Bats impressive, but Sox may need their surpluses

Posted April 05, 2010, at 10:40 p.m.
Boston Red Sox's Kevin Youkilis heads to first after hitting a double against the New York Yankees in the seventh inning of the opening game of the baseball season Sunday, April 4, 2010, in Boston. The Red Sox won 9-7. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
Boston Red Sox's Kevin Youkilis heads to first after hitting a double against the New York Yankees in the seventh inning of the opening game of the baseball season Sunday, April 4, 2010, in Boston. The Red Sox won 9-7. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

In an effort to stave off the early onset of pennant fever, it might be wise to point out that Sunday night’s season-opening game between the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees was just that: One game.

Yes, it was exciting. Yes, it was heartening to see the Sox rally to win. Yes, it was good to see them come back from a 5-1 deficit and post a victory. And yes, it was good to see what was supposed to be a questionable offensive lineup at best and an anemic one at worst score nine runs on 12 hits.

Still, it is one game — the first of 162 over a 6½-month season that can produce lots of adversity, injuries, changes and challenges.

With that in mind, it is still good to see bats come alive early, especially after seeing Boston produce just one hit over the first 4ª innings. Perhaps the offense will be much more productive than experts and pundits expected. Even if it’s not, the Sox may once again learn firsthand the truth of the adage, “Sometimes the best moves are the ones you don’t make.”

Boston had a deal in place to ship third baseman Mike Lowell to Texas for a prospect and cash. The deal was scrapped due to concerns about Lowell’s health and mobility, then revived a week after Lowell proved he had fully recovered from offseason thumb surgery and finally junked when the Rangers signed another third baseman.

When, not if, the Sox offense begins to sag (David Ortiz continues to struggle, Adrian Beltre goes into a slump, Kevin Youkilis gets too banged up….), Lowell’s continued presence — and inherent value to Boston — may loom large.

And the pitching, a much-celebrated Sox strength, should also continue to benefit from a supposed surplus as Sox arms — much like those in the rest of Major League Baseball — are fragile, especially this time of year. Daisuke Matsuzaka, the chief Faberge Egg of the rotation, is once again opening a season on the disabled list, casting further doubt on the wisdom of spending a total of $103 million to sign the Japanese ace. With apologies to the 1970s-80s pop band Blondie, if Daisuke’s fragility continues and he doesn’t already have a good nickname, it should be “Arm of Glass.” And while old reliable Tim Wakefield is just that as well as effective, his 43-year-old body almost always suffers a midseason breakdown due to his back.

The point is, while it’s too early to pencil the Sox in as the American League’s representative in the World Series, they certainly look at least as good as advertised. And that surplus/overload of pitching and veteran position players that they couldn’t wait to get rid of? Boston may want to hold onto it a little awhile longer.

Andrew Neff

Take time to follow Bruins, not Celtics

You are a rabid Boston sports fan and you are trying to decide which team you are going to follow in the playoffs: the NBA’s Celtics or the NHL’s Bruins.

That is, of course, if the Bruins even make the playoffs.

The answer is the Bruins.

This is based on which team has caused more frustration this season. The Celtics have, hands down.

Both have better road records than home records. The Bruins are 20-13-6 on the road and 16-17-6 at home. The Celtics are 23-15 at home and 25-13 on the road.

The Bruins’ problem is they can’t score goals.

But you know that going into every game.

And, despite being offensively challenged, the Bruins always find a way to keep the game close.

The Bruins had played 78 games entering Monday night’s game against Washington and 43 of them had been decided by one goal.

That’s 55.1 percent!

So, if they make the playoffs, they will certainly be capable of upsetting anyone if they can find a way to score three goals per game.

Remember, they had the best record in the Eastern Conference and second-best record in the entire NHL a year ago but were upset in the second round by Carolina.

Then there are the Celtics.

They beat, arguably, the best team in basketball Sunday in the Cleveland Cavaliers 117-113. That is after they squandered a 22-point second-half lead.

They had lost their previous three home games, including a 119-114 setback at the hands of the Houston Rockets. The Rockets, the smallest team in the NBA, outrebounded Boston 41-35.

At the outset of the season, the Celtics looked unbeatable.

But their second-half collapses and their timid play in the paint easily eclipse the Bruins’ scoring woes.

The Celtics, NBA champs two years ago, appear to have more pieces to the puzzle than the Bruins but they don’t work as hard and aren’t as gritty.

And time is running out on coach Doc Rivers and his ability to motivate his players and put together a rotation that will maximize the talent on this team.

Larry Mahoney

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