Sorry about the headline – I couldn’t resist.
Check this out: as of June 3, the Boston Red Sox were officially out of the AL East basement:
Exciting – take THAT, Toronto Blue Jays! The New York Yankees are only a half game ahead, and lately New York couldn’t hit its way out of a paper bag with RISP. The Red Sox pitching finally seems to be shaping up, the bullpen is sorting itself out, and the lauded hitters are, well, hitting laudably. Even some rookies and unknowns have started to step up and help the club out. Most recently, Clay Buchholz and Felix Doubront led the Sox to wins over the (last-place, snicker) Blue Jays with dazzling outings, and unexpected offensive outbursts from the likes of Daniel Nava and Nick Punto put the Sox over the top. Kevin Youkilis is back, Dustin Pedroia sounds like he’ll play on Tuesday, and even Daisuke Matsuzaka’s had a promising rehab stint in Pawtucket on Thursday.
Daniel Bard will try for the series sweep today. He’s won his last four decisions.
So, things look pretty darn good in the Nation. Ben Cherington? Genius! Bobby Valentine? A master of strategery. Even Wally the Green Monster looks a little more plush these days.
Now granted, this could all turn around again quickly. The Boston media is ruthless, the Sox have some tough series coming up (Orioles, Nationals, Marlins, and then a showdown with Theo Epstein’s Cubs…). If Alfredo Aceves blows a save, Adrian Gonzalez grounds into a few double plays, or Youkilis loses his hot bat again, then the mood around here will turn from glass half full to glass half empty quicker than you can say “fourth place… that means we’re only better than one other team in our division, right?” The histrionics of Red Sox fans and Red Sox media, both optimistic and pessimistic, should never, ever, be underestimated.
But for now, Sox fans, let’s enjoy this moment. In the past year, we’ve gone from the team that was supposed to win 100 games, to the team that collapsed and missed the playoffs, to the team that lost its manager and its general manager, to the team that took a chance on a green general manager and a has-been manager, to the team with no closer, to the team with no bullpen, to the team with no pitching, to the team with no hitting, to… this incarnation. A team with some good pitching, a basically reliable, if patched-together, bullpen, and an offense that can string a few hits together.
It seems like now, finally, for some reason, the Sox have a fighting chance at this thing. Maybe this is how baseball’s supposed to be. If you won games on paper, there’d be no such things as baseball stadiums. If you won championships in the off-season, then fantasy baseball would just be called baseball. Sure, fourth place isn’t really that amazing – but it feels so much better than fifth, and this team feels so much better than fourth.