's pickoff of Matt Holliday in Boston drew attention to the Sox's scouts, but they've been doing it for longer than that. They look for tendencies on the basepaths and on defense, but mostly they look for hitters' and pitchers' tendencies. They want to give the pitchers the best way to go after hitters, and the hitters the best way to go after opposing pitchers.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.