NEW YORK — The worst Red Sox season in a generation angered and alienated a large, loyal fan base and gave way to an offseason of overpayment for ballplayers of character and experience. Expectations have been lowered and the club’s winter/spring ad campaign begged forgiveness while promising a team that will try harder.
Monday the torch will be passed to Boston baseball’s future, and its name is Jackie Bradley Jr. With only 138 minor league games under his belt — none in Triple A — the soon-to-be 23-year-old Virginia native will be the Red Sox’ starting left fielder on Opening Day at Yankee Stadium.
Bradley is the perfect antidote for the infection that’s poisoned the Sox since September of 2011. Boston’s kid outfielder is a spotless soul with no baggage and no attachments to the hardball horrors that have plagued this franchise since the final days of Terry Francona and Theo Epstein.
Just after 1 p.m. Monday, Bradley will pop out of the third base dugout, trot toward the visitors’ bullpen, and take his place in the vast acreage of Yankee Stadium’s left field. As far as Sox fans are concerned, he might as well be emerging from a cornfield in Dyersville, Iowa. He is the embodiment of every cliché in baseball folklore. He is Chip Hilton, the Natural, Joe Hardy, and the hayseed kid with the big ears in Normal Rockwell’s Saturday Evening Post baseball cover. The son of a former bus driver — named after soul man Jackie Wilson — Jackie Bradley Jr. is here to rescue the Red Sox from last place and abject irrelevance.
“Anything’s possible, apparently,’’ Bradley said as he stood in front of his locker after a brief workout at Yankee Stadium Sunday afternoon. “I’m ready to start the adventure.’’
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