It's rarely my intent to accentuate the negative when it comes to sports. But I admit that too often I fall into the trap of writing about what's wrong rather than what's right, even when things are going well for our local teams.
The temptation is to blame that on the fact that I'm required to listen to WEEI far beyond what is considered a healthy amount. But even my exposure to their sky-is-falling caterwauling is really no excuse. While it's easy to opine on David Ortiz's sad decline or the black hole at shortstop, the reality is that we have it ridiculously good right now.
The Sox are 29-22, have their deepest pitching staff in recent memory, and will very likely improve as the season progresses once general manager Theo Epstein assesses their needs and patches the small number of holes. Roughly a third of the way through the schedule, this is shaping up to be an entertaining and possibly rewarding season. So with that considered, I figured I'd stay in my sanguine mood and scribble down an optimistic thought about every member of the Red Sox.
In a couple of cases, it was not so easy . . .
The starting nine:
Dustin Pedroia: Leading off with an easy one here. Not even a snide jackal like me can say something negative about Pedroia. His knack for concluding just about every at-bat with a line drive and the fans' universal admiration for him reminds me of the early days of Nomar. And yes, that is a good thing.
J.D. Drew: Love him at the top of the order, where his gift for getting on-base is of the most benefit. For all of the easy jokes about his fragility and demeanor, I have to admit I've really come to appreciate his all-around game. Great baserunner, very good outfielder, and he can carry the team when he's on one of his tears.
Kevin Youkilis: Youk is arguably the best hitter in the American League right now, he's become the classic No. 3 hitter, and with his 1B/3B defensive versatility, you'd be hard-pressed to find a more valuable player in the league. Any more questions?
Jason Bay: He's been such a perfect fit and productive slugger since coming over at the trade deadline last July that I hope we get to see him launch rockets in the direction of the Green Monster for, oh, the next five or so years. (Was that too subtle? Yes? Okay, then: SIGN HIM THEO!!!! SIGN HIM YESTERDAY!!!)
Mike Lowell: His comeback has been nothing short of remarkable in terms of performance -- he's at .308 with eight homers -- but his durability (he's played 49 of 51 games) is even more impressive.
David Ortiz: Papi taught Sox fans not to give up even when things look bleak. Here's hoping such faith will be rewarded when it applies to him.
Jason Varitek: He's on pace to hit 32 home runs. He has 10 times as many home runs as Ortiz. Seeing that this sort of bounce-back season is unprecedented by a 37-year-old catcher, I can only shake my head in awe and wonderment.
Jacoby Ellsbury: Golden glove, runs the bases as swiftly as anyone, and can slap line drives to all fields when he's going well. Maybe he's never going to get on base enough to be a superior leadoff man -- it's unusual to master plate discipline in the big leagues -- but he's a valuable player even if never does figure out how to reach base at a .375 clip.
Nick Green: He is what he is . . . and what he is is a capable utility player who has given the Sox more than they could have ever hoped for at the plate. Not a bad guy to have in your organization.
Josh Beckett: In five starts over the last month, he's 3-0 with a 2.38 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, and 28 strikeouts in 34 innings. Yep, still looks like the ace to me.
Jon Lester: Forget the Verducci Effect. Lester's stuff has been at least as good as it was during his breakthrough 2008 season -- his struggles have been a matter of location, luck, and throwing one or two fat pitchers to dangerous hitters in key situations. As he showed in his 12-K effort Sunday, he is capable of dominating whenever he takes the mound. There are many more masterpieces to come this summer.
Daisuke Matsuzaka: Wow . . . um . . . tough one . . . jeez, let's see here . . . nice comment, nice comment . . . 3-2 counts . . . hmmm . . . okay, I think I've got it. If I ever needed someone to pitch a winner-take-all game in the World Baseball Classic, he'd be my guy.
Tim Wakefield: All he did was bail out the rest of the rotation by pitching like an ace when Beckett and Lester weren't living up to their billing. It's a long shot, but there would be something very cool and appropriate about him setting the franchise's all-time win record.
Brad Penny: He's 3-0 with a 4.11 ERA over the last month, which is fine production from a fifth starter. But his most meaningful contribution to the Sox' cause this season is likely to show up the transactions sometime in the middle of the month.
Jonathan Papelbon: Sure, the walks are up, but name three closers you'd rather see striding toward the mound with the game's outcome in the balance. He's very easy to take for granted.
Ramon Ramirez: The revelation of the season. He's actually been better than he was last season, and last season he was downright sensational for Kansas City. And yet I still know more about Robinson Checo than I do about this mystery man.
Hideki Okajima: A 2.45 ERA, a 1.04 WHIP . . . the self-proclaimed "hero in the dark" just keeps doing the job quietly and effectively. His signing before the 2007 season might be the savviest of the Epstein era.
Justin Masterson: The most versatile pitcher the Red Sox have had since the early days of Derek Lowe, he's murder on righties -- how do they ever touch that breaking ball? -- and gives manager Terry Francona tremendous flexibility to utilize the staff as he sees fit, knowing that Masterson can handle just about any role.
Takashi Saito: A brilliant under-the-radar signing in the offseason, the 39-year-old with the career statistics stunningly similar to Papelbon's has been especially outstanding lately, with a 1.00 ERA and a 0.889 WHIP in his last nine outings.
Manny Delcarmen: How do you know when you have ridiculous depth? When this guy is the fifth or sixth man in the bullpen . . . and then you realize he could probably close for, what, five or six National League teams?
Daniel Bard: Don't know about you, but I stop everything to watch him pitch. Is there a higher compliment you can pay a pitcher?
Mark Kotsay: For a while, it was a case of out of sight, out of mind, but the closer he gets to returning from his back and calf injuries, the more you recall what a valuable role player he is, with his ability to play premium defense in the outfield and at first base.
Clay Buchholz: Now this is why you don't sell low on an elite prospect coming off a rough season.
John Smoltz: Come October, we'll be thrilled he's on the Sox' side. Most of us already are.
Rocco Baldelli: Everyone is rooting for the feel-good story, and his home run Saturday was an encouraging sign that he might be able to increase his contributions. Provided he can stop colliding with walls, that is.
Jeff Bailey: He has six homers in 128 major league at-bats, and it never hurts to have someone on the bench who can pop one out of the park every now and then.
George Kottaras: He's like a baby Kevin Cash. (C'mon, that's praise! It is!)
Julio Lugo: All right, I give up. Can't be done. I guess I'm going to stick with being snarky.
About Touching All The Bases
Irreverence and insight from Chad Finn, a Globe/Boston.com sports writer and media columnist. A winner of several national and regional writing awards, he is the founder and sole contributor to the TATB blog, which launched in December 2004. Yes, he realizes how lucky he is.