I'll be the first to admit that at this time last year I got caught up in the hype. With 162 games to play the 2011 Boston Red Sox really did look like the team to beat. Solid pitching rotation. Carl Crawford. Adrian Gonzalez. Youk, Pedy, and Els. We were all ready to start printing World Series 2011 tshirts.
I predicted, in late March, that we would have a Red Sox vs. Phillies World Series. Well... That did not turn out at all like I had hoped.
Things are pretty different in Beantown this year. Call it a collapse, or meltdown, or whatever, the fallout from September 2011 has changed the team. A lot.
Francona got the blame and the boot. He and Bobby Valentine swapped seats and now he's calling plays while Bobby V. is calling the shots. Varitek retired to much acclaim. JD Drew retired (I guess?) to none. Papelbon is in Philly. Scutaro is in Colorado. Theo Epstein is in Chicago.
No one is really sure what to make of this baseball team. A lot of the guys in this clubhouse were a part of last year's collapse. The front-end of the starting rotation was at the center of that maelstrom.
But then again, Youkilis is healthy now. His absence was sorely felt last September. Pedroia is being Pedroia, ready to light up Fenway with his Laser Show. Hopefully (I keep using that word with him) Crawford will finally settle into his old winning ways once he's back in the lineup. Gonzalez, Ortiz, and Ellsbury will be solid performers.
There is a lot of motivation to perform, too. These guys know full well what led to the collapse. They got cocky. They got lazy with their workout regimens and they played lousy baseball. They most definitely feel like they have something to prove to the fans and to themselves this season.
And perhaps they have history on their side. This is the 100th Anniversary year of the Cathedral of Boston, Fenway Park. In 1912 they beat the New York Highlanders to open the park and went on to take the World Series over the New York Giants. I am certainly not making a prediction, just saying that's a nice bit of nostalgia to think about this year.
I am also of the opinion that giving a team with this much talent underdog status by predicting a third-place finish is really just egging them on. That's good. Make them prove it.
Starting tomorrow in Detroit they have got to get out there and make us proud to cheer them on. They have got to play good solid no-nonsense baseball.
The off-season is officially over. Let's see if the 2012 Boston Red Sox can put 2011 behind them. Let's play some damn baseball.