Even with a 69-73 record, fans in Portland celebrated in 2004. The Dogs’ faithful who cheered for the parent Red Sox ending an 86-year World Series drought knew Portland played a role.
In all, 11 former Sea Dogs suited up for the Red Sox in 2004, led by Kevin Millar, among the most popular Sea Dogs in the first 11 seasons of Eastern League baseball in Portland. Millar delivered for the Red Sox in the second half of the season, hitting .297 with 18 home runs and 54 extra-base hits.
Portland standout Kevin Youkilis quickly became a Boston fan favorite. He posted a .367 on-base percentage in 72 games in Boston and played a key role while regular third baseman Bill Mueller was on the disabled list.
At Hadlock Field, there would be no playoffs on the horizon. Portland lost 12 of its first 16 games and would never reach the .500 mark. Injuries forced a franchise-record 54 players into the lineup.
The end of the season featured the added excitement of top Red Sox prospect Hanley Ramirez. The flashy 20-year-old shortstop showed signs of being a star by hitting .310 in a 32-game August and September audition. He showed power, with five home runs and 14 extra-base hits, speed, with 12 steals, and a defensive stability, with just three errors.
On the mound, 21-year-old Abe Alvarez became the youngest 10-game winner in franchise history, finishing 10-9 with a 3.59 ERA. The lefty also made his major league debut in July. Joe Nelson returned to the big leagues after three injury-filled seasons. He was promoted to Pawtucket in July (and eventually Boston) after finishing a two-month stretch without allowing an earned run.
First baseman Stefan Bailie (.309, eight home runs, 18 doubles, 28 RBI in 37 games) stood out after a July call-up from Single-A Sarasota. Kenny Perez was an All-Star after hitting .280 and leading the Sea Dogs with 31 doubles. Veterans Jeff Bailey and Brett Roneberg, former Sea Dogs while playing in the Marlins’ organization, returned to Portland and enjoyed All-Star seasons.