After last year’s September collapse, the firing of Terry Francona, the subsequent hiring of Bobby Valentine, and the less than auspicious start to the 2012 season, I fully admit I was a raging pessimist as it pertained to the Boston Red Sox. I was the real life version of Randy Quaid’s character from Major League. (Did that guy have an actual name?) I grew to actually hate the team that I loved ever since I had the ability to understand baseball.
Now, something has happened. It may be the Father’s Day Weekend I spent with my father at Wrigley Field, seeing the Saturday night game in which the Sox beat the Cubs 4-3. Maybe it was in getting back to my roots that I remembered that a fan is supportive of their team no matter the situation, as difficult as it may be. Maybe I realized that this team has actually overachieved, contrary to the court of public opinion. I just thought this, and this is crazy, but maybe Buster Olney saved the Red Sox 2012 season…(call me maybe?).
Let’s take a look at the facts. Jacoby Ellsbury, the 2011 AL MVP runner up, has played in just 7 games for the Red Sox. Carl Crawford and Andrew Bailey haven’t appeared in a game all season. Kevin Youkilis has missed several games this season with nagging injuries, and hasn’t produced like the Youk of old. Adrian Gonzalez isn’t earning his paycheck statistically but has “taken one for the team” by moving out to right field for close to 20 games so far. Sure the Red Sox are in last place, but they are above .500, 8 games behind the red hot Yankees, and 4 back of a wild card spot.
With the lack of production from big named players not named Ortiz, the Red Sox have managed to stay afloat in the pennant race while slowly getting healthy again. Cody Ross and Ryan Kalish have come back from injury the past two days and paid immediate dividends, Kalish with the game winning hit on Sunday and Ross with a home run already tonight. That is what makes this team fun. The key contributors have been guys like Daniel Nava, Will Middlebrooks, Felix Doubront, Scott Podsednik, and Mike Aviles. Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Kelly Shoppach have been the best catching duo in the league.
ESPN says the Red Sox have a 28.1% chance of making the playoffs. I don’t know what scientific formula they have to measure that but I believe that is a rather harsh estimate. The Red Sox have yet to play their best ball and I believe they have overachieved. I don’t expect Adrian Gonzalez to hit .260 all year and I expect him to surpass his projection of 12 home runs for the season. I am excited to see what Jacoby Ellsbury and a motivated Carl Crawford are going to do for this lineup.
The Red Sox are only 1/3 of the way through the season. Cliche warning: The Major League Baseball season is a marathon, not a sprint. I am starting to believe that the players are going to take exception to Buster Olney’s column calling the Red Sox clubhouse “toxic.”I believe that column will promote an “Us vs. The World” mentality. The Red Sox haven’t come close to playing their best ball this season. I think the Orioles will soon come back to Earth. The Blue Jays just had a rash of devastating injuries to their rotation, losing Brandon Morrow and Kyle Drabek for some time. That leaves the Red Sox dealing with the Yankees, Rays, Rangers, and Angels to compete with for a playoff spot.
Truth be told, Bobby Valentine has grown on me the last 3 months. Before he came to Boston, I wrote on this very blog after Tito’s firing, that I would accept any one as the new manager not named Bobby Valentine. Now I have come to appreciate Bobby V. I appreciate his candid rancor. My only wish is that he wouldn’t act like he has been castrated by the ownership group. Other than that I believe in this team. I believe in Bobby V. There is too much talent here to waste 2 years in a row. And I know this team wants to shove it in all the naysayers faces.
That is my belief. What fandom is built upon. And I believe this team will do great things when it is all said and done.
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