BALTIMORE — Can they just go back to Florida and stay there forever? Why do the Red Sox have to start the 2014 major league baseball season in Baltimore Monday and . . . you know . . .
The Red Sox at this moment are perfect. They just completed a magical, worst-to-first championship season that made them the darlings of New England and then they followed it up with perhaps the most tranquil and happy spring training since the sport was invented.
And now they have to start playing actual games again and risk tainting everything?
It so rarely works with sequels. Just look at “Anchorman II,” “Rocky II,” and “Back to the Future II.” Thankfully, nobody tried to make “Return to Casablanca” or “Son of Shawshank.”
And so it is with the Red Sox. They are skinny war hero Jack Kennedy running for Congress in 1946. They are a 17-year-old Elizabeth Taylor. They are that beach house that looked ideal until you bought it and noticed the erosion and wood rot. They are perfect in our minds. They work perfectly as a memory. Their future is . . . their past. They cannot get better. They can only get worse.
When you think of the Red Sox at this moment, you think of Shane Victorino banging that ball off the top of the Wall in Game 6 against the Cardinals. You think of the loudest night in the history of the 102-year-old ballpark. You think of David Ortiz hitting .688 and Koji Uehara retiring 100 batters in a row and Xander Bogaerts stepping onto the biggest stage and playing like a 10-year veteran.
Last year’s Boston baseball season was as perfect as the hair on the head of the Werewolf of London. The Red Sox were the embodiment of “all for one, one for all” and team above self. Nobody complained about playing time. Nobody went behind the back of manager John Farrell. Nobody moaned about travel or night games on Sunday.
Nobody griped about having to carry his own bags. Nobody worried about a late-inning deficit. Nobody tested positive for steroids. Practically nobody got hurt. John Lackey, a guy who was a local pariah in 2011-12, was a candidate for mayor by the time the World Series ended.
The offseason was also swell. Jacoby Ellsbury, one of the Sox’ best players, signed a whopping contract with the Yankees and the Sox were universally applauded for not being dumb enough to overpay him. Then the Yankees went out and paid $174 million for a Japanese No. 5 starter.
We had a lot of fun laughing at the desperate Bronx Bombers. They don’t win championships anymore and they don’t have a farm system and they have to spend bundles on old talent that winds up on the disabled list.
Instead of wasting all that money and losing draft picks, Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington (Executive of the Year, naturally) loaded up on bullpen arms, then went out and signed a three-time All-Star center fielder for a mere $750,000. Grady Sizemore came to Fort Myers and won the center-field job, making the Sox look like geniuses again.
Cherington also took a chance on a 37-year-old catcher who has been voted “most hated player in baseball,’’ but A.J. Pierzynski has changed all of our minds. Now we all love him. It’s the Patriot Effect. You know. They come here and they become great guys.
If dispatches from Florida tell us anything, it’s that the Sox simply have too damn much pitching for this season. Ryan Dempster did everyone a favor by retiring at the beginning of spring training because the Sox already have five established starters and more big league-ready Triple A pitchers than any team in the history of the game.
Sometimes it feels as though Boston could field two teams in the American League East and earn two playoff spots, taking first place and a wild card. That’s how good the Sox look right now, and I’m not just saying that because John Henry — a funny Tweeter and probably the best owner in the game — also owns The Boston Globe.
Things are so good around this team right now that management is happy to extend contracts even when the players have no leverage. After agreeing to a two-year deal before the 2013 season, David Ortiz wanted another extension this spring so the Sox gave it to him, getting nothing in exchange other than a happy Big Papi. We hear Mo Vaughn now wants to be rewarded for his 1995 MVP season with the Red Sox.
It’s hard to even remember the old days when the Sox went 86 years without winning a World Series and all of their stars (Wade Boggs, Roger Clemens, Vaughn, Nomar) left town spitting nails at ownership. Now the Sox win championships and lock up their DH, paying him $48 million to make sure he’s still in the fold when he’s 42.
We are all happy. The abstract notion always trumps a reality that is unlikely to be realized. Wait Till Next Year has become Wait Till Last Year. And Wait Till Every Year. The 2014 defending world champion Red Sox have not lost a game. They are perfect . . .
. . . . until the season starts Monday afternoon and we are reminded how hard it is to win a baseball championship.