In It to Win It!!!!
I don’t ever recall a time where expectations for the Sox have been so high. Even the two championship years had expectations of being competitive, but not favored to win it all. This year is different; can you even pick up a baseball magazine without seeing a picture of Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez gracing the cover? Both of them were the cover story on my USA Today Sports Weekly and The Sporting News. This year looks and sounds different from any other year in my recent memory. Eminem sums it up best with the words “Success is my only mother F—–g option, failure’s not” How true are those words today? You can use every cliché in the book, but anything less than a World Championship will be considered a failure this year.
Being a true red Sox fan has always been about highs and lows. With the lows out doing the highs. How many heartbreaks could we take in one lifetime? I know in mine I have seen Joe Morgan’s bloop in 1975, Bucky “F——-g” Dent in 1978, the “Ball gets by Buckner” in 1986 and Aaron “F——g” Boone in 2003. You have to wonder how many TV’s in red Sox nation lay in pieces in people’s homes during these times.
All of our lives changed in 2004. It started with Curt Schilling, first his signing, then being bold enough to actually make a Ford commercial where he said he was going to break an 86 year old curse. Finally, we had our savior, someone who wasn’t afraid to put his money where his mouth was. To me, 2004 is a blur. How many people really believe that coming back down 0-3 to the Yankees was actually more significant than beating the Cardinals in the World Series? Similar to the 1980 Olympic hockey team, most people think that beating Russia won the Gold Medal when in fact we beat Finland, two days later for Gold. That is our 2004 Red Sox, beating the Yankees and the manner we did was the “real World Series” and the turning point in our beloved history. Like so many, 2004 was for our fathers and grandfathers who have suffered much longer than you or I. My grandfather never had the chance to feel this kind of celebration. He was the most passionate Red Sox fan I have ever known. Every night he would sit on his patio with Ken Coleman and Ned Martin coming thru his radio. He never missed a game, EVER. The first thought I had when Edgar Renteria grounded to Keith Foulke was, “I wish my grandfather was watching this right now”.
2007 was for us, and what a fun ride it was. Was there any doubt that we wouldn’t come back down 1-3 to the Cleveland Indians? Not for me there wasn’t. Once Terry Francona switched Jacoby Ellsbury for Coco Crisp, you could feel the momentum turn our way. Josh Beckett was beyond human that year and everything in the post season went our way.
Still, in both of those years, the Sox were never the favorites at the beginning of the year as they are this year. This year we are going to find out what this team is made of. It is going to take all the heart and talent from every last individual on this team. Even the Yankees are proclaiming themselves as the proverbial “Under Dogs” this year. All eyes are on Crawford and Gonzalez right now, but as you know, two guys don’t win championships, teams do. This team has the speed, defense, pitching and offense to outplay everyone, even those damn Yankees. It’s just not going to be as easy as everyone is saying.
First and foremost, this team needs to stay healthy. Look what just happened to St Louis with Adam Wainwright, one minute NL Central contenders, the next off the map. It’s that quick and we witnessed it first hand last year. This team has almost every position locked up for the next few years and beyond. The only remote controversy we have going into spring training is who will play short? Marco Scutaro or Jed Lowrie. This spring training is about getting healthier and relaxed. The new players need to get comfortable with their new surroundings. Both Crawford and Gonzalez played for small market teams that struggled to put fans in the seats. Crawford has the slight edge having to play all those years in Fenway and Yankee Stadium. But just wait until he gets his first taste of the rivalry and, fortunately, we won’t have to wait long since the Sox home opener is against their hated rivals. Gonzalez on the other hand, has nothing to compare this to. He had a great year last year as the front running Padres surprised everyone until their late season meltdown only to watch the Giants slip ahead of them at the end. Right now these two are the toast of the town but any kind of Mark Teixera first month slump will not bode well for either of them. That’s pressure neither of them have experienced.
Red Sox president/CEO Larry Lucchino informed us that the Sox still have funds put to the side for the trade deadline. A couple weeks ago I posted a poll about who you would hand the ball to for game seven of a World Series. The response from all of you was tremendous and the one thing that stood out was our perception on Felix Hernandez. Who knows if Hernandez will be available at the trade deadline, the Mariners aren’t listening to offers right now. The key word is right “Now”. Face it, the Mariners are going nowhere this year and really into the foreseeable future. How long before King Felix demands a trade? Imagine Felix Hernandez in a Sox uniform. What would we be willing to trade for him? I heard Jim Bowden say on MLBNetwork radio that if the Mariners asked for Robinson Cano and Jesus Montero from the Yankees in exchange for Hernandez that he would take the deal. Chew on that for a minute. Cano, one of the best players in the American League and Montero, their top prospect. Wow!!!! I don’t think the Mariners would want to trade King Felix to add to their payroll so this puts the Sox in very good position to have this discussion as the season progresses. Think of the names available; Jacoby Ellsbury, Michael Bowden, Jose Iglesias, and Daniel Nava, Josh Reddick and possibly Clay Bucholz. That’s only the tip of the iceberg, there are so many prospects in the farm system that I didn’t even mention. You can never have too much pitching, especially when looking at an ace of Hernandez caliber.
Everything I just wrote about comes down to one thing-Winning. Not an option, not with this Sox team and certainly not this year. So put on your “bloody socks”, “Cowboy Up”, grow your hair long or shave it off, do whatever needs to be done and remember -“Success is my only motherF—–g option, failure’s not”