I wish Opening Day 2015 were today.
This doesn’t mean I’m dissing the Patriots, Bruins, and Celtics. I’m totally into the Patriots as a serious Super Bowl contender. I assume the Bruins (i.e. Peter Chiarelli) will figure out this who goes and who stays thing and they will be a Stanley Cup threat once again. I look forward to seeing how much the Celtics’ young players will develop and, of course, what happens with Rajon Rondo. This is the reason why I just don’t understand people who are focused on one sport, and one sport only. A true sports fan always has something to command his or her attention.
But I mean it when I say that I wish the next baseball season was about to begin. It is hardly a parochial thought to maintain that, since Sept. 1, 2011, there has been no more fascinating team in all of major league baseball, the Red Sox between then and now having gone from drop-dead playoff team to historic flopper to reprehensible mess to world champions to basement dwellers, even as the experts are saying they’re going to be just fine in 2015 and beyond.
C’mon, the other 29 teams are complete bores compared to our gang. Red Sox fans have had an amazing ride.
Unlike followers of the Indiana Pacers, the Red Sox fans at least know why the team went from first to last this season. The Pacers started 16-1. At little more than 60 percent through the season they were 40-11 and a popular choice to represent the East in the NBA Finals. And then something happened.
Seven-foot Roy Hibbert, a legitimate All-Star and 2013 playoff stalwart, became a candidate for a therapist’s couch. Paul George went from the MVP discussion to just OK (talking about before he got hurt playing for Team USA). There were no major injuries. It’s true they wound up playing Miami for the Eastern Conference championship, as they had the year before, but they weren’t going to beat the Heat, and everyone knew it. Along the way, the Pacers played some of the most execrable games submitted by a supposed good team in the history of the NBA playoffs. Even Larry Bird acknowledges that.
Trust me, there was no valid explanation.
Not so for the 2014 Red Sox. We all know precisely what happened.
Begin with the premise that 2013 was a gift from the gods and there was no way any rational person could expect it to be replicated. There was going to be a market correction. Forget about every little thing not being all right this time. Even some big things were going to misfire. Hence the slow offensive starts by Messrs. Pedroia and Ortiz. Hence the early injury to Mike Napoli. Hence the recurring health problems of Shane Victorino.
Much depended on young players. Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley Jr., and Will Middlebrooks had to produce offensively. They did not.
Fess-up time. I sat at a bar last September watching a Red Sox game and I piped up with a thought about Bogaerts. I said that while I was not actually comparing Bogaerts to this gentleman, nor predicting a comparable career, I thought there was a stylistic resemblance. I said that his plate coverage and beautiful stroke to the opposite field reminded me of, ahem, Miguel Cabrera. Then he performed at a high level in the postseason. You wanted him up.
OK, OK, all right already. Nobody’s right all the time.
Yet don’t you agree with me that the 2013 postseason Bogaerts is in there, somewhere, that it’s way too early to give up on him becoming a quasi-Cabrera?
As for Bradley Jr., watching him flail at the plate was painful, simply because I wanted so badly for him to be the Red Sox center fielder for us all to enjoy for the next 12-15 years. I can’t speak for Tris Speaker, Dominic DiMaggio, or even Jimmy Piersall, but I know that Jackie Bradley Jr. is/was the best Red Sox defensive center fielder of the last 50 years. Yup, better than Reggie Smith, Fred Lynn, Otis Nixon, Johnny Damon, Jacoby Ellsbury, or anyone else you could name. The best. Numero Uno.
Once upon a time I wanted Pedro to strike out every guy. This season, I wanted 27 fly balls to center.
Middlebrooks? I can tell you that the seamhead set was skeptical about him after that power-laden rookie season, and thus far they are looking good. I have no idea what’s going on with him. Yes, he got hurt, but since he’s been back we get excited with every base hit. That’s not good.
So the karma was never going to be the same, the stars got off to slow offensive starts, and the kids didn’t hit.
Finally, there was no differentiation among young, old, skinny, fat, black, white, Latino, and whatever when it came to the team’s ludicrous failure to hit with men in scoring position. They continually put a sufficient number of men on base and continually left them right where they were.
The pitching was adequate. The situational hitting was inadequate. That’s why the 2014 Red Sox have lost far more games than they have won. That’s why Sept. 28 will be the last time we will see them in Fenway until next spring. There is no mystery involved, not like the Pacers.
Ah, but now we’ve got two Cubans to save us. Too bad the Sox can’t get Minnie Minoso, too, but at 88 he might not have much left in the tank. I know Dustin Pedroia’s OPS has declined four straight seasons and Big Papi will fall off the cliff one of these years. I know Ben Cherington has to find two starting pitchers, somehow, some way. And I know we have to see if Brock Holt is really this good or if Mookie Betts will go the way of Bogaerts and Bradley Jr. at the dish. By the way, don’t you love Christian Vazquez? The pitchers sure do.
I am fascinated by the cycle. I am curious. There are a million questions. They are the Boston Red Sox. There’s nobody like ’em.
Bob Ryan’s column appears regularly in the Globe. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.