Teejay's back. Nick is chiding us for our lameness via email, blogpost, and comment - lacking only a twitter account to hit for the modern-day quadruple crown. The Scottish contingent has weighed in. And Whitney's...somewhere. Spring is in the air, ladies and gentlemen.
I wrote this 13 months ago, and it's as true today as it was then:
It occurs to me that my tolerance for Snyder’s wanton incompetence would be greater but for the fact that I’m a Sox fan. The differences between John Henry’s organization and that of Snyder are so stark as to be polar in their distance. I’ve had the unique and distinct pleasure of watching my favorite baseball club become a standard-bearer for organizational excellence, using deep pockets to fuel an extraordinarily disciplined and focused pursuit of every advantage. In the meantime, my football team has used similarly deep pockets to fuck up in every way possible, overspending on players, gleefully milking money from fans, and creating discontinuity as an organizational strategy.
On the morning after Dan Synder signed off on the single largest contract for a defensive player in the history of professional football and dropped over $55 million in guaranteed contracts to a pair of talented but oft-troubled players, I once again nod thankfully in Theo Epstein's direction.
The Sox didn't create any great splashes this offseason, though they certainly tried with Mark Teixeira. Once they missed on the talented firstbaseman, though, they didn't overcompensate, they didn't panic, and they didn't overreact. Instead, they inked several medium-risk, high-reward, budget-friendly deals. Rocco Baldelli joins his hometown nine as the 4th outfielder. Brad Penny and John Smoltz add serious depth to the rotation when they get healthy. And Takashi Saito does the same for the already solid bullpen (a his scoreless inning yesterday is a cause for fingers-crossed optimism). All four of these veterans joined the Sox for less total money than Alex Rodriguez will make by the All-Star break.
Fingers-crossed optimism. That may well be the mantra going into the season. Given a few good breaks in the trainer's room, the Sox could be very, very good. If Mike Lowell and David Ortiz return to even a semblance of their 2007 form, the offense will be deep enough to carry even Jason Varitek. The bench is anchored by Baldelli, health permitting, with Julio Lugo (please to be making Jed Lowrie the starter, skipper) and Mark Kotsay providing big-league quality depth. If Penny and Smoltz can contribute, Terry Francona will have to pick an odd man out, as the Beckett, Matsuzaka, Lester, Penny, Smoltz, Wakefield rotation matches up with any in the league and Clay Buchholz waits in the wings, trying to prove he belongs in the bigs after a forgettable 2008. Jonathan Papelbon's sublime idiocy anchors the pen, with Saito, Hideki Okajima, Manny Delcarmen, Justin Masterson, and Javier Lopez rounding out a group with the potential to be among the league's best. (Godspeed, Mike Timlin, wherever you are).
Ifs, buts, candies, nuts, my friends. But the view from the cheap seats shines with soft glow of a new season's promise. Roll the balls out, let 'em play.