April is over and the Sox are two games above .500, which is good news. Do it every month and you get to 91 wins. This is more or less exactly where I thought the Sox would be at this point in the year, but not at all how I expected them to get here. I expected the pitchers, especially the relievers, would be disappointing, while the offense would chug along.
It has been the exact opposite, but it’s been mostly smooth sailing so far no matter what else you’ve read. Were it not for the perfect storm of four great pitching performances in less than a week, each one leaving the Sox more baffled than the next, things could have been even better. They might have even scored some runs. Still, without David Price and without the offense seemingly half the time, the Sox are doing fine, and they only project to get better.
Despite all this, last year’s division title and 2013’s World Series championship there are the regular calls for John Farrell to be fired, mostly because people can’t think of anything better to say. There’s just a certain percentage of people who are going to hate a manager no matter. It’s not personal. It’s strange to think of Terry Francona as anything but beloved around here, but in the 2004 book “Faithful,” the first-person accounts of Stephen King and Stewart O’Nan regularly visiting Fenway during the magical streak-breaking year, Tito is ripped on remorselessly. And you know how that all went.
To some degree, all of our concerns about April baseball are overblown. The only exception is a case of team-wide case of season-crippling futility, like, perhaps, the Blue Jays this year. There are better, more recent examples from baseball, but an imperfect comparison could also be made to this year’s Miami Heat, who started the season 10-31 only to flip the script completely in the second half of the year, finishing 41-41 and just miss the playoffs, bringing to mind the aphorism that “every game counts the same.” But does it?
Part of the reason I don’t get worried about April baseball is that I feel like the games mean less than they do later in the year. How could this be true? Let’s start with the easiest possible example. Suppose it is the last day of the season, and there are two games of note to this thought exercise. The first is an effective play-in game, likely for the last wild card spot, as a matter of simple chance. The second is between the two worst teams in the league. These are extremes, but these are in no way same the same baseball games and it is silly to pretend that they are.
Furthermore, to get actually as all hell, we already classify games in such a way that they’re not all worth the same. Preseason games mean nothing, regular season games mean a lot, and playoff games mean the most. This seems trifling, but it’s important, because if winning the World Series is the end goal for a Major League Baseball team, then every game they play is in the service of that goal above all others.
Critically, the context around chasing that goal changes dramatically as the season goes on. The teams themselves change. Players move around. The trade deadline happens. Teams gunning for the division title use rented arms to batter a bunch of 21-year-olds in their first month in the show. Some teams are trying to win the World Series this year, while some are trying to win it another year. With rare exceptions, teams do not start the season admitting that they’re trying to rebuild.
So while April games are certainly worth more than the last-day last-place game cited above, in general, games with known postseason quantities at stake are more important that early season games in which they are not, at least beyond the idea that winning is always good. It is, but any team is going to lose a lot, and I’m saying that a decent April is not the time to lose one’s marbles over the Red Sox. It certainly isn’t a reason to fire John Farrell or panic over Drew Pomeranz’s home run tendencies, to given an example.
I am certainly reading too much into the aphorism here, because it is clearly meant to remind players that whatever game they’re playing is further up along the importance continuum than it seems. It is perhaps not supposed to be taken literally, but it is one of things that just scratches away at my brain and I cannot abide. I think I’ve written about it before, but I can’t remember for sure. I just don’t care.
I care about the Red Sox, and they are doing fine, and I don’t like to hear otherwise from people who consider themselves die-hard fans. You can die as hard as you want, but it’s much nicer to live easy. Especially with this team.