Wednesday, April 04, 2012

If You Can't Feel Good on Opening Day, You'll Be One Miserable SOB by the All-Star Break

The entrail-readers have peered into Florida and spoken. Boy, have they spoken. The signs for the Red Sox look very bad.

Which is of course very good, probably the best news from spring training there could be.

This is my 39th baseball season as a Boston area-resident. Before that I was in college elsewhere in New England. And ever since the Impossible Dream, there's been an almost immutable law I've used to predict how the Sox will fare each season.

The Sox have and I expect will almost always perform in an almost exactly inverse proportion to the general expectations of how they will. When natural normal optimism is replaced with giddy arrogance, the Sox are headed for failure. When all seems lost, take that bus to Vegas and bet the rent money on 'em.

Want evidence? Try the 2011 Red Sox for an example of how failure followeth pride down Yawkey. It isn't hard to remember a recent example of the ratio working in reverse, either. Do any Sox fan readers remember how they felt about the team after Game Three of the 2004 American League Championship Series?

And so on back through time, from the '86 ALCS and World Series, to the almost wholly unpredicted pennant of 1975 and the subsequent can't-miss '76 bunch that went out and lost 10 straight games in May. The only exception to the rule I can remember is the 2007 team. People thought they'd be really good and they really were.

So Sox followers should be happy to note that optimism among their peers and especially within the media is muted to where it can only be heard with electronic equipment. Pick a program on the Sports Hub, any program, and it sounds as if some trick of the airwaves has picked up Pittsburgh or Houston talk radio assessing their local nines. One of the clerks at my local packy, a good and ordinarily rational Boston sports fan was expressing dire anxieties about the team on St. Patrick's Day.

The official seal of preseason pessimism was set by the Globe's Kim Jong-Il, excuse me, I meant Bobby Valentine Personality Cult baseball preview special section last week. Another one of baseball's inverse ratios is that the amount of attention the media devote to a manager customarily reflects just how little they think of said manager's team. To go into a season regarding the skipper as the sole topic capable of holding the readers' attention is hand-wringing of truly heroic (or should it be cowardly?) dimensions.

Boring reality indicates the Sox have issues. A team worried about its bullpen is a team worried for a very sound cause. Then again, the Sox did lead the majors in runs scored last year, despite having the worst start and worst finish to a season in franchise history, and all of the hitters responsible have returned. That suggests Boston is at least halfway to being a consistent winner.

But you can get baseball analysis anywhere. In fact, there's no place you can get away from it. I'll stick with my ratio, thank you.

I'll be surprised if the Sox aren't right up near or on the top of the AL East this season. That's because of all the people I know who will be surprised when they are.


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