Every time you turn on the radio or glance at the paper these days, there is more dismal news on the Red Sox front. All the accusations and innuendo -- much of it hidden under guise of contrition -- has left fans and sportswriters angry and alienated. Even letting the GM leave on his own terms has turned into a complicated, drawn out process.
The negativity is worse than that which hung in the air after the heart-wrenching postseasons of 1986 and 2003, due to the overwhelming presence of talk radio, podcasts, and other social media channels through which media and fans can vent. Unless you go unplugged and unread, it's impossible to avoid the deluge.
My goal is to not have this blog become one of those channels.
There is nothing I can tell you here about September meltdowns, fried chicken in the dugout/clubhouse, or John Henry's free agent preferences that you don't already know. I am not a beat reporter covering the team on a daily basis, so I am not going to surmise to know the inside scoop about if or how Tito lost the clubhouse or why players may have quit on him. While I won't completely avoid these issues, I am going to try a more novel approach to the 2011-12 Hot Stove season:
How, you might ask, can I accomplish this? Well, rather than speculate why Josh Beckett was channeling CC Sabathia during the last month (in how he filled out his uniform, not how he pitched), or question the extra-base production (or lack thereof) of Adrian Gonzalez in August and September, I'll focus in this and future entries on some of the GOOD things to come out of the 2011 season -- and what we have to look forward to in '12.
Here it goes:
Jacoby Ellsbury is the real deal. The final numbers speak loud and clear about Boston's centerfielder, the AL's "Comeback Player of the Year" and a darkhorse for MVP honors. In addition to becoming the first 30-30 man in Red Sox history, Ellsbury had 105 RBI hitting primarily leadoff and was just about the only player to deliver for Boston down the stretch with a .358 average and 8 homers in September. The one statistical knock you could have on him was that his stolen base success ratio went down quite a bit from his first two full seasons. We should all have such problems.
Dustin Pedroia at 70 percent is better than most guys at 100. Injuries limited Boston's driven second baseman to just 75 games in 2010, but this year despite nagging aches and pains he suited up for 159 contests and set career highs with 21 homers, 91 RBI, and 26 stolen bases. In terms of defense and determination, he's peerless. My favorite position player to watch at Fenway since Dewey Evans.
Carl Crawford will be improved at the plate and in the field. He can't be worse, right?
Jon Lester will rebound from his poor September. Unlike fellow Chickengate running buddy Josh Beckett, who seems to have one mediocre season for each good one, Lester has never had a year in which he won less than 62 percent of his games. His 76-34 lifetime record translates out to a .691 winning percentage -- the third-highest in MLB history for pitchers with 100 decisions. And he's still just 27.
Fenway's 100th birthday will be a diamond anniversary to remember. No word yet on what the Red Sox brain trust has planned for the home opener or at other points in the 2012 season, but for all the heat they've taken for pushing their commemorative bricks and NESN packages, this ownership group has almost always gotten it right when it comes to bringing history to life.
My dream would be for the team to wear 1912 throwback uniforms all year long at Fenway -- how cool would that be? -- and play the home opener with no electronic videoboard or broadcasted music. Just the organ and the Green Monster. Maybe they could even dress the vendors in white and give them wicker baskets to carry their hot dogs and peanuts like the old days. No sushi or chowder either.
For all the hype about this year's team being the best in Red Sox history -- at least for four months-- the true holders of that title are the group that broke in Fenway a century ago. Tris Speaker, Joe Wood, and Co. were coming off a dismal September of '11 as well (10-17), but they turned things around big-time in their new home. And what better way to celebrate the park's centennial than by matching the accomplishments of the 1912 squad, which went 105-47 and won the World Series?
Maybe it will happen, and maybe it won't -- but it sure feels better to imagine such a scenario than to wallow in negativity.