In 1964, a brash young upstart named Cassius Clay knocked out Sonny Liston to claim his first heavyweight title.
“I shook up the world!” screamed the burgeoning cultural force soon to be known as Muhammad Ali.
Sixteen years later, as a bunch of U.S. College kids completed the biggest upset in Olympics history, broadcaster Al Michaels delivered a line for the ages.
“Do you believe in miracles? Yes!”
Fast forward to 2008. The Boston Celtics have just won their first championship in 22 years. Kevin Garnett, himself starved for a title, leans back and unleashes 13 years of anticipation and frustration with three words.
“Anything is posssssssiibbbbllle!!!!!!!!”
And then there are the 2020 Red Sox. If we’re lucky, this season might end with an exhortation like, “We weren’t actually terrible!” or “.500 is pretty good, all things considered!”
OK, doesn’t quite have the same ring to it.
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But even if this sliver of a 2020 season doesn’t end magically, that doesn’t mean there still won’t be reasons to watch. So in the spirit of optimism, let’s present the case for making Red Sox baseball a part of your nightly routine for the rest of the summer.
First, and most important — live sports! We haven’t watched any of our four major teams play a game that matters since the Celtics held off the Pacers on March 11 in Bankers Life Fieldhouse. We’re closing in on five months of nothing to see, but that drought ends on Friday when Nathan Eovaldi throws the first pitch vs. The Orioles.
It would’ve been nice if baseball could’ve gotten its act together a month ago, but some sports are better than none, and MLB is going to beat the NBA back by a full week. Rejoice!
There’s always the possibility the Red Sox surprise us. No team is easier to back than an overachiever, and expectations are so low after the trade of Mookie Betts and the decimation of the rotation that anything above .500 will qualify as a victory, and might even qualify for the playoff chase.
Speaking of the playoffs, the shortened season means the Red Sox have a chance to stay in striking distance, especially if their offense is as good as it has looked in intrasquad games. Through 60 games last year, the Red Sox were tied with the Rangers for the second wild card.
The sprint to the finish starts now. Even if the eventual champion is tainted by the short season, a World Series trophy is a World Series trophy. The Red Sox just need to give themselves a chance.
On the field, their highlights should come offensively. Third baseman Rafael Devers reportedly hit David Ortiz’s retired number on the right field facade during batting practice on Sunday, a blast of nearly 500 feet. Only Carl Yastrzemski has ever hit a ball up there in a game. If Devers picks up where he left off during a breakout 2019, you’re talking a possible MVP candidate who’s only 23.
Then there’s Alex Verdugo. The centerpiece of the Mookie Betts trade, Verdugo was having a breakout campaign of his own last year with the Dodgers before a back injury stopped him in his tracks. Still, Verdugo possesses developing power and a .300 stroke from the left side, as well as an exuberant personality that could serve as an antidote to the dreariness that overtook the clubhouse in 2019.
In Xander Bogaerts and J.D. Martinez, the Red Sox possess a pair of veteran leaders capable of anchoring a lineup. Left fielder Andrew Benintendi is still a candidate to make the leap after a disappointing year and a half, and maybe even Jackie Bradley Jr. Can put it together for two months before finding a new home in free agency.
Those are a lot of ifs, but we’re looking for optimism! It’s up to the Red Sox to shock the world.
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