During Spring Training, our pent up excitement and expectation, all that tension that built up during the long “Not-Baseball Season” releases; we over-react like over-wound springs.
A few negative headlines and we conclude: “It’s gonna be 2011 all over again!”
Every headline [see above] takes on exaggerated significance and pundits read cosmic implications from every home run, or strike out, or sore muscle.
A DH gets three homers in three games, against non-roster pitchers, and we speculate if he will break the season HR record. A pitcher Ks a bunch of non-roster, B team guys and we make him a cinch for 20 Ws and the Cy Young Award. Or, a hitting star starts off with a horse collar, 0 for 12, in the first few games and we wonder, if he has suddenly “lost it.” A prospect wearing number 73 hits a grand slam and we are ready to hand him the RF job. Or, the star-crossed LF with the huge contract has still not recovered fully from an injury and we are ready to write him off for the season.
Maybe even an astute Red Sox savant like Doris Kearns Goodwin, whose pessimism was confirmed during many seasons as a die-hard, child rooter for the hapless Brooklyn Dodgers, begins to develop doubts, already.
All right, already, Fellow citizen of Red Sox Nation, take a breath, 99% of Spring Training predicts nothing and even less for a top contender. The chances that the Red Sox will discover a new pitcher for the First Four slots in the rotation, or a new hitter for the batting order are extremely remote; Aviles will start at SS, Ross or McDonald, or Sweeney will be in RF and, Valentine does not need to name his “Fifth Starter” until April 11 against the Blue Jays.
We don’t need to be hysterical about the Opening Day lineup; we may not know in what order they will bat, but we do know who will be on Valentine’s card, when he hands it to the home plate umpire.
Assuming Carl Crawford will not be ready to use his wrist and that the Tigers will start their ace, Justin Verlander on Opening Day in Detroit [April 5th], the Sox will put LHB Sweeney in RF and Ross in LF [or, since Ross bats R, but throws L, Valentine may use McDonald in LF.]
Barring injures, during the month of April, we are unlikely to see a 5th starter, or any other new players in the starting lineups, except for the addition of Crawford, or a rest day for Salty with Shoppach starting.
So for all the microscopic study of the performances in Spring training, there is unlikely to be a big surprise, a prospect that shoves a 2011 starter out of the lineup, a new starter cracking the 1-4 slots in the rotation, a new closer.
So, citizens of Red Sox Nation can take a breath and expect to see familiar players in the lineup and starting rotation for the entire month of April:
SS Aviles [PH Punto, Def. rep. Iglesias]
3b Youkilis [Aviles]
LF Crawford, Sweeney, Ross, McDonald
RF Sweeney, Ross, McDonald
C Saltalmacchia [Shoppach]
SPs: Beckett, Lester, Bucholz, Bard
Breathe…There, feel better now.
And, don’t read too much into Opening Day; it’s just as significant as any other game; it can only result in ONE win or loss. We will convene again on May 1st to panic, drape black crepe around the Pesky Pole and yell “May Day! May Day! May Day!”
[Photo source: http://blog.silive.com/yankeeswatch/2011/09/a_yankee_bloggers_clarion_call.html]
Tags: 1B 2b 3b Aviles Bailey Bard Batting Order Beckett Brooklyn Dodgers Bucholz C CF CL Closer Crawford DH Ortiz Doris Kearns Goodwin Ellsbury Fifth Starter Gonzalez Iglesias Justin Verlander Lester LF May Day McDonald Melancon Pedroia Pesky Pole PH Punto Red Sox Nation RF Ross Rotation Saltalmacchia Set-up Shoppach SP Spring Training SS Sweeney Youkilis