Here are the results of the last seven Opening Days, at home and away, according to the Baseball Almanac:
2004 - Road Opener 04/04/04 @BAL -- L 7-2; Home Opener 04/09/04 vs. TOR L 10-5
2005 - Road Opener 04/03/05 @NYY -- L 1-0; Home Opener 04/11/05 vs. NYY W 8-1
2006 - Road Opener 04/03/06 @TEX -- W 7-3; Home Opener 04/11/06 vs. TOR W 5-3
2007 - Road Opener 04/02/07 @KC -- L 7-1; Home Opener 04/10/07 vs. SEA W 14-3
2008 - Road Opener 03/25/08 @OAK -- W 6-5; Home Opener 04/08/08 vs. DET W 5-0
2009 - Home Opener 04/07/09 vs.TB -- W 5-3; Road Opener 04/11/06 @ LAA L 6-3
2010 - Home Opener 04/04/10 vs. NYY -- W 9-7; Road Opener 04/11/06 @KC L 4-3
I mention this because there appears to have been some panic floating about, at least on Twitter, about today's loss and various players' performances. Looking at these numbers, it seems that if there's any pattern, it's that the Red Sox tend to split their home and road openers, and (shocka!) they tend to win at home (this is also how the team has been built since time immemorial).
There have been two years that the Red Sox won the road opener. Neither of those years (2006 and 2008) was a World Series year. In their World Series years, the Red Sox lost their road openers, and in '04 they lost their home opener, too.
Ultimately, there's no correlation between Opening Day results and full-season results, but just keep that little factoid in mind.
And look. I get it. When I was a novice fan, I thought panic in the streets was the way I showed my intensity and dedication and enthusiasm for the game. I thought if I didn't break things whenever they lost, it looked like I didn't care. Now I realize, it just made me look like a n00b. Which is exactly what anybody making sweeping pronouncements about today's game looks like to me now.
Passion and intensity, for me, have come to mean deepening knowledge and understanding of what's going on in the game, dedication in the form of strict game watching / attendance throughout the season, and going down with an injury-riddled ship (*cough2010cough*) if need be.
None of this requires hysteria, denial, generalization, complete lack of perspective, or breathless phone calls to talk radio. Just sayin'.
So. Now that I've gotten that out of the way, I also do not wish to suggest that there isn't room for both praise and criticism after our first real look at the team.
Thumbs up for today go to:
- Adrian Gonzalez - Before late-afternoon shadows came to put hitters at a general disadvantage in the middle innings, the Red Sox offense was humming. They charged out onto the field and put up two quick runs, every one of them as wide-eyed and amped-up as I've ever seen them. Gonzalez would knock in the second of those runs. A-Gon, as he appears to have been christened, followed this up with with an absolutely unbelievable piece of hitting from his shoelaces that blooped into shallow center two innings later, putting the Sox up again, 4-2. Meanwhile, he spent his time in the field making digging bad-hop throws out of the dirt look easy.
Yeah. He can stay.
- Dustin Pedroia - Speaking of charging out onto the field like a house afire. I can only imagine these last few weeks have meant a physical hunger for Pedroia, to get back out there, take charge, and kick ass -- and today, it showed, especially defensively. He was especially key in righting the ship following an uncharacteristic error by Youkilis in the bottom of the first, preserving the the lead, at least for a little while.
- Jacoby Ellsbury - You want to talk about hungry to play? Ellsbury got on base every time he stepped into the batter's box today, whether through hits, walks, or errors, and recorded his first steal in the top of the fifth. Of course he can't help but hear the naysayers, and today was a very good first rebuttal for 2011, at least on the basepaths. Ellsbury's center field route-running skills were once again called into question later in the game when he took an awkward, hooking route to a fly ball.
- David Ortiz - Well, well well. If it wasn't Big Papi, oftentimes forgotten amid all the hubbub of this past off-season, coming through in the clutch with a solo homer in the top of the 8th that tied the game at 5 all. Just don't anybody remind him it's still April...
...while Eyebrows of Consternation (and not just my own) are currently furrowed in the direction of:
- Jon Lester -- Lester, also famous for slow starts, wasn't just slow today -- he was all but stopped. It wasn't just a bad performance -- it was a career-bad performance, including a career-high three home runs and just one K for last year's most dominating Sox pitcher. We've seen this movie before, but even last year, it wasn't quite so bad.
- Carl Crawford -- Anybody can have a bad game, for one reason or another. But we never got to see our two base-stealers on the basepaths together today, because one of them (Crawford) never made it there. I'm not going to make any predictions or cast any aspersions on Crawford because of that -- I'll just say that seeing them run together has been one of the things I've been most looking forward to about the season starting, so it was disappointing that it didn't happen today.
I suppose that's why they invented tomorrow.
- Daniel Bard - Like Lester, the flame-throwing righty reliever, brought on to preserve the tenuous tie in the bottom of the eighth, had a career-bad day, surrendering four runs and allowing the Rangers to blow the game open.
- ESPN -- I generally prefer ESPN to FOX when it comes to national baseball broadcasts, but that's really not saying much. For some reason, neither national sports broadcasting team seems to realize that they are not drawing any new / casual fans in to the sport with their constant asides and gimmicks.
My friend that I'm visiting in NC can vouch for this -- a non-fan, she chimed in sometime in the sixth or seventh inning to say Orel Hershiser's neverending bloviation was doing little to enhance her appreciation of the game. Meanwhile, I counted -- they put the camera, in lingering, loving close-up, on George W. and Laura Bush sitting with Nolan Ryan no less than six times. I don't care who it is -- that is too many times. And then there was the part where they shrank the screen showing the game in the middle of an at-bat, the better to have some former umpire appear through some sort of picture-in-picture-style mess, the better to blather about one of the calls that had been made the previous inning.
Listen, national networks: I am a passionate Red Sox fan. Dubya himself could come on and do the play-by-play, and I'd probably still watch -- I have every motivation to stay tuned in. But it's still a struggle, even for me, every. single. time. any of you have the broadcast rights for a Sox game, or if I'm watching from somewhere there is no local TV or radio alternative available, as I was today. If I didn't have a Burning Desire to watch the Sox, I would undoubtedly tune out as well.
The bottom line: it really doesn't have to be this complicated. Just tell us useful (but brief) things about strategies actually going on on the field in front of us, which we in the audience may not pick up on at first glance -- rather than endless conversations about, say, the memories whatever retiree you have in the broadcast booth for analysis has of his own Opening Day starts. It is also okay, every so often, just to shut up and let the game unfold. And for the love of Pete, please keep the cameras squarely focused on the actual field for the entire game, or at least keep the celebrity closeups to a minimum (FYI: six is not the minimum, by anyone's standards; I'd say even half that is pushing it). Kthx.