By Rich Levine
Writing about the Red Sox on Truck Day feels a little dirty.
In fact, even typing the words Truck Day! has me gagging like Ace Ventura after Einhorn turned out to be Finkle. I need a shower, and a hell of a lot of gum (for my, um, fingers?).
But talking about Truck Day in a column like this doesnt only hurt my own well-being, it also affects the future of our fair city. To recognize Sox ownerships made-up celebration of all things equipment is to encourage those who dont need it.
Its like if you got an e-mail from a friend saying:
Hey, just checking in to let you know Ive given myself a new nickname. I will now be called The Gun Show. Thanks, and Ill see you this weekend! The Gun Show
Are you ever going to call this guy The Gun Show? Of course not. If you did, youd just be fueling his ridiculous fire and increasing the likelihood that he takes this, and other annoying ideas, to an even less bearable level.
Likewise, every time we mention made-up Truck Day, were lining ourselves up for more cruel and over-glamorized guck. Talk it up enough and the next thing you know NESN green lights a weekly reality show where different trucking companies vie for Larry Lucchinos love. The Sox throw a black-tie banquet (hosted by the RemDawg!) to celebrate the signing of the trucking lease. Wally gets his Class A license and drives the damn thing himself. This is already ridiculous, and it will only get worse. Especially when you consider that all those trucks even do is drive straight to Logan and unload everything onto the freight of a 747.
(OK, not true. But that would be hilarious.)
So, anyway, let me just try and nullify my previous Truck Day references by saying that this: Truck Day is a joke. And not even a funny one. Imagine Margaret Cho saying Truck Day. Yes, that bad.
But let me also say this: Im still going to write about the Red Sox. Not because it was Truck Day, but because it was Tuesday; because in 2011, you dont need a sappy excuse to write or get excited about this team. After an offseason like that, sometimes you just do it.
Its been a while since weve felt that. Since weve counted down the days to spring training with this kind of over-riding optimism and excitement.
In fact, Im not sure theres ever been a wpring training that matches 2011 on that optimismexcitement combo scale.
If there was one it would have to be post-2004, right? Because any year prior (regardless of how good we tried to convince ourselves things were) was somewhat jaded by the shadow of Babe Ruths ass.
And if you take a look at the post-curse years:
Heading into Spring Training 2005, everyone was still riding high, but the departure of Pedro (especially) and to a lesser extent Derek Lowe, Orlando Cabrera and Cesar Crespo served as turds in an otherwise delicious punch bowl.
It cant be 2006, after the early playoff exit and our own personal Jesus signing a deal with the Devil.
In the winter of 2007, Dice-K offered a special brand of never-before-seen excitement and positivity, but that was off-set by the more than 100 million invested in J.D. Drew and Julio Lugo.
In 2008? Yeah, maybe that winter comes close to rivaling this one. But Boston was far more spoiled back then. The Sox had just won. The new Big Three was up and running. The Pats lost only one little game all season (yikes). There was excitement heading into the 2008 season, but there was so much other wild success that it didnt carry the same weight.
And neither did either of the last two winters. Not unless you have a forbidden fetish for guys named Ramon Ramirez. (They acquired two of them.)
But this year?
This is it. This is the top of the mountain.
As soon as Opening Day hits and the real drama of 162-plus starts to play out, all that changes. As the season begins, new storylines and unfortunate injuries (Oh dont worry about Jacoby, its just a bruised rib Everyone, April 10) start to unfold, and jade us, well adjust accordingly. But for now: What is there to complain about? What is there to keep you from unconditionally believing in this team? (If you said, Truck Day, you win.) Not the bats. Not the defense. Not the speed. Not personalities.
You can worry about the starting pitching, but take solace in the fact that theyve got one of, if not, the deepest staff in the league. You can worry about Papelbon but also conveniently remind yourself that the Sox have TWO other closers in the bullpen. You can worry about J.D. Drew but . . . OK, you got me there. But the point is that right now, the overall excitement and optimism have never been higher. Not that the expectations change much from year to year, but this time it just feels more attainable. Right from the start. The Sox are for real again. And, even better, as the team made its offseason killings (did I mention they grabbed two pretty decent free agents?), their two fiercest rivals were simultaneously wounded. When it came to free agency, the Rays and Yankees flopped like Manu Ginobili in the lane.
The Rays biggest moves were bringing in two elderly gentlemen (one man, one martian) who used to play in Boston, and trading or parting ways with a good deal of other talent. After three years of playing very competitive baseball, the Rays are on the way out. Trying to talk their fans into Johnny Damon the older, but skilled outfielder who still has some left in the tank the same way Theo did with Mike Cameron. Rays fans would be a little more frightened by that analogy if Rays fans existed.
And the Yankees? They look even worse because at least Tampa was resigned to having a somewhat somber offseason. The Yankees went after it. The Yankees pulled out all the stopsand lost. Now, theyre in greater limbo than any point since the start of the dynasty. Now they spend the off-season trying to talk fans into Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon the same way Theo did with John Smoltz and . . . Bartolo Colon. And Sox fans are just left to sit back and smile.
Not because a bunch of 18-wheelers are currently crawling down 95 South, but because this was the offseason Boston's been waiting for. The one that you can't help but think will be responsible for the Sox next trip to the Series.
Assuming you can get there by truck.