It seems we usually spend most of spring training tapping our toes, checking our watches and waiting — always waiting — for April 1. Opening Day. It can’t get here soon enough.
This year, we were ecstatic that baseball would count a full week earlier, as the Red Sox and A’s fly to Japan for a pair of late-March regular season games. Long plane flight? Previous complaints by "certain" Yankee pitchers who struggled after such a trip? Tish-tosh. These are the defending World Champs! They overcame a lot more than a 17-hour plane ride last season. Give me a first-class flight over a 3-1 ALCS deficit with C.C. Sabathia on the mound any day.
Then Coco Crisp came down with a groin strain that has reduced the
alleged position battle with Jacoby Ellsbury to even more of a farce.
Then Julio Lugo tweaked his back. A couple games, we were told. A
week later, Lugo is saying he might not make the flight to Japan.
Then Josh Beckett tweaked his back even worse. He didn’t feel good
today, and an Opening Day start is looking less and less likely —
especially with a half-day plane ride in the offing.
Meanwhile, Daisuke Matsuzaka looked terrible in his last start; Jon
Lester has been his usual inconsistent self; and Clay Buchholz, Kyle
Snyder and Julian Tavarez all seem intent on not winning the
Of course, this is only spring training, we tell ourselves. Keith
Foulke didn’t look good in March 2004. He turned out all right. Even if
Beckett misses a couple starts, how is that any different from last
season, when Beckett missed a couple starts and still won 20 games? The
Red Sox are simply being ultra cautious with him and Lugo. No sense
ruining a player’s season to win two games in Japan. And, really, the
2004 Yankees struggled after (or because of) their trip to Japan, and
still won 101. In the grand scheme of the season, these spring bumps
are minor — almost inconsequential, even routine.
We tell ourselves these things. They make sense. They are rational,
logical, grounded statements. But you try telling that to the little
Red Sox fan inside — the one who grew fat and happy on worry and
cynicism for more than two decades. He raises his voice when things go
bad. Two World Series haven’t silenced him yet. 2004? He asks. 2007? He scoffs. How about another 2006? He
looks at that Japan trip and sees missed opportunities for Beckett to
rebound, fewer games for the kids to get themselves straight.
Opening Day is just two weeks away. The Red Sox leave for Japan in
eight days. So soon? We can wait a little. Let’s let this spring go on
a while longer.