The Boys of Summer are basking in the Florida sun as Spring Training begins. You will soon read, watch, and hear many positive reports during the next six weeks.
I am hear to tell you, the reports are bullshit. That’s what Spring Training is all about. The team sells you hope, a new beginning. This is the time of the year you will hear that Jackie Bradley Jr. is the next Willie Mays, Pablo Sandoval looks so much lighter, Hanley Ramirez has embraced the idea of playing first base, and the Red Sox rotation has four No. 2 starters behind David Price.
I am not buying it for a second.
I have covered Spring Training since 1983. I have listened to all the endless drivel about how great everything is, only to learn the truth when the team comes north to Boston. The next six weeks are one big marketing ploy to sell tickets and TV ratings.
Last year, I was down in Fort Myers when I heard the Red Sox owner say his baseball franchise “has never been better.” And the manager was saying he has five No. 1 starters.
“No, [we’re] not concerned about his weight,” John Farrell said on Pablo Sandoval’s bulging waist line. “There’s a number of people that he’s working with here to make sure that he’s on the field every day, and that would be the case throughout the course of the regular season.”
The reports on Hanley were glowing as well. “He’s been a pleasure,” Farrell said last spring. “He’s been great –- the attitude, the work ethic. He’s been fun to be around. He feels supported here. He’s embraced everything, including a position change. It’s been very good.”
So how did all that work out for you?
The Red Sox once again won the winter. On paper, they should be a better team than the one that finished in last place in 2015. They have David Price at the top of the rotation. The bullpen looks to be better with Craig Kimbrel as the closer and Carson Smith, Koji Uehara, and Junichi Tazawa to set him up. And the gold dust twins of Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts give the lineup two of the best up-and-coming players in baseball.
But as we know all too well, winning the winter can mean squat in the summer. There are plenty of questions marks starting with the starters. Who will step up after David Price? Rick Porcello was awful last season, Clay Buchholz is always hurt, Eduardo Rodriguez showed potential in his 21 starts last season but no one knows how good he really is.
And then there’s the big money at the corner infield positions: Sandoval and Ramirez. They could not have been any worse both on and off the field last season. Will a year in Boston under their belt be helpful?
Is Rusney Castillo anything other than a utility player? And except for a six week stretch in August, can Bradley really hit major league pitching?
We won’t know the answer to these questions until the season starts. So in the meantime, take all the happy talk from Fort Myers with a grain of salt.