And just like that, baseball is back in Boston.
Another Red Sox season is officially under way.
Forget the cold. Baseball doesn’t care that you’re still cranking the heat in your apartment or can’t leave the house without a hand warmer strategically tucked into your underwear.* Nope. It’s game time. And it will stay that way for a long time. Until spring finally arrives, then turns to summer, then turns to fall, and a whole bunch of craziness unfolds in between. (*Everyone does that, right?)
But you have to start somewhere, and for the Sox that somewhere was yesterday in Baltimore. They started with a 2-1 loss. And you know what? That sucks. Losing sucks. Even if it’s only one of 162.
Jonny Gomes spoke in Spring Training about how important last season’s Opening Day win in New York was for the team. How it got them off on the right foot and they never looked back. And that’s true. Today marks the first time the Red Sox have been under .500 since Bobby Valentine. They never had to deal with that last year. It’s easy to keep the negativity away with a winning record.
And it’s not only that the Sox lost yesterday, but how they lost. That they cost themselves a run in the second inning on a base running error. That they were 0-8 with runners in scoring position. It’s just frustrating. It would have been easier to ignore if they were blown out.
But then you slap yourself in the face, and remember that it’s really only one game. The first game. I had my researchers crunch some numbers, and it turns out that one game is only 1/162nd of the Major League Baseball schedule. That amounts to a little more than half a percent of the entire season. That’s like watching the first 45 seconds of a two-hour movie. You’re still on the opening credits. It’s like running the first 900 yards of a marathon. You’re still stuck in that clammy clump of thousands of other runners, basically walking in place and plotting the best way to carve out your own path.
Back to baseball: After one game, we’re still feeling these guys out. Everything is what it is, and nothing more.
Even in defeat, Jon Lester was great. He figured things out down the stretch last season, and it sure looks like it carried over. Of course, he started this way last year, too. Lester was 6-0 and didn’t lose his first decision until May 20. (And then went 0-3 over his next five starts). So we’ll see. But between recent performance and the fact that this is a contract year, it’s reasonable to expect big things from Lester. Same goes for Dustin Pedroia, who’s in the first year of trying to prove he deserved his new contract, and will have the benefit of playing this season with all his thumb ligaments in tact.
In the outfield, the Shane Victorino situation doesn’t look great. Reports say that he could miss up to 20 games with a grade 1 hamstring strain, and even then, that’s an injury that can linger for an entire season with a guy who plays the way that Victorino does (and at age 33). So I guess that’s an argument in favor of keeping him out for as long as it takes to fully heal. I say don’t let him play until he’s 100 percent or it’s August 1.
In the meantime, his absence will be a little easier to swallow if Grady Sizemore stays stuck in 2006. Right now, I have zero expectations that he will. I’m seeing it, but I need to see more to believe it. I feel the same way about Sizemore that I did about the entire Red Sox team for most of last year. They proved me wrong. Hopefully he will, too. If that’s the case, and what we’re seeing is real, I’ll lead a coup on City Hall and install Ben Cherington as the King of Boston.
Elsewhere, Mike Napoli and Xander Bogaerts both hit balls that would have been homers if not for the ridiculous wind at Camden (damn, Smarch weather), and in the big picture, those swings might be just as significant as a loss. And beyond that, what else can we say? It was one game. The first game. It’s the opening credits. Nothing more than our cue to shut up and watch the show. And now that it’s over, there’s no turning back.
Today, the Sox have an off-day with Obama, but will be back on the field tomorrow, and then Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. That’s 11 straight days. After that, they’ll get one day off and come back with games on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. That’s 13 straight days.
By the time they hit that next day off, their third of the season, they’ll be 26 games deep. They’ll have already received their World Series rings, already played the most emotional Patriots Day game in franchise history, already welcomed Jacoby Ellsbury back to Fenway and played the Yankees seven times. At that point, this will all feel very real. We’ll have forgotten what it’s like NOT to have a game on every night. We’ll have perspective, and the ability to evaluate every win or loss for what it is, and how it fits into the bigger picture.
But for now, all we have is that familiar feeling. Hand warmers in our underwear and Red Sox baseball back in Boston.
The latter won’t be going anywhere for a long, long time.
Hopefully not until October.
Follow me on Twitter: @rich_levine