Saturday, August 30, 2008

Hoping for Magic

This isn’t 2004, and it’s not 2007, either. This year’s edition of the Red Sox has been hampered by injuries (Schilling, Ortiz, Drew, Lugo, Lowell and Beckett) and badly inconsistent relief pitching (Hansen, Tavarez, Delcarmen, Okajima, Timlin).

Fortunately, the rotation, the starting lineup and especially the kids (Masterson and Lowrie) have stepped up. Since the trading deadline, though, the most valuable member of the team has been Theo Epstein. Jettisoning Manny’s childish distractions and bringing in Jason Bay, Paul Byrd and now Mark Kotsay has succeeded in settling the team and refocusing everyone on the priority at hand, namely making the postseason.

As currently constituted, this team probably doesn’t have what it takes to go all the way this year, especially without a reliable Josh Beckett or a rock solid bullpen. Magic is possible, but you do get the sense that the team needs to catch fire, and that hasn’t happened yet. We’re running low on time. However, you’ve got to love their energy, grittiness and their refusal to give up. The nucleus of the present and future of the team now looks like this: Pedroia, Lowrie, Youkilis, Ellsbury, Bay, Lester, Matsuzaka, Masterson, Buchholz (we hope) and Papelbon. That’s already a Rookie of the Year, a Gold Glove and two no-hitters, along with an MVP candidate or two, a handful of potential batting championships, a couple 30-30 guys in the making and perhaps a Cy Young (maybe 3 or 4). Probably about 10 more Gold Gloves, too.

I probably shouldn’t be conceding this season already, but it just feels like it’s going to be some combination of the Angels, Rays, Cubs and Mets this year, unless Michael Bowden becomes the instant new phenom or Beckett magically regains fall 2007 form in a big damn hurry. Doesn’t feel like it, though. The stars don’t feel like they’re quite aligned. And hey, that’s ok with me, because if the Sox are eliminated, it gives me a chance to become one of Boston’s biggest Cubs fans. I’m hoping that if we’re not there, it could be, finally, the Year of the Cub. Once every hundred years is appropriate!

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