The record snowfall continues to pile up in Boston as we turtle into our winter coats. With collars turned up to the cold wind, a warm place begins to grow in our hearts. No phrase in the English language is more anticipated by baseball fans than, “Pitchers and catchers report to spring training”. Winter may as well pack its frosty bags and get out of town. On February 13, 2011, it will be spring in the hearts of Red Sox Nation no matter what the thermometer reads in Boston. The hot stove begins to cool and our favorite players begin to heat things up in Fort Myers. Some will show up early – perhaps those that have something to prove. To non-baseball fans (are there any in Boston?), it may seem like a silly, trivial thing. To baseball fanatics, it is the dawn of a new year.
There are so many questions that will be answered over the next few months. This time of year, it is hard to be patient. Will Beckett return to form? Will Lackey be lacking in the AL East or will he dominate? Will Lester and Buchholz continue their paths to potential greatness? Will Dice K figure it out? (Will we figure out Dice K?) Will Wakefield be more content about his role than he was in 2010? Will Papelbon still be our closer or will Bard or Jenks fill that role? (Will a game at Fenway ever be the same if we don’t see Pap’s dramatic entrance to the tune of the Dropkick Murphy’s “Shipping up to Boston”?) How is Pedroia’s foot – really? Will Ellsbury be back to 100%, stealing bases like the Road Runner (meep meep)? Will Youk be able to adjust to being back at third base? Who will be our shortstop, Scutaro or Lowry? Will Gonzalez live up to the years of Theo’s desperately wanting? Will Crawford live up to his contract and be as frightening for opposing pitchers as he was when he faced the Red Sox? Will Drew remain healthy in his final year in Boston? How will the tandem of Varitek and Salty work out behind the plate? How will McDonald and Cameron fit in? Will Big Papi be able to get hot earlier even if the spring temperatures are cold? When will we see Kalish move up to the big leagues for good? There are too many questions about the bullpen to even ask; but if you have been paying attention, you know what they are.
Although a hell of a lot of winter remains in New England, spring is in our hearts along with a lot of hope. That light you see at the end of the tunnel is the sun setting later every day. It can only get better.
Next week the equipment truck leaves Boston on its long journey to Fort Myers. A crowd will gather for the event perhaps hoping to tag along for the ride like hippies hitchhiking to the promised land of Woodstock.
Remember this time last year? We worried that the Sox did not have enough offense, but Theo promised that “pitching and defense” and “run prevention” would be the name of the game. We were so naïve in February and March of 2010. So trusting. So hopeful. In the end, the offense shocked us, providing more bang for the buck than we expected until the injuries piled up in the wreckage. Like moths to a flame, here we are back in that happy place. Although it feels much happier this year than last, all those nagging questions remain. Only time will tell. Time, the great healer. Healer of fractured bones, healer of disappointments. Red Sox Nation has had more disappointments than championships, more crushing endings than celebrations; but in this moment in time, we still believe.
“Pitchers and catchers report to spring training!”….Sigh….