If, as a Sox billboard outside Fenway suggested last year, the New Year begins in April, then maybe the day pitchers and catchers report two months earlier can be compared to Thanksgiving on the Sox calendar. A time to get back together with loved ones, count our blessings, and look forward to another turn of the wheel toward a new season.
But there are new revelations and uncertainties, as there are every year--Buck, for example, is seeing a shrink to try and get back to the Major League mound.* We have quite a few players coming back from injury, whether they played for us or another team, and all the questions that surround them remain up in the air.
Here are some more:
- Will we love or dread having Varitek back for another year?
- Will Jonathan Papelbon learn to mix his pitches more?
- Will we have the 2007 or 2008 Okajima?
- Will we have the 2007 or 2008 Josh Beckett?
- Will we still have the 2008 Jon Lester?
- If so, would it be reasonable to start a sports blog solely focused on the Red Sox pitching staff?
- Will the Sox sign Jason Bay already?
- Can Dustin Pedroia possibly top (or even sustain) his last two seasons?
- What about Kevin Youkilis?
- Will the real Jacoby Ellsbury please stand up?
- Will Mike Lowell be ready for Opening Day?
- Will the injury bug generally go into remission?
- Who will be a bigger pain in our ass--the upstart AL Champion Devil Rays or the reloaded Yankees?
- What's it gonna sound like the first time A-Rod steps up to the plate at Fenway Park this season?
- Will the other 103 names come out?
- Will any current or former Red Sox be among them?
- What would we do then?
- And who, for the love of God, is going to catch Tim Wakefield?
At some point in this season, as it always does, some of the debate over these questions will reach a frothing boil. Terry Francona will be back on his pack-a-day antacid habit. Theo Epstein may actually start deploying some Just for Men. Talk radio callers will shout themselves hoarse. But only if we're very lucky, and all is otherwise right with the world.
As I mentioned on Truck Day, there's a different perspective this year. But baseball coming back is like the 50-degree-plus weather respite we also got around the Boston area this week--just warm enough, with just the right scent on the wind, to quicken your heartbeat and make you think of summer again.
*I'd just like to throw a gratuitous "I told you so" out, here.