PHILADELPHIA — This is the way they drew it up in the dimly lit silo in Lawrence, Kan., during the long, cold baseball winter of 2014-15.
Bill James, Ben Cherington, John Henry, Michael Gordon, Larry Lucchino, and Tom Werner could not have asked for a better Opening Day. The guys who run the Red Sox are pushing a new world order, and everything worked out perfectly in the first 24 hours of the new major league season. Let the gloating begin.
Less than 18 hours after Jon Lester spit the bit in his nationally televised Cubs debut at Wrigley Field (take that, Theo!), the revamped Red Sox lineup crushed five homers in an 8-0 rout of the Philadelphia Phillies.
The Sox hit four homers (two by Dustin Pedroia) off the coveted Cole Hamels, a high-priced ace they eschewed in trade talks. Hanley Ramirez, who received the bag of money that Lester and Hamels did not get, hit a pair of bombs, including a ninth-inning grand slam.
Meanwhile, much-maligned Clay Buchholz — the ace of the aceless Sox staff — dazzled the Phillies on three hits over seven innings. Just when you thought things couldn’t get any better, the final score rolled in from New York that had the Yankees losing to Toronto, 6-1. It’s like a perfect Patriots day is always complemented by a Jets loss.
You know what all this means. Worst-to-first-to-worst-to-first could be a reality. The wise guys in Vegas (86.5 wins) may have underestimated the Sox juggernaut. Mercury Morris and the 1972 Dolphins might be holding champagne bottles, still waiting for the Sox to lose one, in July. Perhaps 162-0 is not out of the question.
Seriously, folks, this two-day start could not have gone better for the Sox owners, the all-important analytics guys, and the hard-working men in Boston’s baseball ops department.
Just about all of them were on hand to witness the carnage inflicted upon the Phillies, and there were a lot of smiles in and around the visiting clubhouse when it was over. The Sox even announced a four-year contract extension for Wednesday’s starter, 26-year-old ex-Tiger Rick Porcello.
“This is probably my favorite Opening Day,’’ said CEO Lucchino. “We had warm temperatures, sunshine, and a big victory. We had strong, sharp pitching and five home runs. I like to think Opening Day is a harbinger of what’s to come.’’
It was the total opposite of the start of the 2003 season when young Theo Epstein and his minions told the world they were going to have a “closer by committee” rather than a lockdown reliever at the end of the bullpen. As if on cue, the committee blew up in the opener at Tampa Bay, and Epstein remarked on the glee of ready-to-pounce critics who had openly mocked the wacky Sox plan. A year later, pricey free agent Keith Foulke was signed and the Sox won the World Series.
Now we have the committee of No. 3 starters and the absence of an ace. The Sox are insisting that the long-held notion that a team needs a stopper is folly. In truth, Boston’s new “philosophy” is largely an invention of necessity.
The Sox went with a closer by committee only because they did not have a true fireman at the end of the pen. Today they are selling an aceless staff because they did not sign Lester or get into the trade market for Hamels.
And they look like geniuses. So far.
Lester is 31. The Cubs just committed $166 million to the former Sox World Series hero. On Sunday night, Lester could not get out of the fifth inning. The Cardinals exposed his growing reluctance to throw to first base. Or any base. It is astounding that nobody tested Lester on this over the last few years, but it looked as though it’s going to be a problem for him in his new league. Smilin’ Jonny has the yips, and aren’t the Red Sox brilliant for not giving him the keys to Henry’s kingdom?
As for Hamels, he still has $90 million coming over the next four years ($23.5 million this year), he’s also 31, and there was silly talk about the Sox acquiring him in exchange for Mookie Betts before the start of this season.
So what happened in the sun-splashed opener? Betts hit a first-pitch homer off Hamels in the third inning of Boston’s textbook win. Betts is 22 years old. He is a starting center fielder. He looks like a future All-Star. The Red Sox will assure you that they never, ever considered trading Betts for Hamels.
Meanwhile, who needs Lester, Hamels, or any expensive ace when you have Buchholz? Boston’s oft-critiqued scarecrow starter flirted with a no-hitter into the fourth and mowed down the hapless Phils with incredible ease.
How good did things go for the Sox? Allen Craig came up as a pinch hitter in the ninth and singled to left. The Sox had a million opportunities to trade Craig over the winter. They did not. They knew he was ready to break out.
The Red Sox are undefeated. Craig is batting 1.000. Pedroia and Ramirez are leading the majors in homers. Lester is winless, Hamels is winless, and the Sox are a homer-hitting wagon with five aces.
“Everybody put a lot of hard work into spring training,’’ said Pedroia. “Now is the time for it to pay off.’’
“This is how I planned it in my head,’’ said Buchholz. “Our lineup feels like our lineup in 2007. It’s pretty cool.’’
Sounds like worst to first.
Dan Shaughnessy can be reached at dshaughnessy @globe.com.