Alexander Pope, one of those 18th Century dead white poets you were force-fed in English class, cheekily penned the phrase, “Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed.” For 86 years, this was an aphorism for Red Sox fans.
Now, after three last place finishes in the past four seasons, it seems Pope’s lines can again be applied as the Red Sox break camp and head into Opening Day on Monday.
With the pieces to the puzzle in place, it is fair to say the prognosis isn’t very promising.
For starters, manager John Farrell’s position seems to have the shelf life of a carton of milk. While Farrell’s reputation took a hit in spring training after his relationship with team reporter Jess Moran was revealed, the underlying fact is that Farrell is average-to-poor game manager, and he comes across as a doormat with his veteran players.
Granted, the decision to give the starting third-base position to Travis Shaw over the $20 million “Ferrari in the garage” is ballsy and indicative of a man who is managing for his job, but it is also a move that has president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski’s thumb prints all over it.
Regardless, Torey Lovullo can place the cake order for his promotion party. It’s likely coming sooner rather than later.
But the most discouraging sign, the reason I shall be “blessed” for my lack of expectations, is the same thing that nags most middle-of-the-road teams—and, yes, I expect the 2016 Red Sox to fall under that umbrella—and it is a lack of consistent pitching.
While the addition of David Price certainly upgrades the starting staff, after Price the bottom falls out. Clay Buchholz will inevitably take his summer vacation on the DL, and Joe Kelly and Rick Porcello, while showing some signs of life in the garbage games at the end last season, are unpredictable at best. Eduardo Rodriguez isn’t returning until May with a knee injury.
And I’m sorry, but I can’t think of Steven Wright as anyone other than a bald man delivering witty one-liners.
The bullpen has also been upgraded with the addition of closer Craig Kimbrel, but the loss of Carson Smith to begin the season is bigger deal than most people realize.
I don’t want to be a wet blanket. Maybe I’m wrong to not expect big things from this team. Maybe the young studs will light up the league and propel the team to first place. Maybe Hanley Ramirez won’t decide to quit this season. Maybe Farrell manages with tenacity and an acumen previously unseen.
Maybe I’ll win the lottery. Maybe Kate Upton will return my phone calls. Maybe Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton will run fair, reasonable campaigns rooted in the real issues.
I’m not saying the Red Sox are destined to be another train wreck. I simply won’t expect anything from this team; therefore, there will be no disappointment come October.