Put aside the entirely monosyllabic headline; I’m going to ask that you indulge me for a moment as I describe my happy place.

Picture this: It’s July, warm but not balmy. I’m sitting in a box seat at a professional baseball game with a cold Bud Light in the cup-holder in front of me. I have program and a pen and I’m scoring it, staring at the scoreboard and waiting to see if the bobbled play by the shortstop running into the hole will be ruled a hit or an error.

Now allow me to revise (as writers tend to do) my happy place: it’s the Red Sox I’m watching and they have started the season 13-2, the team is playing with guts and soul and verve. Maybe the beers don’t cost $11 a pop, but now I’m planted in a place of bliss; I’m sailing through Yeats’ Byzantine.

Yes, I shat on the 2017 Red Sox. I thought the team lacked leadership, energy and a certain edge that championship teams possess.

I place a lot of the blame for last season’s “Blah” Sox on former-manager John Farrell, an apologist, a horrific in-game manager and someone with the personality tofu. Add to that a cantankerous David Price (and his dog, Astro) and Dustin Pedroia exacting his Napoleon Complex, and you have a recipe for postseason pudding.

Who could like that team?

The 2018 Red Sox, however, have been the bipolar version of last year’s squad, so far. Minus Price (and his dog, Astro) quitting after getting shelled in the first inning of his start against the Yankees—your hand was cold and it was 30 degrees outside, shocking—this team has played with grit and fight and intestinal fortitude.

Reciprocally, I credit a lot of this to the new manager, Alex Cora, a man who shoed off Yankee third base coach Phil Nevin, after a bench-clearing brawl, with enough arrogance and disdain to make Nevin apoplectic.

Bravo, Alex Cora.

We’ve also seen a reinvested Hanley Ramirez. and a lightning-hot Mookie Betts. Andrew Benitendi coming out of the gate bigger and stronger, and prior to his injury, Xander Bogaerts looked like a new player. And I was wrong on this take and I own it, but J.D. Martinez’s opposite field power seems to spell a lot of action in the right field bullpens this season.

This is to say nothing of the shutdown by the pitching. As a staff, the Sox are currently fourth in the MLB in ERA—probably better if certain pitchers (and their dogs) didn’t quit on cold nights. The starting pitching to this date has been impeccable. Chris Sale is Chris Sale, and Rick Porcello is looking lot like the anomaly that won the Cy Young in 2016. Still, they haven’t had Drew Pomeranz, who started in Pawtucket the other night and is making his way back. This rotation should only get better.

I’m the first person to say I’m getting ahead of myself, but, so far, watching the 2018 Red Sox in April has been my happy place.

Then again, talk to me in August.

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Nathan Graziano lives in Manchester, New Hampshire. His books include Teaching Metaphors (Sunnyoutside Press, 2007), After the Honeymoon (Sunnyoutside Press, 2009), Hangover Breakfasts (Bottle of Smoke Press, 2012), Sort Some Sort of Ugly (Marginalia Publishing, 2013), and My Next Bad Decision (Artistically Declined Press, 2014). Almost Christmas, a collection of short prose pieces, was recently published by Redneck Press in 2017. Graziano writes a baseball column for Dirty Water Media. For more information, please visit his website: www.nathangraziano.com.

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