The Rest of the Way
For the first time in a while I feel like a fan of any other team in baseball. As a Red Sox fan, things have been great over the last 8 years or so. And they still are - don't get me wrong. But just like so many other teams face uncertainty, so too do the Red Sox now. In years past, you could pencil in a certain amount of production from the Red Sox players and chances were, in the aggregate, you'd end up pretty close to where you thought they'd be. This year though, who the hell knows?
From the start it's been a season of surprises. The team's core stunk for the first 15 games of the season or so, and the Rays and Yanks seemed to be running away. Then, thanks to outstanding work from some of the veterans in the lineup and surprising performances from journeymen cast into leading roles, the Red Sox have clawed their way back into the playoff race. Most satisfying of all, a team "experts" said wouldn't hit became baseball's best offense despite missing two starters for much of the season. Go and search "run prevention" and check out all the snark from the likes of Dan Shaughnessy, Nick Cafardo, Mike Silverman and others.
Questions still abound. Josh Beckett will not be back for a long time, which might even be a good thing if his pitching looks anything like it did before he went on the Disabled List. If you find someone who can shed light on Jacoby Ellsbury's health, let me know. The bullpen gets worse every game. John Lackey had something of an encouraging start in Denver the other night but his peripheral numbers still look awful. Relying on a AAAA guy like Darnell McDonald is beginning to take its toll. And now comes what is potentially the most devastating blow of all. Dustin Pedroia's health is in question after pounding a foul ball off the instep of his left foot last night in San Francisco. X-Rays were reported to be negative, but he's on crutches.
Back to being a Red Sox fan this season. Watching a team battle through imperfections and shortcomings when they had been all but written off has been an entirely new experience. It's been a blast. Watching a juggernaut fulfill its destiny is great, too. Don't get me wrong. But for one season, I am enjoying this. Nobody has any idea what to expect from the Red Sox the rest of the way because the answers lie in dynamics whose uncertainties extend well beyond even the difficult task of projecting forth human performance. We don't even know which humans to project! As a fan, the experience is heightened because it feels like this team needs us pulling for them more than ever. And that's what I find myself doing every night!
I am not confident that Josh Beckett will make a healthy and/or effective return. Same goes for Jacoby Ellsbury. It's hard to see signs of Mike Cameron turning a corner. He may surprise me, but I just want Lackey to eat innings at this point. Pedroia may be out for a while. And yet, thanks to guys like Jon Lester and Daniel Nava and Adrian Beltre and Daniel Bard and Kevin Youkilis, I can't help but love this team. I feel confident in the Red Sox as a whole even though when I think of the parts, I shudder.
This is the least analytical piece you may ever read on this site, so I apologize for betraying the spirit of the site's name. My brain's just been scattered as I think about this Red Sox team and I felt compelled to put some thoughts down. What I've come up with is this: uncertainty breeds a whole hell of a lot of excitement.
Have a great weekend, everyone.