Ok, we’re only nine games into the Red Sox season. The Sox are 5-4, winners of two of their first three series and, somehow, seem to have recaptured the interest of a fanbase that had been worked into a murderous lather by the last two seasons’ struggles.
With that good start, though, the expectations for the team have gone from the “lovable loser cellar dwellers” to something much more.
You’ve seen this with the reaction from everyone after Joel Hanrahan’s performance against the Orioles on Wednesday, when homers from Chris Davis and Manny Machado erased a 5-3 lead and gave Baltimore a comeback win.
Now, Hanrahan’s suddenly public enemy No. 1, and the entire area seems to be calling for Andrew Bailey to step in as closer.
It’s good to see interest in the Red Sox back, and I’ve always believed that this team would exceed preseason expectations.
But let’s take this chance to pump the brakes a little bit about this team. This team’s not going to win the World Series. But here’s some things they will do.
Be fun to watch:
Few people bought into general manager Ben Cherington’s offseason focus on rebuilding the Sox by rebuilding the clubhouse.
He brought in guys like Jonny Gomes and Shane Victorino, guys who aren’t going to be in the running for MVP but have league-wide reputations as great teammates.
And with the return of old friend John Farrell as the team’s manager, the Sox are playing hard and aggressive. Sure, they’ll run into outs and lose some games, but a happy dugout and a relentless approach to each game should be a blast to watch. It already has been.
Keep games close:
There’s no sugarcoating this one: The Red Sox’ offense won’t be the juggernaut we’re accustomed to seeing, especially if David Ortiz struggles to overcome his injury.
But they’ll always be in a spot to win. I fully expect Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz to return to form this season, as they’ve already begun to do, and with a solid back end of the rotation and a stacked bullpen -- yes, even after a Hanrahan blown save -- don’t expect opponents to hang crooked numbers on the Sox very often.
Through nine games, they’ve given up fewer than four runs a game and more than five runs only once.
Small sample size, I know, but still. The Sox have enough pop and speed in their lineup to put up some runs, even if it’s not 10 a game, and their staff is going to keep things tight.
Win fans back:
It’s been a long time since the Red Sox were lovable. To be honest, it’s been a while since they were even likable.
This team will change that. Through the early parts of the season, it’s pretty clear that this is a group of guys that genuinely loves to play the game.
The days of Adrian Gonzalez whining about Sunday night games are gone, and that’s going to be a breath of fresh air.
What the Red Sox won’t be, however, is a 96-win, World Series champion like we saw in 2007.
I’m not saying that they can’t surprise some people and sneak into the playoffs, especially with the AL East looking fairly weak this year and the ridiculous extra Wild Card slot.
But they’re going to lose some games. There are going to be nights like Wednesday night.
But here’s my advice to Sox fans: Try to turn off the Boston negativity for a year, because this team might not win 90 games, but the season will be a giant step back in the right direction.