By Ted Gay – @TedG63
The Red Sox season has not begun, and they are already in fourth place. No, not in the American League East but in the minds of Boston sports fans.
Which is not necessarily a bad thing. While there are lingering questions in the Red Sox camp, it has not broken down into a soap opera as it has in year’s past. Additionally, the other Boston teams have developed intriguing storylines. The Super Bowl loss, the Malcolm Butler mystery, the Gronk drama and free agents fleeing like members of Trump’s cabinet have made the Patriots the number one topic of conversation this late winter. The Celtics and Bruins are headed for home court and ice in the playoffs with the Bruins better placed for a run into the late spring which will the keep Red Sox in the back seat of the Boston family’s SUV until summer.
Having the Great Eye of Boston sports averted this spring can only help an injury-riddled Sox team. Alex Cora has done an admirable job downplaying having two starters on the disabled list, but it is an unenviable position. The always optimistic, while the team is in Florida Boston sports nation, has fully bought in on Brian Johnson, believe in Justin Haley, and had an Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mindwipe done of every Hector Velasquez appearance. But, with lingering doubts about Rick Porcello, the Sox April rotation will be Sale and Price then roll the dice. If Craig Kimbrel is out for a prolonged time because of his daughter’s illness, there is not closer in waiting. When he returns, he may need extended spring training to round into form. Luckily the Sox play an entire NFL schedule of games against the hapless Rays to start the season.
Backing up the injured pitching is questionable defense. Rafael Devers has been working hard this spring but mastering the hot corner take times. I would rather the phenom concentrates on his hitting. I don’t want his defensive problems to hinder his development at the plate. Range is the biggest drawback with Eduardo Nunez at second base. In close games, Cora may option to replace both in the late innings opening a roster spot for Deven Marrero at least until Dustin Pedroia returns. Hanley Ramirez continues to be an enigma at first.
Cora is going to make rookie manager mistakes, even Casey Stengel did. Those who thought merely the subtraction of John Farrell would lead to ten more wins are going to be disappointed, as they would be with any new manager. The Sox will be in much better hands with Cora, the team already seems to be playing with more life, but expecting him to be a Hall of Fame skipper in his first month is setting the bar too high. I believe in Cora, but I also stress patience.
Young hitters like Devers, or Andrew Benintendi, may start the season cold. It is common for big free agent signings like JD Martinez to do the same. I would not be surprised for the Sox to play .500 ball for the first six weeks of the season.
But, when the Bruins and Celtics season ended, and spring turns to summer, I expect the Red Sox to not only take first place in the hearts’ of Boston fans but in the American League East where they should stay.
At least until the end of July when Tom Brady slips on the helmet again. It is still his town.