BOSTON – Hope Springs Eternal today. It is the case around here about 99% of the time.
Today is an unofficial New England holiday (we still have to work our eight hours), has been for decades – opening day at Fenway Park.
Winter is officially gone. Flowers are blooming. And lawns are greening as we speak.
After winning four World Series championships over a 15-year run, after a drought of 86 years, you’d expect even more optimism.
Of course, your expectations would be wrong.
After two years of bad baseball, the Red Sox are on the clock.
In other words, the “honeymoon” after the World Series win in 2018, maybe the greatest Red Sox team ever, is over.
Even with the lovable “Mr. Positive,” Alex Cora, in the manager’s seat, the man the vast majority of fans wanted to manage this team going forward, that isn’t going to sell without “Ws.”
As in wins.
As in wins in April.
Lots of them.
The state of our New England sports teams, as we know them today, April 1, 2021, are not what our kids are used to.
Our kids — those in their mid-20s and younger — are used to championships or, at the worst, championship contention.
And as of today, the Red Sox are not considered contenders.
Worse, Red Sox fans are being mocked. And, even worse, it’s not even the fanbase of the American League East favorites, the New York Yankees.
Some rich L.A. Dodgers fans – I hope they’re rich! – put an expensive sign up on the billboard next to Fenway Park reading:
“Dear Boston, THANK YOU FOR MOOKIE BETTS, Sincerely Dodgers Fans and @pantone294”.
Great. A constant reminder of the Betts dump.
Well, that sign will lose a lot of it luster if the Red Sox do something they haven’t done in since 2018 – get off to a great start.
That team won 17 of its first 19 games.
And other than 10 days in which they were a half-game or full-game back of the Yankees, they never looked back.
In 2019, they were 6-13 through 19 games. In 2020, they were 6-13 through 19 games and 6-18 through 24 games.
Both dreadful, non-competitive seasons.
While this 2021 Red Sox team appears to be a leg up on last year’s squad, there are holes and question marks galore.
But that isn’t an excuse fans will accept, not after the last two epically slow starts.
The Red Sox need to show some spunk beginning today.
And they need to do that for another three-plus weeks after that.
With the Red Sox losing their ace for at least a few days, this won’t be easy. Everything, especially winning, starts in the five-man pitching rotation.
Cora is going to have to get creative and push those same buttons he pushed two years ago when he had the Midas touch.
Fortunately (or unfortunately) the Red Sox have a unique opportunity to add some fans.
The Celtics and Bruins fandom, as we speak, are not happy. Their teams, after nice starts, are flat, uninspired and losing too much.
Six of the first nine games are against the Orioles, which are ranked, unofficially of course, 29th out of 30 major league teams today.
That’s an ample and early opportunity to get some good karma around here, which we are in need of.
This is no April Fool’s joke. The Red Sox had better be better than we think they are in April … or else.
You can email Bill Burt at firstname.lastname@example.org.