Happy Opening Day 2014
It's not a national holiday, at least outside New England.
The Red Sox have been defending their World Series Cup championship for more than a week. In case you missed it, the Major League Baseball season began a week ago Saturday at 4:08 a.m. Eastern Daylight time, somewhere in Australia.
No team in baseball was deeper down under a year ago than the Red Sox. Boston was coming off its worse season since the Lyndon Johnson administration. The thaw of an 18-month baseball Nuclear Winter had begun to crack the wall of hatred and animosity that was build on a foundation of chicken and beer, Bobby Valentine and general all-around disaster on and off the diamond.
From a historic September collapse, to a season of failure, to a remarkable worst-to-first championship. Thankfully, 2011, 2012 and, especially, 2013 will never happen again. The Red Sox, along with the city of Boston, will soon be caught in a tsunami of Boston Marathon remembrance, memorials and, eventually the race itself.
These games will be a welcomed respite. April will be a special month at Fenway. The home opener is Friday against the Brewers. The annual Patriots' Day game, this time against these same Orioles on April 21, will no doubt be loaded with emotion, solemnity and celebration. The following night, Ellsbury and the Yankees come to Boston as part of the 2014 Derek Jeter Farewell Tour. He'll get the requisite and well-deserved ovation [and who knows, maybe his ring] before the game. Then it's "GFY, Jacoby" from the bleachers until further notice.
With the backdrop of a world championship. There was plenty of offseason drama in and around Yawkey Way and JetBlue Park. Would David Ortiz get his $15 million binky? It turned out to be $16 million, with a couple of club options. Would Grady Sizemore fall apart in spring training? He's still intact as of this posting. Will Stephen Drew ever be seen again? They say he's still out there somewhere, listening to that voice message that Scott Boras left last November: "Screw the Red Sox, we'll get $14 million a year for three years from the Mets."
But the two "biggest" stories of this Red Sox offseason, at least when it came to Red Sox fans, emotion and page views, were the futures of Jenny Dell and Jerry Remy.
We've opined thoroughly on both issues. We offered our thoughts on the unjust dismissal of Dell here, and offered our thoughts on why fans will have the ultimate say in Remy's fate here in January and why he doesn't belong in the NESN booth here last week.
It is the eighth time since I could read that I found myself in lock step with the Boston Globe's editorial board.
Remy will be there in Baltimore for Monday's game. Dell will not be in Baltimore for Monday's game.
Dell lost her gig only after word of her relationship with third-baseman-by-default Will Middlebrooks became public and then was immortalized in a New Year's Eve photo Twitter.
NESN blew it big time with the decision to ditch Dell. "At Home With Will And Jenny" could have rivaled "Behind the B" as NESN's best-ever original program. Sorry, "Sox Appeal." On those rare occasions when Middlebrooks doesn't strike out with runners in scoring position in the late innings [he only had three whiffs in spring training], Jenny's smiling face posing thoughtful and tough questions to her beau would have been a sure-fire ratings draw.
Especially on those days when things hadn't been going so well at home . . .
"We're here with Will Middlebrooks of the Red Sox, who can't seem to pick up his sweat socks off the bedroom floor."
Ahh, what could have been.
Dell has been a trooper after being exiled to the East Montana of the cable lineup - NESN Sports Today. Karma is a, well, you know. She can't be happy with the way Jenny was treated. It was hypocritical and ugly on so many fronts.
Just hope another 86-year title-less drought doesn't inspire books, movies and Ken Burns' specials about the "Curse of Jenny Dell." At 135-years-old, it will be too much for me to handle.
The melodrama surrounding Dell, and very-real life-and-death drama that surrounds Remy will, at least for a day, finally cede to baseball on Monday.
There's a real chance that "baseball" will eventually resume its role of primacy when it comes to the Red Sox this season. No real-world concerns inside the ball park [or perhaps after Patriots' Day]. No historic, angst-filled, month-long capitulations. No mass vitriol toward the manager and the big-money stars. Nothing more than the typical emotional outbursts that come every spring and summer.
Even though Ortiz could be with the team until he's 40, or 14 in Dominican years, the present at Fenway is indeed all about the future, namely one Xander Bogaerts, Cooperstown Class of 2039.
The fruitless and potentially embarrassing task of trying to figure out what the Red Sox will accomplish this season [I'm on the record as having them go 90-72 and eventually losing to the Rays in the ALCS] presents far more peril than reward.
No one could have imagined this a year ago: "The Red Sox will win the World Series, beating the Cardinals in six games. They will win it at Fenway Park as lights-out closer Koji Uehara picks up the save for postseason ace John Lackey in the clincher. Lackey walks off the field at Fenway Park to a wild standing ovation." Anyone who did write that a year ago would have their internet privileges revoked.
There are real questions about this team. On the surface, the depth of the outfield seems to be the top concern in and around State Run Media. Jacoby Ellsbury waltzed to New York with five million Red Sox fans metaphorically driving him to the airport.
Never has a front-line centerfielder this close to the prime of his career been so quickly ushered out of town, at least not since Haywood Sullivan played postage chicken with Fred Lynn before giving him to the
Anaheim, oops, California Angels for a then over-the-hill Joe Rudi, Frank Tanana and the legendary Jim Dorsey.
Sizemore managed to avoid the DL long enough to win the starting job in center field. Jackie Bradley Jr.'s trip to Cooperstown could make another detour to Pawtucket. JBJ be taking Shane Victorino's spot in right until Victorino comes off the DL.
Sizemore will either become the "A.L. Comeback Player of the Year" or be the Joel Hanrahan of 2014 and fade away by Memorial Day.
Over in left, Jonny Gomes made a plea for more money but was left picking out the wardrobe for the team's trip to the White House on Tuesday.
BULLETIN: Tim Thomas will not be going to the White House with the Red Sox on Tuesday, either.
Jon Lester, at age 30, has been elevated to elder-statesman, resident-ace status two years after the ugliest and worst season of his career. If he's pitching for the Red Sox in 2015, he will be the highest-paid player in team history, making somewhere around $27 million dollars per year. Otherwise, he'll join Ellsbury in New York, or find a nice life back home on the West Coast. [He's from Tacoma, Wash.] Lester made Southwest Florida his own sandbox this spring, allowing just one run in 12.2 innings this spring after throwing 34.2 innings with an 1.56 ERA in the postseason.
The Red Sox and their fans need to hope Clay Buchholz doesn't fall asleep on any more chairs. Given his past history of injury, it's just not realistic to expect him to make more than 30 starts or throw more than 200 innings.
Lackey remains the swing vote in a rotation that has potential to be the best in the American League east of Detroit. The Red Sox have a team vesting option on Lackey's contract for $500,000. So if he comes close to what he accomplished in 2013, he'll be sticking around. Motivated and healthy, Lackey may be hoping to pitch his way into somehow getting the Red Sox to offer him an extension or renegotiate his deal. After the end of 2013, anything is possible with this guy.
The Red Sox have six months to figure all this out. And millions of their fans across New England and elsewhere can't wait for the ride to begin. Baseball is back in the Western Hemisphere. The World Champion Boston Red Sox are playing today.
It's a good day.
Baseball is back.
The OBF Blog is written by award-winning journalist and Bay State native Bill Speros. Got a news tip, want to let him know directly what you think, have a complaint or compliment about his "aggressively relevant" content or hate people who speak about themselves in the third person, hit him up on his Obnoxious Boston Fan Facebook page, on Twitter @realOBF or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks always for reading and pass the clicker.