After this team’s calamitous crash in September I found I couldn’t, or didn’t want to, bear witness to the organization’s offseason paroxysms. Like sending a loved one to rehab, I said goodbye and good luck to the Red Sox in October. Better to leave the team’s recovery from complacency and entitlement in the hands of professionals and keep my hand-wringing at a minimum.
Here and there I’d hear about this injury or that trade. One season-erasing injury that heartened me was John Lackey’s Tommy John surgery. Unfortunately it didn’t undo his past two seasons nor clear his massive contract from the ledger.
When the Blue Jays changed their employment policies to bar John Farrell from joining the Red Sox in the role of field manager, the inevitability of Bobby Valentine’s hiring surged. Unlike Terry Francona, Valentine was not laden with loyalty towards players whose contributions were mostly in highlight reels rather than on the field.
Two such players, luminaries of the 2004 and 2007 squads, retired. As hard as it is to see a team without Tim Wakefield and Jason Varitek, it was even more difficult to observe their decline.
Baseball has returned, but this year it is not a harbinger of spring because of the weak winter. Instead it is a tentative toe into unknown waters. Can Valentine rally the remainders from 2011 with the newcomers into a cohesive unit, as he did when he invented the wrap? How will the pitching, with shifts between the rotation and the bullpen and early injury woes, pan out? Who will get more endorsement deals, Valentine or Jerry Remy?
Today in the season opener the Red Sox batters were anemic at the plate, but what lineup wouldn’t be when facing off against Justin Verlander? Blow-in Ryan Sweeney misplayed Austin Jackson’s fly ball in the eighth, which led to a triple and then to the Tigers’ second run of the game.
Sweeney tied the game with a game-tying triple of his own in the top of the ninth, but Jackson knocked in the game-winning run down the third base line in the bottom of the frame. Would the outcome have been different with Daniel Bard and Jonathan Papelbon in the pen? I think this will be the crux of the Red Sox’s problems this season but the blame will be at Valentine’s doorstep instead.
He’ll just have to be careful when he makes his way to his bicycle in the morning.
|Game 1: April 5, 2012|
|Boston Red Sox
||L: Mark Melancon (0-1)|
|2B: David Ortiz (1), Dustin Pedroia (1)|
3B: Ryan Sweeney (1)
||BS, W: Jose Valverde (1, 1-0)|
|2B: Jhonny Peralta (1), Alex Avila (1)|
3B: Austin Jackson (1)