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There’s not much to be done to make next year a whole lot better

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Baby steps mean baby steps.

Boston Red Sox v Atlanta Braves
You said it, Raffy.
Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

I hate to be a giant bummer, but it comes naturally. 2020 was bad enough in many ways to break even the heartiest souls, and at least on the baseball front, it could hardly get worse. The Red Sox were terrible enough that they could scarcely be worse next year, right?

I mean yes, this is true. Sorry if this sounds like a fake-out but while I’m a bummer I’m not that bad: I know the Sox will be better in 2021. If you plant a garden it’s gonna look nicer after it grows for a year. That’s not a random example; TMI and all but my wife and I have finally made a concerted effort to put good stuff in the ground this year so next spring seems (literally and figuratively) rosier.

We are excited. It will be nice. It’s not a competition, though, and that’s good. Our neighbor is a world-class gardener. It’s his pride and joy. If we’re the Red Sox in this scenario, he’s the Dodgers, on another level entirely and nearly without peer. The only difference is we didn’t give him our best plants, but enough of that, for now.

The point is that whatever the Red Sox do this offseason, and whoever they add to the roster, will look good by comparison, sure, but that’s about all. It strains credulity to think they will overhaul the roster to such a degree they can compete with the best teams In baseball before 2022.

On the bright side, this is obviously the plan. Last year reset expectations to a bare minimum, and with approximately 27 teams set to make the playoff field in the near future, aiming for one of the last postseason spots is not a particularly grueling task. I’m not privy to Chaim Bloom’s mandate from his bosses, but to expect anything else next year seems unrealistic. You can’t make a guy trade Mookie Betts and give him 60 games to fix it (as it turns out).

On the darker side, this means next year is gonna be another big ol’ blah, I fear. The highs will be higher and the lows not nearly as low, but the Sox see, destined to live in the Blue Jays Zone of yore. For now, the Sox and Jays have flipped profiles from just a few years ago, with Torontuffalo playing the role of contender and the Sox in the meatier part of the curve, just trying to get over the top.

And of course there are other teams in the division that are good at baseball, which is a disappointment. The Rays just finished an incredible year that saw them play an even more incredible Dodgers team to a respectable World Series loss; the Yankees, though not exactly The Yankees right now, are still damn good. Better than Boston, that’s for sure. Not so are the Orioles, who are rebuilding for the 25th consecutive year, this time behind their new franchise cornerstone behind the plate, Adley Rutschman, Fortunately, they rarely build beyond that first stone.

The Sox have some young guys coming, but the 2021 team seems destined to live on mid-tier free agents at best until the youth is ready, unless I’ve horribly misjudged the situation. On the bright side, the free agent class might be loaded with deals as teams slash payrolls due to COVID and soft or hard collusion, but it’s just as likely the Sox are a slashed as they are a buyer because, again, they’re just not that close.

The broader point here is that I have a hard time getting excited about the hot stove when I expect it to merely be warm, and not nearly warm enough to heat the whole house, so to speak. I’ll still be excited for my flowers come spring, but that’s a long way away, and the interregnum is still just step 2 of 10 to return to the mountaintop. Patience is the only choice, no matter how unappealing. It is the way.