Last year, Hideki Okajima induced chuckles everywhere when he told the press corps he was perfectly fine being in Daisuke Matsuzaka’s shadow.
"I am willing to be a hero in the dark," he said. You may have heard this quote roughly 2,000 times by now.
The problem with being a hero in the dark is that you can’t do it twice. Put it this way: In October, the Colorado Rockies weren’t exactly wondering why Matsuzaka had suddenly developed a massive neck twitch during his delivery. Okajima was no longer in shadow.
So for the Red Sox to be successful in 2008, another hero will likely have to emerge from the shadows. Someone we don’t expect to be a major contributor but who — either through talent or circumstance — requires he be used regularly by October.
My nominee: Craig Hansen.
Hansen is fresh off surgery for sleep apnea; he’s told the press he feels well rested for the first time in years. He seemed to finally have put it together at the end of 2007 after a year-plus of horrific struggles. So mark it down: Craig Hansen will be the bullpen cog the Red Sox can’t be without come the September pennant race.
With this, the final day before pitchers and catchers report, and some congressional hearing going on in Washington, let’s use this thread for some old-fashioned, optimistic spring baseball discussion.
Who do you see as the 2008 hero in the dark, for either team?