(That’s right, I just quoted “The Carpenters.” Don’t you dare judge me — you’re the one secretly bummed that Seal Klum can’t stick around to sing the anthem tomorrow.)
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I can’t help it. I love the sappy/sweet sentiment, the new beginnings, the pomp and circumstance, the misty watercolor memories, every last cliche about hope springing eternal, Mo sinking the Mariners, Dewey crushing Jack Morris’s inaugural pitch of the season, the mock cheer for Mariano Rivera and his pitch-perfect reaction, the deliciously hammy orchestrations of Dr. Charles Steinberg, the player introductions and awe-inspiring flyovers. All of it. Even Terry Cashman. (“This one goes out to Eddie Jurak . . .)
Sadly, that unpredictable old crab Mother Nature decided to mess with our grand plans today, and so we must wait one more day for our formal introduction to the 2009 Boston Red Sox. After waiting all winter for this, I suppose another 24 hours (or 26 hours and 1 minute, to be accurate) isn’t too much to ask for the first pitch of the new season.
But while we look forward to tomorrow, let’s ponder a few other Sox-related items we’re looking forward to in 2009.
Jon Lester, staff ace: There’s some debate over what the Sox should expect from the 25-year-old lefthander this season. The consensus, with which I generally agree, is that Lester will be among the premier pitchers in the American League this season, a legitimate Cy Young candidate. While there has to be some concern about the possible lingering effects of huge leap in innings last season (from 63 to 237, including the postseason), you have to trust that the progressive Red Sox management will find a way to get Lester rest at every opportunity during the season. In the end, he’ll throw 200 high-quality innings, and once again we’ll be grateful this admirable amalgam of Chuck Finley and Bruce Hurst is signed with the Sox for the next five years at a minimum.
Mark Teixeira’s first trip to Fenway: Mazz thinks A-Rod is going to be wearing a bigger bull’s-eye than the Yankees’ new first baseman, but I hope that’s not the case. A-Rod’s an easier target, but Teixeira, who reveals himself to be more of a duplicitous hypocrite than previously thought with each new interview, is a more deserving one. Sox fans don’t appreciate being played for fools. If there’s any justice, he will get booed so loudly he has to stuff a few of his wadded-up $100s in his ears. The Yankees’ first visit to Fenway is April 24. Mark your calendar and hone your insults.
Dustin Pedroia, reigning MVP: American League Rookie of the Year in 2007 . . . AL MVP in 2008 . . . what can he possibly have in store for an encore? Curiously, it seems like most of the major projections have him falling off slightly in most offensive categories — the Bill James Handbook has him at .315 with 15 homers and 78 RBIs. I tend to think he’ll hit with slightly more pop this season — particularly if he gets wind that the numbers-crunchers are expecting some regression. Once again, Pedroia will use any slight — real or perceived — as fuel toward becoming the best possible baseball player he can be. I won’t go so far as to predict another MVP award — last season, a lot of things fell his way, including Carlos Quentin’s injury — but he will again rank among the elite, and it will be an absolute joy to watch him day after day.
Jason Varitek and the catching situation: Hey, look — Jarrod Saltalamacchia has a home run today. I’m convinced. Can the Sox trade for him by tomorrow? (All right, I’ll give the Tek Redemption a fair chance. He did have a good spring, and he’s in sick shape. Maybe .240 with 15 homers isn’t out of the realm of possibility. Again: Hope springs eternal. Even in soon-to-be-37-year-old catchers.)
The usual stuff we talked about all freakin’ spring: Mike Lowell’s hip, Big Papi’s wrist, Josh Beckett’s shoulder, J.D. Drew’s various maladies . . . you know the questions. While the spring gave us cause for optimism in most cases — particularly Beckett’s — we’ll finally start getting some answers beginning today. Provided, of course, that it doesn’t rain.
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As for today’s Completely Random Basketball Card:
Hard to expect him to make the Hall of Fame in this year’s epic class, but I refuse to make the pilgrimage to Springfield until DJ (and Bernard King) have their rightful place.