Back in the day, the good folks at Marvel Comics created a title called “What If,” which gave them the opportunity to explore such topics as “What if Spiderman joined the Fantastic Four” and “What if Elektra had lived” and “What if Captain America was a roadie for Foghat.”

An intriguing concept, and one that the good folks at NESN have co-opted to create… drumroll, please… What If, their heavily-advertised special which asks the musical question, “What if Grady Little had removed Pedro Martinez in the 8th inning of game 7 of the 2003 ALCS.” According to the official press release, they’ve tapped into all sorts of baseball simulation technology and soothsayers and a couple voodoo doctors from Mission Hill to create this epic. And since there’s no actual game this evening (another matinee this afternoon at Fenway) and, as far as my TV Guide tells me, nothing with Jessica Alba competing at the 6:00pm timeslot, I’m sure I’ll tune in.

That said, if Grady had pulled the plug on Petey? I dunno. For one thing, there’s a good chance that this site wouldn’t exist. Part of the genesis of “Surviving Grady” was the need to purge the vicious hangover of the 2003 ALCS. As has been documented many a time on these pages, I, like many of you, was essentially comatose in the days following game 7. Physically ill and depressed, as if I’d lost a loved one or come down with scurvy. The Sox had smashed up my heart but good many times in the past, but 2003 was a whole new level of ass kickage. Even worse that 1986, in many ways. This was the Yankees, man. Beating them on that night in their house would have been the single greatest thing since that scene where Cameron Diaz is dancing to MC Hammer in Charlies Angels 2. And probably every bit as arousing to me, truth be told.

But, in my fevered mind, what made 2004 so spectacular was that it came on the heels of this catastrophe. I mean, after the 2003 season ended, if God had come to me, sat me on his knee, handed me one of those multi-colored swirly lolipops (God’s good with the sweets, y’know) and asked me how he could make things better, the only thing — and I mean the only thing, outside of a three way extravaganza with Hazel Mae, Kelly the Ball Girl and Tina Cervasio in a dingy, sweaty Chelsea hotel — would be to see the Yankees go 3-0 on the Sox in next year’s ALCS, then have the Sox come back and win the next four, with the clinching game occurring at Yankee Stadium.

And it happened. And it was glorious.

So in my mind, you can work the figures and slide rules and determine this or that. Looking back, in a sick sort of way, I’m glad Grady didn’t make the move. Because the Hindenberg that was the 2003 ALCS was one of the elements that made 2004 that much sweeter. If 2004 hadn’t happened, I’m sure watching What If would be like watching looped tape of a family pet getting mauled by oxen. But, knowing what I know now, I’m sure my reaction will be something like, “Oh, well. We sure got ’em the following year.”

Now if NESN really wants to mess with my head, how ’bout “What if Dave Roberts was thrown out at second” or “What if Tony Clark’s hit wasn’t a ground rule double” or “What if someone in the Sox front office decided Mike Piazza was a better investment than David Ortiz.” That’s horror, people.

Oh, and on yesterday’s game, props to Beckett for coming up huge when we needed it, with another one hit wonder on the heels of Lester’s. But, again, seven runs over three games against the worst team in baseball? Let’s hope the offense isn’t going into early hibernation.