NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

April 5, 2013

Suddenly, the Sox are a team again

Bill Plante's North Shore
Newburyport Daily News

---- — I have no idea whether the Red Sox players who showed up on Monday for their season opener with the New York Yankees will be playing that way all the way, but I hope so.

If they played as well as they did on Monday and lost, the game must have been sensational.

Hope is essential for fans of all sports, but it was torment after torment for those of us who lived through the seemingly endless purgatory of waiting for the Sox to win a World Series.

Year after year, every year in my case for more than three quarters of a century, we waited until - miracle of miracles - they won two.

TWO!

And then, in 2012, they collapsed.

Why? For reasons of analysis and commentaries by those far more cognizant than I.

But my late father would have said “Too many weren’t playing team ball on every pitch.”

Baseball is unlike most sports because there is a lot of waiting for something to happen beyond the pitcher’s attempt to strike a batter out...

The rest of the players can’t just stand where they are playing the waiting game with other things on their minds..

Those in the infield are in the direct firing line of a batted ball. There can be no lack of concentration, no lack of togetherness.

The ball coming off the bat can be hit in any direction from dribbled bunts to scorching speeds, and reaction times have to be in split seconds.

Those in the outfield have to concentrate on every pitch as well as what’s in play on the base paths while waiting pitch after pitch - sometimes inning after inning before a ball is hit to their areas of responsibility.

They have to be able to assess who is at bat, who, if anyone is on base, the probable direction of a hit, its elevation and its arc, and where, considering everything that’s in play on the infield, to throw the ball.

But the game calls for more than physical ability and alertness. The word “TEAM” is significant.

All sports have their stars – some seasoned, some promising. Last year’s Red Sox certainly had theirs. What they didn’t have was a TEAM sufficient to the need.

For reasons now fully apparent, there was no cohesion from about the middle of the season to its dreadful collapse.

My dad would have said, “Too many of them didn’t play TEAM ball.”

That was obvious Monday night. The Yankees were out of sync for a number of reasons that will surely be addressed.

The Red Sox weren’t. They were playing team ball splendidly, and that with more new faces than old in their lineup giving promise for what could lie ahead..

I don’t hear umpires calling “Play Ball!” loud enough to be heard by all before each game. They should because other games that may be going on between players and managers have no place other than the game itself, once said.

¢¢¢

Bill Plante is a Newbury resident and a staff columnist.