Playoff Pushes of Celtics, Bruins Will Help Deflect Attention Off of Red Sox in Event of Slow Start
Opening Day is just days away, and while there is plenty of excitement surrounding the beginning of Red Sox season here in Boston, the sports scene is dominated by Rajon Rondo‘s pinkie “injury,” whether or not Shaquille O’Neal will give the C’s anything this year and the Bruins’ newfound power-play mastery.
For a Red Sox team trying to recapture the Boston sports scene this summer, that may be a bit disconcerting. Upon further review, however, it may be a blessing in disguise.
Expectations are sky-high for the Sox this season and for good reason. The offseason pickups of Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez stole all the headlines, while the real problems were addressed by overhauling the bullpen and getting the core of the 2010 squad healthy.
We got a taste of what that could mean when the Sox endured a 10-game losing streak over the past week during spring training. Even those the games were meaningless, some wanted to make these struggles seem like they were surefire indications that the Sox would be sellers at the trade deadline or something. Some of those concerns may have been justified, like the struggles of Josh Beckett and Jonathan Papelbon, but for the most part, it’s worrying about nothing.
Here’s the thing, though — there just may be some growing pains for the Red Sox early on this season.
For starters, the Red Sox weren’t granted any favors with their schedule in the season’s first couple of months. Sure, it’s tough enough to start the season against the reigning American League champions deep in the heart of Texas, but that’s just the start for the Sox. In April alone, Boston will play 15 of its 22 games away from the friendly confines of Fenway Park including a six-game West Coast road trip that will take them to Oakland and Anaheim. And while it’s great to be home playing in front of Red Sox fans, playing in Boston in April isn’t always the greatest of circumstances.
Making things even more difficult early on is that the first month and a half of games feature some formidable opponents to say the least. Of the Red Sox’ first 41 games this season, 16 of them come against last year’s AL playoff teams. Twenty-four of those 41 will come against teams that finished .500 or better last season. That doesn’t include, of course, the seven games against Los Angeles, a team that finished just two games under .500 last season.
While the Celtics and Bruins are closing out their respective schedules with a march toward the postseason, the Red Sox will continue to work out the kinks in a clubhouse full of new faces. Quite frankly, that kind of change can take time.
Take the 2009 New York Yankees for instance. Expectations were sky-high for the Bombers heading into the season after they poached Mark Teixeira, CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett during the offseason. They were expected to win over 100 games (which they eventually did), but it didn’t come easy, certainly not in the early going. In fact, despite being the World Series pick of practically every sports publication, the Yankees sputtered early on. On May 13, 2009, the Yanks sat at just 16-17. They then won eight straight, and the rest, as they say, is history.
So what happens if the Red Sox sit under .500 in the middle of May? Well, you have to think there may be some distractions helping to ease the minds of Sox fans. Take that May 13 date for instance. On May 13 of last year, the Celtics finished off LeBron James‘ career in Cleveland, knocking the Cavaliers out of the NBA’s second round. The night before, the Bruins lost Game 6 to the Flyers, and a night after the Celtics’ win, the Bruins were bounced by the Flyers.
While the B’s and C’s may be making their sprint to the finish line, the Sox will just be leaving the starting line in the marathon that is a major league baseball. So if the Red Sox do start slow, don’t panic too much — it’s a very, very long season. And if you are inclined to worry even if the calendar tells you shouldn’t, there’s a pretty decent chance there will be plenty going on to keep your mind off of things.