Having optimism for my team, believing they are the best or can compete with the best, is one of the greatest feelings I've had being a sports fan. The reverse is almost true too, as the only thing worse than being pessimistic about my team's chances is crushing defeat.
The last calendar year is a prime example. This time last season, the Red Sox had just signed Carl Crawford and traded for Adrian Gonzalez. This, by the way, wasn't the Carl Crawford we all suffered through last year. This was ALL STAR Carl Crawford of the great defense, great base-running, and good hitting who was leaving a division rival to join the Red Sox. Right. That guy. They'd also acquired one of the better hitting first baseman in baseball in Gonzalez to man the cold corner (it'll catch on) and provide the middle of the order power the Red Sox had been missing since Manny Ramirez bolted town for the cold clean air of Los Angeles.
Both deals added superstars in their prime without subtracting anything from the major league roster. The projections were, to say the least, favorable. The Sox were picked to win the East, the American League, the World Series, the Super Bowl, the NASCAR championships (I believe they're sponsored by some penis drug but not sure which one), and the American Fly Fisherman's Triathlonic Goat Herding, Crocheting, and Snorkeling Championships.
Then bad start three good months September done.
We all went into this off season like this. (If you could see me, you'd see I'm frowning.) The departure of face-of-the-front office Theo Epstein to the Chicago Cubs (presumably in search of better losing) combined with the unceremonious exit of long time manager Terry Francona added to our collective upset. Every fan, every voice in the media, everyone seemed to suggest the worst.
'Look, everyone! The Red Sox are imploding again! it's like 2004 and 2007 never happened. This is the same old franchise that always screws everything up. The owners are incompetent, the front office is a bunch of puppets, and the players don't care! They're probably going to trade Ted Williams retro-actively and fire all their African American employees. It's back to Red Sox hell for us all!'
Of course, none of that is true. '04 and '07 did happen. The people who own and run the franchise aren't virulent racists, and the people who play for it all have their heads attached to their bodies. I mention all this because there has been what might be termed a fair amount of pessimism concerning the 2012 Boston Red Sox and when I say 'fair' I mean 'healthy', and when I say 'healthy' I mean 'excessively large'.
It's understandable to be pessimistic considering how the team looked when last they took the field, but that overlooks the fact that the Red Sox spent the vast majority of last season playing like one of the best teams of the last two decades. Yes, they book-ended the season by playing like the Washington Generals, and that, like a 2am fried chicken run to a truck stop, is the taste that many of us can't get out of our mouths. But if you can remove the lingering anger, upset, and disappointment from the way last season ended, you can see pretty clearly that the 2012 Red Sox are loaded with the most important of assets: promise. It's that promise that, along with a love for the game, keeps us coming back year after year.
Yes, the rotation is 2/5ths short of a full set, but the first three guys are pretty damn good. What's more, the season isn't over yet so there is still time to improve. Yes, Carl Crawford was one-legged-awful last year, but his track record of seven good years in the major leagues suggests he's better than that*. Yes, the '11 team suffered tons of injuries, but the good news is three-fold: 1) some of those players whose 2011 performance held the team back won't be on the roster this year, 2) players have had time to heal and long-term prognoses are good, and 3) suffering the injuries the Red Sox did last season is unusual, a word which by it's very meaning suggests the Sox chances are good of avoiding something like 2011 on the injury front again.
It's time to wrap this sunshine sandwich up in a big bow with one of those colorful toothpicks sticking out of the top. Being optimistic about your team is good. Being hopeful is good. That's what Spring Training is about, sun, baseball, and hope. And probably not in that order either. And what is the alternative? To tear down the team you love? Who wants, I mean really wants, to think their team is bad? And what's the point anyway? The team either is bad or it isn't, regardless of what you see in it. Sure, the desire to be able to say "I told you so" is a strong one that I'm not immune to, but when it comes down to things, being there with your team is the thing that we all hold onto in the end. We remember those times we believed and were rewarded most of all because those are the ones that brought us the greatest joy.
Don't believe me? I'll prove it in four numbers:
Pitchers and catchers report to Fort Myers in ten days.