Well, we made it! Red Sox pitchers and catchers report one week from today (spring training information here), a sure sign that winter is nearing its end. As we look forward to myriad "Reports from the Fort” and crane our necks for televised views of up-and-comers like Xander Bogaerts and last-straw-clutching projects like John Lackey and Daniel Bard, let's remember two things:
1) Not to lose our temper over all that went wrong last season, and, having said that,
2) To be sure to temper our expectations for the season that lies ahead.
We all know that last year was an unmitigated disaster. I was one of those who like the idea of installing Bobby Valentine as a change-of-pace manager (see my November 2011 piece Happy Valentine’s Day), and even I eventually came to realize that he was probably not the right guy at that particular time. I lay a lot of this at the feet of ownership, who seemed to go out of their way to continue to enable the inmates as they successfully sought to run the asylum.
But that's all behind us now, as the guts of the roster were ripped out and shipped West before the season even ended, and a new sheriff was brought back from temporary exile in Canada. So let's let go of all the anger and frustration, and set our sights on what may be possible in the months ahead.
And just what may be possible in the months ahead? Realistically, probably not a lot. Let's say that the Red Sox improve by the same 20 wins they did in the magical year of 1967. This would give them a total of only 89 wins, which last year would have been good only for fourth place in the division, one game behind Tampa, and a four-game deficit for a Wild Card berth.
Given the current state of the AL East – a Yankees team in transition, a solid but overachieving Orioles club likely to come back to the pack, a Rays franchise with great pitching but perhaps little else, and the Blue Jays roster that has been reloaded but whose cohesiveness can be questioned – it is not outlandish to think that the division rivals will all play .500 against one another, and thus perhaps leave the door open for the Sox to contend for the postseason right until the end. But 89 wins is not typically a measure of a championship team, and we would do well to remember that.
So as this year's edition of spring training opens, all I can say is that it makes no sense to continue to carry a grudge because of what's come just before, and it is unrealistic to expect the win total to be dramatically better. Instead, I quote the immortal words of Bobby McFerrin, who memorably sang “don't worry, be happy” and thereby gave us the best advice we could possibly have.