April 5, 2012
BOSTON — This week, Christians observe Easter, Jews Passover and 80-plus percent of Massachusetts voters of all creeds celebrate Opening Day.
One year ago, all the on-lookers forecast a banner (or … pennant) year for the Sox. Before the first game, the Boston Herald declared them the "Best Team Ever!"
That was then. After the team's historic September collapse, followed by unsavory revelations about beer and fried chicken in the clubhouse and the departure of both general manager Theo Epstein and manager Terry Francona — predictions for this season are dire. (Except that hope springs eternal.)
Scott Lauber, Red Sox beat writer for the Boston Herald, said the pendulum of public opinion might have swung too far. "The core of the team is the same so probably expectations ought to be a little bit higher than they are," he said. Names on the starting roster Thursday include offensive stalwarts Ellsbury, Pedroia, Ortiz and Youk. Their bats were part of a 2011 lineup scored more runs than any other team, Lauber pointed out.
"Really the big new name" is manager Bobby Valentine, Lauber said. "He's very outspoken, he's got an opinion on just about everything and he's not afraid to share it. Which is great for us in the media … but it can provide some problems in the clubhouse."
He added that even Valentine's enemies consider him a very astute strategist with an unparalleled knowledge of the game.
Can they beat the Yanks? Maybe. "The Red Sox have got issues with their pitching in particular," Lauber said cautiously. "They can certainly hit with the Yankees."
In the end, despite a ninth-inning rally, the Sox fell to the Tigers 3-2. But it's just the first of the 162 games that will be played over the course of a long season.