I guess Clay Buchholz isn’t winning that Cy Young.
Not that it was assumed reality of course, unless you were privy to the Zip a Dee Doo Dah nature of some Red Sox fans, many of whom are starting to realize that the best thing to be said about the rookie’s performance this spring (five innings, seven earned runs, three homers) is that it will cost no more than $10 to catch him in Pawtucket.
If spring training is a time of year to work out imperfections, then the Red Sox had better get moving. Believe it or not, they will be in Fort Myers just a little more than a week, and open the season a fortnight from tomorrow against the Oakland A’s in Tokyo. Then, they return for more games stateside that don’t really count, before opening the season again in Oakland. But that’s far too confusing to get into right now.
Only nine exhibition games remain in Florida before the Red Sox move operations to the Far East, where they will play two more exhibitions against Japanese teams and the Mr. Baseballs (Unrelated side note: Japan alum Lou Merloni was a major pleasant surprise in his WEEI debut last Thursday) of the world before opening the 2008 regular season against the A’s.
Billy Beane’s latest edition of Triple-A All-Stars will likely kick off the ’08 campaign with Joe Blanton and Rich Harden toeing the hill.
The Red Sox? I dunno. Bartolo Colon?
The foolhardy decision for the Red Sox to open the season in Japan has resulted in some controversy already for sure, since there is still a possibility that Daisuke Matsuzaka -- the marquee attraction for this trip in the first place -- might not be available to show up since his wife is due to give birth -- in America -- in a matter of days. Now, Josh Beckett’s status is in question, after the ace suffered back spasms during warmup tosses on Saturday.
Anyone else need to back out? Hey, Manny, how’s the oblique feeling?
That’s not to say that some players aren’t going to soak up the experience of going to Japan, but this trip has really sort of snuck up on us, even though we’ve spent the past month or so warning how early the season starts this year. Two weeks from tomorrow, we’ll be enjoying Breakfast at Tokyo, waffles, coffee and Red Bull with Don and Jerry. Don’t miss the pregame at 5 a.m. After all, if you had to pick one way for the Major League Baseball season to start, I'd guess only a handful wouldn’t say at the crack of dawn on a Tuesday. America’s pastime. Catch it.
Granted, if there’s one thing we’ll never learn no matter how much baseball we watch, it’s that’s it’s almost always too early to panic about a team’s imperfections. That includes certain tool sheds who declare a team’s run at the World Series a dead end two months in advance. It certainly includes anything that happens within the increasing humidity of the Sunshine State.
Still, they don’t seem ready, do they? They’re not likely to have their ace, as Beckett is expected to be left behind rather than endure a 16-hour flight. Matsuzaka’s availability is likely, yet isn’t definite. We have to imagine though that Larry Lucchino took an offseason course on inducing labor just to fulfill his vision.
Terry Francona has made it clear that Coco Crisp is still the incumbent center fielder, this despite Crisp’s ability to do ... well, anything. That might be a step up from what future Hall of Famer Jacoby Ellsbury has shown. He is hitting just .190 this spring. Julio Lugo and J.D. Drew have looked like the Julio Lugo and JD Drew of 2007. Jon Lester has pitched to the tune of an 11.25 ERA, albeit over just four innings. Matsuzaka, for his part, looked to be in prime midseason form yesterday, throwing 72 pitches over just three innings. Just in case you forgot how maddening it was at times to watch him work, there’s your springtime reminder.
Boston is just 3-7 on the exhibition season, which means about as much in the long run as the potentially glowing review that was in advance of “Quarterlife.” Anyone really care that Ramirez, Mike Lowell, and David Ortiz have one home run between them? Is it really a concern whether Jonathan Papelbon is getting as many good reviews for his lackluster pitching (4.50 ERA) as his personal crusade to save the underpaid stars of Major League Baseball? So the rotation is about as firm as your average Massachusetts backyard, following Saturday’s deluge. Opening Day is still ... oh right, two weeks.
The annual panic (ohmigod, like Wade Boggs hasn’t hit one double all spring) or overzealousness (Billy Jo Robidoux has seven homers this March, discuss his MVP status) that used to be the Red Sox in Florida has been replaced by a calm disregard for bad news. That’s not a particularly bad thing (back spasms don’t mean, “Done for the season,” for instance), except in the case that a pair of World Series rings might have seemingly dulled the rabidity of a fan base continuing its metamorphosis into Bandwagon Nation.
There’s no doubt it’s been a pretty cruddy spring thus far for the Red Sox. Ten years ago, we’d all be panicking about this. Spring training or not. These days, most Sox fans tend to only panic when the brie is running low.
Concerns? There are plenty in Fort Myers, where just a few weeks ago it was assumed the Sox could do anything short of walking on water. Perhaps there were too many assumptions heading in, like the fact that Ellsbury was certain for Rookie of the Year, Buchholz was going to take the league by storm, and Matsuzaka was going to have "second season" success in the AL. All that might still happen, but we'll find out in six months. Not now. We can't assume anything in this game. Even Ramirez's annual 40-120 might be a thing of the past.
Nor will we assume that this short spring training means bad news for the Red Sox. Still, Japan looms ever closer, and so does Opening Day. Kind of.