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THAT Time of Year

Yes, it's that time of year again. The truck has left for sunny Florida, and already, players are reporting to Ft. Myers. It's Time to buy a new scorebook, launder those "Yankees Suck" shirts
(I let mine spend the winter outside under my car collecting oil), and re-up the Extra Innings Package.

It's time to block out all weekday nights in your day-runner, except some Mondays and Thursdays. It's time to set Baseball Tonight to record every night on TiVo, ensuring you won't miss John Kruk's latest bizzare predictions (Randy Johnson, 30 wins in 2005????).
Peter Gammons too (Twins win the World Series).

It's time for Boston beat writers to fill our heads with playoff dreams and simultaneously destroy our hopes. It's time to NOT get tickets. It's about time to wear that home jersey to work, specifically to piss off your (in my case, Orioles fans) co-workers. "The season hasn't even started yet!" they'll say. You'll smile disarmingly and sweetly utter the magical phrase:

"Pitchers and Catchers".

As with every Red Sox pre-season, there's excitement. After all, Hope Springs Eternal. New players have come to town. What's their story? Will they do well? We're now over a year removed from the magic of 2004. No more talk of title defense. That steady hum of media has become:
"Is this the year?"

Three years ago, we were heading into unfamiliar territory with a brand new batch of guys. Names like Ortiz, Mueller, Millar. Will Coco, Lowell, and Loretta be as productive? Time will tell. Let's give them a fair shot.

Once again, we landed a bonafide starting pitcher 'round Thanksgiving.

We also lost our center fielder. Enough has been said on that topic.

There certainly was no shortage of drama, but then again, this is the RED SOX. We love drama. We love fatalism too.

All things considered, this team is better. If you can't realize that, you're either not paying enough attention or named John Donovan, or both. There are many, many reasons for optomism.

Just today, it was announced that Keith Foulke was first to report to camp, a full 4 days early. That's the kind of Foulkie I want to see back this season. Eating broken glass and spitting napalm. Forget the 2005 and 2004 versions, I think 2003 Foulke is coming back.

We're a deep team. The defense on the left side is going to be simply, awesome. Not only are Lowell and Gonzales fantastic fielders, they've played side-by-side since 1999. No adjustment there. On the right side? Loretta is one of the best in the game at the 2nd base pivot, and posesses great hands. Youkilis will work hard at 1B, and even if he falters, 6-time gold-glover J.T. Snow will lock up every errant throw.

The bullpen? Please. No more names like Matt Mantei, Blaine Neal, John Halama, Scott Cassidy, Matt Perisho, Mike Remlinger, Jeremi Gonzales. Big upgrades instead. Seanez, Tavarez, Riske, Papelbon, and of course, Foulke. All will perform well in 2006. What happens if Foulke breaks down again? What if Taverez and Riske are terrible?? No sweat. Manny Delcarmen and Craig Hansen are just two of the guys that will be ready to step in whenever needed.

Even the rotation has gotten better. Schilling, Beckett, Wells, Wake, Clement at the moment, could easily put Bronson Arroyo in the pen as long-man/spot-starter, his greatest value. That rotation will undoubtedly change, but when you have 7 starters (8 if you count Lester), you've got depth, and flexibility. That may come in very handy on July 31st.

For a "transitional year", I think we look pretty good. 90 games? A definite possibility. The only other time in Red Sox history in which they won 90 games 4 straight seasons, they won the World Series the next season. I like that standard. Maybe we're getting a little spoiled? I like that too.

46 days till opening day? Feels like 46 years.