I'll admit I've been relieved when others have expressed their boredom with this offseason; it's good to know I'm not alone.
The Sox have made some nice moves (John Lackey; picking up Victor Martinez's option) as well as some potentially risky ones (letting Jason Bay go after a medical dispute; keeping a spot warm in the rotation for an aging Tim Wakefield recovering from surgery). Add in a flameout in the Adrian Gonzalez deal that never was, some academic discussions about lineup power vs. pitching / defensive strength during the autopsy of the 2009 season (a discussion which by now has been settled, as the team itself, by its offseason moves, has fallen firmly on the latter side), and it mostly adds up to...*yawn*
I thought the Soxaholix nailed it with the post "Tabula Rasa" last week. "And yet when you get right down to it, there really isn't much to say, is there?" "Exactly. It's all fillah."
So far as camp has opened, there have been a few storylines -- tops among them a mild back strain for Daisuke Matsuzaka and Josh Beckett's contract for 2011. The New York Post tried to stir the pot with a piece predicting Papelbon in pinstripes, such a bald-faced attempt to get something, anything started that I found I couldn't even work up much of a response.
There's also the awkward situation with Mike Lowell to worry about at some point...but in the meantime, this offseason has been so relatively sedate that we're entering Spring Training beginning next season's contract arguments already. The Globe sports page today is headlined with a piece about Josh Beckett in which Beckett himself is not interviewed, and Jon Lester is liberally quoted advocating for a new contract for his mentor next year (also a squee-worthy, if tangential, moment where Casey Kelly describes his joy at Beckett saying 'hi' to him).
This has the potential to become an explosive situation, in the manner of all Sox melodramas, which until this point have remained a personality quirk of this team mostly unchanged by championship victories. But for now, there's a whole lot of baseball between us and anything that could be called a moment of reckoning. So unwilling has Beckett (a member of the Bill Belichick School of Media Relations) been to breathe a word to the press at this point that we've had to resort to what Surviving Grady dubbed "The Obligatory Josh Beckett Gut Shot" in order to have anything to talk about.
"Tabula Rasa" is a great way to describe things right now. It's too early for just about anything -- real game action, speculation based on much other than theoretical math, division standings, anything that infuses baseball with a shot of adrenaline to go with the "complexity and balance" described by Roger Angell in his Spring Training essay "The Old Folks Behind Home":
What cheered me as I tramped through the peanut shells and discarded programs and out into the hot late sunlight was not just the score and not just Casey's triumph but a freshly renewed appreciation of the marvelous complexity and balance of baseball...baseball requires a full season, hundreds and hundreds of separate games, before quality can emerge...
As a fan base that's known offseasons in recent years as fraught as the disastrous postseason runs that preceded them, that grew accustomed to media firestorms around the arrival of a certain dreadlocked slugger to camp, or circuses as Daisuke came ashore, maybe we should be content with the relative calm of this spring while it lasts. There's something to be said for a spring training that consists of slow emergence from hibernation, with time to appreciate sunshine and scenery.
Another passage from Angell comes to mind, from his essay "The Short Season", which captures this stopping-to-smell the roses feeling of the early spring:
My seat in the auxiliary press box offered a vista of a considerable section of nearby Tampa Bay, all ruffled and glittery and, on this day, cluttered with a heavy traffic of power yachts, water-skiers, and runabouts. A good distance out, the white sails of a gigantic Lightning-class regatta clustered thickly, and then, after the distant bump of the starting gun, the boats strung themselves out on their first reach like a line of drying wash. A series of racing hydroplanes appeared just inside a nearby seawall, threw themselves around a pylon in a snarl of noise and spray, and went bucking off to the west. I began to think I was watching teh afternoon show at the Florida Pavilion in some World's Fair.
That we're staring at a pitcher's navel rather than hydroplanes is irrelevant; in either case it's clear we haven't reached midseason focus just yet.
As long as we're working with color filler, however, it might be time for someone to point a camera at Dustin Pedroia again for a little while. Just an idea. Surely the Elf can at least find a way to bring us more compelling content than Josh Beckett's midriff.