Dan Shaughnessy

Can we home in on any hope here?

By Dan Shaughnessy
Globe Columnist / April 13, 2012
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Metaphors abound. It is Friday the 13th. You can’t go online without getting hit in the face by the Titanic. “The Three Stooges’’ movie is opening.

And it’s the home opener for the Red Sox.

How did we get here, people? The worst September in team history was followed by a winter of chaos and calamity, and now your reeling ball club is coming home with the worst record in baseball.

Josh Beckett, the frowny face of beer and chicken, the intransigent Texan who was behind so much of the September nightmare, is your home opener starter, fresh off a 10-0 loss in Detroit in which he gave up five - count ’em, five - home runs.

Beckett saw doctors in San Antonio and Cleveland last week to check on a thumb injury that has nagged him for 18 months and may require surgery.

Other than that, everything is just swell in Red Sox Nation. Thank goodness those commemorative Fenway bricks aren’t going to be handed out at the turnstiles. Is it possible that Ozzie Guillen is having a better April than the Red Sox?

Today’s game vs. the Tampa Bay Rays amounts to a “soft’’ home opener because we’re pretty sure that maestro Dr. Charles Steinberg (presumably on loan from Uncle Bud Selig) is saving all the good stuff for next Friday when the Yankees are in Boston for the official 100th birthday of Fenway Park.

Two days after that, Terry Francona - growing in popularity by the hour - will be at Fenway with ESPN’s Sunday night crew for a national telecast. When is the first “We want Tito!’’ chant from the cheap seats?

Wait . . . I forgot. There are no cheap seats. On top of everything else, it was learned this week that the Sox have the highest “non-premium’’ ticket prices in the majors.

Whoa. Sorry to be so negative. It’s Opening Day and we’re supposed to believe that hope springs eternal. It’s just that these Red Sox have done little to promote the notion that they are back on the rails.

Facing the Rays, Rangers, and Yankees on this homestand will certainly test the Sox. Tampa has the best starting pitching in the division, the Rangers have been in the World Series the last couple of years, and the Yankees made significant moves this winter while the Sox went into middle-market overdrive.

Speaking of Sox ownership, a ball club spokesperson said principal owner John Henry will be at the game. We were a little worried about this because Liverpool is playing a big match Saturday and the British tabloids are full of “sacking’’ stories regarding Henry’s futbol club.

Beckett is the man with the bull’s-eye on his back at Fenway Friday. He has three years left on his $17 million-per-year contract, failed miserably in his final two starts against the Orioles last September, and disappeared into the Texas darkness when stories leaked of the Delta House Final Days of Tito, only to re-emerge with one of the worst outings of his career last Saturday in Motown.

He pitched well in Fort Myers, but looked like a candidate for the disabled list in Detroit. No one has more to prove Friday afternoon at Fenway.

It is first opener in nine years without Francona. Jonathan Papelbon, Tim Wakefield, Jason Varitek, and Theo Epstein also will be absent. It is Bobby Valentine’s first day working out of the corner office of the home clubhouse at Fenway.

Carl Yastrzemski threw out the ceremonial first pitch at the home opener last year. Yaz walked off the field to the tune of “Oh, Happy Day,’’ and the Red Sox responded with a victory over the Yankees to break their 0-6 season-starting slump.

Yaz remembers the moribund days of the early 1960s when the Red Sox couldn’t draw 9,000 for their Fenway opener. Nobody wants to go back to that.

The Sox were booed off the field when they last played at Fenway Sept. 21, but don’t expect many Bronx cheers today. Opening Day crowds are traditionally forgiving. Folks are hopeful, and just plain happy to be outside watching baseball again. This could come in handy when Beckett is announced to the crowd while he’s warming up in the bullpen.

We’re not sure whether Beckett’s running mate, John Lackey, will be part of the introductions, but you can be certain that Messrs. Henry, Werner, and Lucchino aren’t going to be introduced.

Too bad. Henry could do himself a lot of good if he grabbed a microphone during the pregame ceremony and told fans, “We appreciate your loyalty. We’re sorry about all this and we pledge do better.’’

Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at

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