Boston Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz, aka Big Papi, is still the man for the Sox, leading the team in home runs and RBIs. Credit: Joe Nicholson-US PRESSWIRE

Slow Starting Red Sox Have Hope


The Red Sox scored 10 runs Wednesday night. It seems as if all of the war clubs are in working order despite the never-ending casualty list. The big explosions offer hope in this long baseball season when so many things have gone wrong.

For me the 2012 season started to take a wrong turn when Boston decided that it didn’t want Terry Francona back as manager. Another zag occurred when management let closer Jonathan Papelbon go in free agency. Then we learned that Carl Crawford would not start the season in left field because of injury.

Andrew Bailey, picked up to replace Papelbon got hurt and hasn’t thrown a pitch yet this season. Mark Melancon, the back-up to the replacement reliever, began the season with an earned run average that just about matched the speed limit on the Massachusetts Turnpike, like 60.00.

 

 

That was before Kevin Youkilis got hurt, fell out of favor, and got traded to the Chicago White Sox. And it was before outfielders began going down like the victims in that movie “Ten Little Indians.” One of those injured was Jacoby Ellsbury,  last year’s American League runner-up Most Valuable Player.

Pitching issues followed. Daisuke Matsuzaka began the year on the disabled list and has only recently resurfaced. Josh Beckett, the alleged ace of the staff, is on the disabled list instead now. And just the other day Clay Buchholz joined him. Daniel Bard was supposed to become a rotation guy instead of a set-up man in the bullpen, but he couldn’t handle the role.

Given all of that the Red Sox have a winning record at 40-35. Hard to believe. Raiding AAA Pawtucket and giving new guys a chance to play has worked well. Carefully perusing the waiver wire for potential fill-ins has also helped. Any long-time Red Sox fan that has been out of touch on an Amazon River expedition for the last few months would not be able to decipher the box score without a copy of “Who’s Who In Baseball” by his side.

One name that will always be recognized and is growing in Red Sox lore is David Ortiz, who was sitting on 399 career homers going into Thursday play. Management has been trying to edge him out the door in spite of his earlier-in-the-decade heroics, but Ortiz just keeps hitting homers, keeps driving in runs, and keeps his average higher than anyone expects.

The Sox started the season slowly and were stuck in last place in the American League East. As Boston gradually adapted to the personnel changes and gained ground, the other teams in the division began looking eminently catchable. Except the Yankees, as usual. Until the other day when comebacking Andy Pettitte broke his ankle and ace CC Sabathia felt twinges and were sidelined on the same day. New York is not so deep in pitching that any long-term shelving of Sabathia and Pettitte won’t be felt.

As a life-long Red Sox fan I watched with dismay as the team seemed to disintegrate. Those of us raised in New England– recent success notwithstanding—have been raised to expect the worst. The 2011 end-of-season collapse knocking the Sox out of the playoffs was more like what we have been accustomed to than two World Series titles in the 2000s.

This year’s team is something different. All of the things that could go wrong going wrong spiked our optimism. Despite every setback we haven’t given up on the 2012 club as we would have in years gone by. Maybe we’re just fooling ourselves, but I am one of those Sox fans that thinks if everyone is healthy by mid-August they might still make a run at the post-season.

I am old enough to know better, but after these decades of fandom not smart enough to surrender.

 

 

Tags: American League East Andrew Bailey Andy Pettitte Boston Red Sox Carl Crawford CC Sabathia Chicago White Sox Clay Buchholz Daisuke Matsuzaka Daniel Bard David Ortiz Jacoby Ellsbury Jonathan Papelbon Josh Beckett Kevin Youkilis Mark Melancon New York Yankees Pawtuckett Terry Francona World Series