It's Opening Day at long last for the Red Sox. We're just hours away now from the first game of the season--a game many have been waiting a good ten months for given how quickly the Sox found themselves out of the running in 2014.
Every Opening Day feels different, depending on the events leading up to it. 2005 was one of relief, the first time most Sox fans had come into April without 86 years of history weighing down on them. 2011 felt like the dawn of a golden age, and 2012 like a walk to the gallows. 2013 brought with it hope for the future, and 2014 a sense of triumph.
2015? As with every year, 2015 is its own unique beast. But it's not without its analogues. In many ways, 2015 feels like 2011. Hanley Ramirez, the one that got away, has been a Boston obsession in the same way Adrian Gonzalez was for so long, and Pablo Sandoval is no small addition at a position that was in desperate need of an answer.
In other ways, it feels like 2013. There was a great deal of uncertainty headed into 2013, particularly when it came to a rotation featuring a bunch of arms coming off poor performances, however high their upside. The expectation was that 2013 would be better--how, after all, could it be worse than Bobby Valentine's three-ring circus?--and there was certainly hope for a playoff run, but few predicted that the next great Red Sox team was right in front of us.
If there are similarities, however, there's no question that 2015 is its own year. Certainly few feel as confident now as they did on the first day of 2011, in no small part because of 2011. But the focus is also more on the here-and-now than it was in 2013. With such a strong farm system and the 2013 World Series still fresh, the Red Sox are playing on house money to some extent, but Xander Bogaerts and Mookie Betts are in the majors, and Pawtucket is filled with players who are supposed to help now rather than in two years down the line. The "Next Great Red Sox Team" everyone talked about heading into 2013? This is supposed to be it.
Whatever the expectations, however many months of buildup, all this is going to be gone in the blink of an eye. Predictions and projections and everything of that sort only feel important before the first pitch. By the time the week is done we'll probably be busy overreacting to a handful of games, for better or for worse. Hell, when May and June roll around it's possible we'll be talking about Boston's need for another bat to back up their dominant rotation. The best laid of plans rarely survive actual games.
For now, though, we have a Red Sox team with an uncertain rotation, big bats, and no small expectations. We have the culmination of these ten months of waiting. And we have Clay Buchholz vs. Cole Hamels, Red Sox vs. Phillies.
Happy Opening Day, everyone! Here's to a great season.