Red Sox Nation Rejoices as Season Begins
As Usual, the Sox Players Provide Plenty of Amusement and Anticipation in the Off-Season
The Red Sox lost their season opener to the Royals, 7-1, last night. Hopefully, the late-night glimmer over Fenway that returns on April 10 will mean no more losses to teams like Kansas City. Here are the events leading up to what should be a promising season.
Dice-K fever sweeps Boston, referring to the Japanese pitching sensation Daisuke Matsuzaka, who got a $103 million contract. Funny, he threw 103 pitches in his first spring training outing. But no, Dice-K protests, he does not have the rumored "gyro" pitch, which supposedly spins like a bullet. Dice-K showed some control problems over spring break, but hopes are high and Thursday is his first start.
Schilling threw the Sox a curveball when he announced he would not retire at the end of the year as planned, instead demanding the team extend his contract one year by the end of spring training, or he would become a free agent at the end of the season. The deal was a no-go and on February 22, Schilling said he would be a free agent. At least he announced he would not become a Yankee.
Schill also has a blog, http://38pitches.com, where he accidentally leaked the news that Jonathan Papelbon would close instead of start this season. Last year's closer was supposed to start this year because it would be better for his arm, but after weighing their options the club decided they need him back in the 9th inning, medical problems be damned.
More to add to the "Manny being Manny" list: on February 18 Manny Ramirez's teammate Julian Tavarez told the press that Manny would not report to spring training until March 1 because his mother underwent surgery. The management spoke to Manny a few days later and confirmed the news on February 21. But then The Boston Globe reported Manny would be attending a classic car auction in Atlantic City, to be held on the 24.
Manny arrived at spring training March 26, right before the mandatory report date, having not gone to the car show. And his car didn't sell.
Add to that the eBay scandal, with Manny posing next to a grill. In one day the grill reached the maximum bid possible, $99,999,999, but eBay pulled it off the auction block because they couldn't confirm he was the owner.
Apparently, it was Manny's neighbor's grill and it was a teammate bidding. And by the way, eBay bids are legally binding.
Fun fact: the Yankees' Gary Sheffield wanted to come to Boston, but the Yankees picked up the option on his contract and sent him to Detroit. He'll be primarily a designated hitter instead of an outfielder. Too bad, a Manny-Coco-Sheffield trio would have been awesome.
On to the roster: Despite some good outings, Jon Lester, diagnosed with anaplastic large cell lymphoma last year, is starting on the disabled list along with Mike Timlin (oblique) and Matt Clement (shoulder). All three are pitching in the minors and should be back in the bigs soon.
There were talks that third baseman Mike Lowell might be traded to the Rockies, but he's staying in the hot corner for now. Dustin Pedroia is taking Mark Loretta's place at second base this year, and Julio Lugo fills Alex Gonzalez's spot as the new shortstop.
Some fans are nervous about Lugo, considering he's had 20 errors a year for three out of the last four years. But he's energetic, so I'm not worried.
Kevin Youkilis returns to first, with Papi David Ortiz and Alex Cora in the defensive utility role. Sox owner John Henry gave Papi a new Toyota Tundra for spring training. He usually drives a Lamborghini.
Despite an elbow injury last year, captain Jason Varitek returns to the plate, with Doug Mirabelli there to catch Tim Wakefield's knuckleballs. Varitek went through a dry spell during spring training, going 0-17 at one point, but after a few homers he's back in good shape.
Manny's in left and Coco Crisp's in center. And the $70 million acquisition J.D. Drew will round out the outfield in right. Wily Mo Pena will stay for another year in Boston, and Eric Hinske will also see some innings out there.
Johnny Pesky, of Fenway's beloved Pesky's Pole (which may be shorter than the Sox claim), will no longer have a seat in dugout due to new rules about the number of uniformed coaches allowed in dugout. Maybe he'll get the Pesky Pole seat.
The Sox will don green jerseys on April 12, in memory of the Celtics' coach and Hall of Famer Red Auerbach.
One sure thing of an interesting subplot is the bet between Manager Terry Francona and President Larry Lucchino: can Tito (Francona) keep his squirrel cheeks empty of tobacco?
Almost as interesting to Red Sox Nation: Will we make the playoffs? Will Dice-K be worth it? Will we keep Schill? Will we get Clemens? The season has started, answers are coming, and Boston is smiling.