THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING
Dan Shaughnessy

No shades of doubt, just blinding sunshine

By Dan Shaughnessy
Globe Columnist / February 20, 2011

E-mail this article

Invalid E-mail address
Invalid E-mail address

Sending your article

Your article has been sent.

Text size +

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Been here a week now, and it’s pretty clear that this is the greatest team in the history of baseball.

One hundred wins?

Easy. Why not go for the Mariners’ record of 116, established in 2001?

The 2011 Red Sox are the 1927 Yankees. They are Secretariat in the Belmont. They are the 1985 Bears and the 1995-96 Bulls. They are Nixon over McGovern in 1972.

Sox spring training 2011 has been a fawnfest. Infinite sunshine, on and off the field. I can’t remember fans and media falling in love with a team so unconditionally. Every pitcher is going to win 20, every hitter is going to contend for the Triple Crown. The Rays have been dismissed and the Yankees are nothing but a punch line. Ambassador Gammons spreads the gospel from the book of Tito while NESN gives you three hours of PFP under cloudless skies.

The Patriots must be jealous. You can’t buy coverage like this, and God knows the Krafts have tried. Compared with dispatches from Fort Myers, WBZ’s “All Access’’ looks like “60 Minutes.’’

I have to get out of here before somebody decides to stage a rally for the Red Sox like the one held in Miami after LeBron signed with the Heat. Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez could emerge on a rising stage, cut through smoke and fog, and announce that they are here to win multiple championships, “not one, not two, not three, not four . . .’’

Owners John Henry, Tom Werner, and Larry Lucchino came to camp yesterday, and Werner and Lucchino addressed the team (during Terry Francona’s annual meeting) before the first full-squad workout.

Everybody is fat and happy (well, not really fat — John Henry is still Jacko thin, but you know what I mean). Henry did his job over the winter. Theo Epstein did his job over the winter. Werner mentioned that there are 16 former All-Stars on the roster. So I guess it’s just a matter of throwing the gloves on the field and counting the wins.

Without being asked, Josh Beckett talked about always wanting to be on a 100-win team. We didn’t have the heart to tell him that the last Red Sox team to win 100 was the 1946 Red Sox, who routed the American League when all the boys came back from World War II.

Maybe we need to rein things in a little. Maybe it would be good to remember that the Sox will play half their schedule against the beastly American League East. Maybe we need to remember that injuries happen and that the Sox have an unproven kid behind the plate and a still-shaky shortstop rotation. Let’s not forget the inconvenient truths of Beckett (6-6, 5.78) and Jonathan Papelbon (3.90, eight blown saves) last year.

What about it, Theo? Are people expecting too much from this bunch?

“I think it’s good that the players are feeling good about themselves and good about their teammates,’’ said the GM. “They’re bullish on what we might be able to accomplish, and some guys have articulated that.

“I think it’s important to remember that we truly haven’t done anything yet. We didn’t even finish second last year. We were a third-place club and we just have so much to prove.

“We have to prove that we’re not a third-place club. We have to prove that we can stay healthy and perform in the toughest division in baseball. We have to prove we can come together as a team.

“Baseball is such a humbling game. If you get ahead of yourself even for a minute or two, it kind of knocks you right back down on your backside.’’

What about you, Larry? You’ve been in baseball since 1979.

“I do think that optimism feels great and confidence seems well-placed,’’ said the CEO. “But you’ve got to remember about things like health and the randomness of the game. Good luck and a whole lot of other things can interfere with the greatest expectations we have now.

“I’m not going to address the issue of the number of wins. I just want to be playing in October, however many wins it takes.’’

And you, Mr. Low-Talking Liverpool owner. Are your expectations high?

“Yes, but I think the expectations were very high in 2008,’’ said Henry, who was wearing his 2007 championship ring. “The hard part is translating that into on-field results.

“But this is a great group of guys. Very professional. I think they’ll play up to their potential. It’s so hard to win a World Series, it’s so hard to win 100 games, and we’re happy if we get to 95 any year, every year.’’

“I know everybody has a lot of expectations, but this game is not about expectations, it’s about execution,’’ warned David Ortiz. “There’s a lot of things that a good team needs to work on besides just focusing on the big contract and the good players that we got.

“You got to focus on the day-to-day things and how everybody goes in the field as a group. How the chemistry is working on the team. Because I have seen a lot of teams with a lot of superstars that they don’t go nowhere. And it’s because everybody’s on his own.’’

Thanks, David. But do you think Tito should go with a three-man or four-man rotation in the Fall Classic?

Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at dshaughnessy@globe.com.

Red Sox Video

Follow our Twitter feeds