Guest Author – David O’Donnell
With the 2013 Red Sox season around the corner, can fans dare to dream of a pennant race?? The upcoming season has inspired some unexpected anticipation, as though the promise of Fenway’s 101st season can revitalize a fan-base still reeling from the pageantry of a 2012 campaign that produced only 69 wins. The ballyhooed centennial season at Fenway is past, and soon the streak of sell-outs, which has lurked like a Green Monster in the room, will be gone too. Life goes on. And this means moving on, which began last year with the Great Purge of 2012. Expectations are lowered for 2013, but excitement runs high. Jason Varitek, Pedro Martinez, and Tim Wakefield are back with the team as instructors and advisors, a brilliant move considering the credibility accorded each in the clubhouse and the city.
New manager John Farrell also has credibility. He was always considered the heir-apparent to Terry Francona until that plan was crushed like a John Lackey fastball in September of 2011; Francona was shown an early exit and the Bobby V Circus came to town. Farrell is here now, which means that maybe Jon Lester will become an ace again, maybe Clay Buchholz will not get injured, maybe a promising bullpen will come together, and maybe the Sox team ERA will be closer to 4 than 5. Lots of maybes, and there are even more on the offensive side. The Red Sox will score plenty of runs if Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia return to form atop the lineup, David Ortiz fully heals, Will Middlebrooks avoids a sophomore slump, and free agents like Shane Victorino and Mike Napoli play like they did in 2011 instead of 2012. The probability of all these “ifs” trending in a positive direction is remote, but crazier things have happened. Bring the family to Fenway this year and see what happens.
Who’s to say that a park’s 101st year can’t be more special than its centennial?? The AL East will be difficult. The Sox open their home schedule with a three-game series against Baltimore (the surprise of 2012) starting April 8, and then face the formidable rotation of the Tampa Bay Rays starting April 12. If you like reunions then go to Fenway in May. The Toronto Blue Jays, Farrell’s old team, are in town May 10-12, and then Tito returns with his new team, the Cleveland Indians, for four games starting May 23. No sooner does Francona leave, and old friend Jonathan Papelbon returns as the Sox host the Philadelphia Phillies for a couple games May 27-28. Just don’t expect to hear “I’m Shipping Up to Boston” if Pap comes into the game. The Yankees don’t make their first trip to Boston until late July. Hopefully the Sox are still healthy and relevant by then. Hopefully their attention is wholly inside the white lines. If we are lucky, and with the help of a second Wild Card, the local nine will play meaningful games after Labor Day. If we are really lucky, the team will no longer play “Sweet Caroline” during the 8th inning if the Sox have just blown a lead. For the first time in a long time, high expectations and an aggressive marketing campaign will not hinder what the Red Sox can or might accomplish. A weight has been lifted. Yes, it seems the 101st season at Fenway has much more promise.