Pardon the annoyance on this glorious holiday. But please allow me, if only in an effort to make a larger point, to join the Opening Day Caterwaulers’ Chorus and offer a solo dirge of my own.
No, this Red Sox season most likely will not trump the last one. To expect it to do so really is to dream the impossible dream.
Know why? You should know why. The answer is as obvious as David Ortiz‘s intentions when he gets a plump fastball over the plate.
This season most likely will not be as special as the last one … because last year was as perfect as a baseball season can be.
The only way that the Red Sox’ journey from April through September and into the prime-time nights of October could be more fulfilling than it was in 2013 is to hop the ol’ time machine, rewind back to October 17, 2004 and enjoy the conclusion to that feel-good script that took generations to write.
Of all the remarkable accomplishments by the Don’t Worry ‘Bout a Thing 2013 Red Sox, the one that pays perhaps the greatest tribute to their feats is this:
Some among us — fans, media, and various subspecies of sports-radio callers — dared to suggest that the 2013 Red Sox were a superior story and team to the transcendent ’04 champs.
Anyone possessing even a modicum of perspective and context knows such a notion makes no sense whatsoever. The ’04 Red Sox altered everything about rooting for the Red Sox, altered it all for the better. Those “Idiots” are forever iconic.
Even the vaguest attempt to make a comparison to the incomparable is a reminder of how admirable and appreciated the ’13 Red Sox were, not just in the moment but in the aftermath.
The 2004 Sox changed history and our perspective in a way that in darker days did not seem possible. The 2013 Sox won us back after the chaotic mess of September 2011 and the My Bloody Valentine disaster of ’12. The former remains more important and impressive. The latter, the third championship in a decade, was a hell of a fun and rewarding time.
I’m not going to go so far as to tell you that the 2014 Red Sox, whom we will be formally introduced to at 3:05 p.m. today in Baltimore, will duplicate their immediate predecessors’ accomplishments and be equally as fun and rewarding.
All facetiousness aside about that sad race to prove that you’re the bold analyst most doubtful of a repeat — is that really necessary on Opening Day? — there is room for a small dose of honest skepticism.
If you saw my pasty mug in Sunday’s baseball preview section, you might have noticed I picked the Rays to win the AL East and the pennant, with the Cardinals beating them in the World Series.
Those two teams were speed bumps along the Red Sox’s drive to the title last year. So why did I forecast the Rays to end the Red Sox’ title defense? Three reasons:
1) I love Tampa Bay’s starting pitching, and having Wil Myers for a full year will bolster the offense to a different level.
2) The Sox stayed remarkably healthy last year, and with Shane Victorino beginning the season on the DL and several older players in key roles on the roster, a repeat of that may be too much to ask.
3) Because it’s damn hard to win a World Series even if you have an excellent team, just as it’s been damn hard for the always-contending Patriots to win a Super Bowl the past nine seasons. Do I need to say it again? Damn hard.
But whether or not their most important players stay healthy and they catch a few breaks along the way, this should still be an excellent team, and one with some fascinating subplots.
Can Will Middlebrooks become consistent enough to hit 25 to 30 homers? Can Xander Bogaerts fulfill his incredible potential immediately? Is Grady Sizemore as rejuvenated as he appears, or will his body fail him again?
No matter how the individual story lines play out from day to day during the new season, the bigger picture with this franchise is as optimism-inspiring as it has ever been. The major league roster is built to contend now — for all of our goofy predictions that don’t involve them winning a fourth trophy in 11 seasons, there is absolutely no doubt that the Red Sox could repeat as champions based on the depth and construction of the roster.
And if they have been better set up for present and future success at any point in their history than they are in 2014, I’m not recalling it. They are built for now and built to last.
This time of year, I don’t understand those who seriously and solemnly tell you what’s not going to happen, what can’t happen, what’s not possible.
Daydream about what can happen. Imagine that anything is possible. Baseball season is here. The Red Sox are the defending World Champions. Did you think that would happen at this point a season ago? Didn’t think so, Nostradamus.
Sure, a repeat would be improbable, because repeats are always improbable. But the Red Sox are loaded, and the possibilities remain endless.
Please don’t tell me you actually required that reminder, just five months after living through the second-best autumn to remember.