On account of the 2019 Red Sox being five games under .500 and five games out of first place before they even set cleat on the Fenway lawn, I’m going to do you a favor.
I’m going to spare you the annual knockoff Giamattian Opening Day odes to renewal and beginning anew and all of that sappy sentimental stuff that is so often irresistible this time of year, especially during those springs that commence with a celebration of an unforgettable autumn.
Yes, this is the time of year when baseball fans chatter about fresh starts. But for these Red Sox, so dominating just a few flips of the calendar ago, the new season’s narrative has already taken a weird turn.
Just 11 games into the season, the 2019 Red Sox need a fresh start from their fresh start.
The Red Sox, at last, will make their Fenway debut Tuesday after beginning the season with a humbling 11-game road trip that took them from Seattle to Oakland to Arizona. They won three games and lost eight. They did not lose their eighth game last season until May 1, when they already had 21 wins.
Hey, but at least they arrive home on a season-high-tying one-game winning streak. Gotta start somewhere.
All sarcasm aside, it will surely be a lovely day in sentiment if not sunshine (rain is in the forecast). The festivities will begin with a celebration of last year’s extraordinary edition, which won 119 games from March through a championship-winning October, a season so lacking in turbulence that the greatest suspense along the way was wondering whether there would be any suspense at all.
As it turned out, there was not much. The Red Sox never lost more than three games in a row last year — as you may have heard, they’ve already trumped that with four straight defeats this season — and suffered only three losses in the postseason against three superb opponents in the Yankees, Astros, and Dodgers. There were a few bumps — they actually trailed the Yankees by two games as late as June 21 – but any worries were forgotten along the way to their fourth championship this century.
Seeing last year’s team on the field Tuesday will be a shield against the early frustrations with this year’s team, which is fairly amusing considering 20-something players are back this year. Fans who might be tempted to boo this year’s slow starters will probably feel their hearts grow three sizes as the now-familiar celebration — banner unfurling on the Green Monster, the handshake line as they collect their rings, Patriots players lugging around their newest trophy, reminder after reminder that these are the good old days — plays out again in perfect orchestration. Yeah, it’s familiar, but if it ever gets old, go root for the Orioles for a while until you appreciate it again.
Even with that 3-8 record, I’ll bet you the welcome is going to be a warm one no matter the weather. The boo-birds and cynics generally don’t run with an Opening Day crowd anyway, which is made up of the see-and-be-seen types in the pricey seats and boxes, with the rest of the seats filled by faithful fans who appreciate being there.
Besides, the success of the Red Sox since it all changed in 2004 has added a welcome new characteristic to the fan base: common sense. The start to the season has been strange and disconcerting, but it also accounts for less than 7 percent of the schedule.
Even if it’s jarring to see them so quickly burn off that wiggle room between where we expect them to be this year (division champions, for starters) and where they were last year (a runaway train), no one should have been expecting 108 wins again.
Some concerns are legitimate (sorry, Chris Sale should be getting swings and misses on his fastball) and some less so (Sandy Leon was not indispensable). I do not think Alex Cora made a mistake in allowing the team to bask in what it achieved last October rather than giving them a that-was-then-this-is-now routine. We know this core of players is serious about its work and should be given the benefit of the doubt.
I do not believe they have become casual or complacent, and I’m not sure the decision to slow-play the starting pitchers this spring was the wrong one, even with the brutal early results. It’s just one of those . . . things. One of those strange, unpredictable things about baseball that make it compelling, and when all is right, the inspiration for all of those well-meaning attempts at warm sentiment.
These Red Sox haven’t exactly inspired flowery praise, or much of anything else, yet. But barring significant injuries or a shocking decision to replace Cora with Bobby Valentine (with the ghost of Don Zimmer as his bench coach), we should continue to believe this team would get its act together.
With 16 of its next 21 games at home, where they were 57-24 a season ago, the real Red Sox will show up soon.
After one last homage to their old achievements, Tuesday at 2:05 p.m. would be a fine time to get started on some new ones.