Magic. It’s what separates MLB from all of the other professional sports that we pay attention to. It’s what allows me to spend an entire off-season bemoaning the fact that my beloved Boston Red Sox did nothing to dramatically improve upon their 2012 (in which they won only 69 games), but forget all of that the very moment pitchers and catchers start playing catch. It is the same magic that allowed me to get excited as I watch John Lackey toe the rubber for the first time since September 25th, 2011 in a game that meant anything. Sure, it was only the first game of spring training, but the game meant something not only to him, but for the Red Sox and how their 2013 season may play out. You didn’t misread that, I promise. John Lackey is going to play a prominent role in whether the 2013 Red Sox are a success…and I’m excited about it.
It’s trite to say, but spring is the season of rebirth, and in no sport does this hold more true than MLB. Even if the calendar insists that it will not be spring for another for another three and a half weeks, any fan of baseball knows that by the first time the first pitch has been thrown in a spring training game, it is officially Spring. The magic of baseball is that it allows for the suspension of logic. Did the Red Sox improve dramatically between February 19th and February 23rd? Absolutely not. If anything, they’ve been exposed for the non-contenders that they are (remember, John Lackey figures prominently in to their possible success.) None of that matters, however. Not in Boston, not in Cleveland, not in New York, LA, KC, St. Louis, Anaheim, or anywhere else where fans may reside. As February rolls in to March and we are exposed to myriads of players that will never play in the regular season baseball’s magic allows for hope to arise. Why can’t our favorite 9 be the squad that will become Champions come October?
The magic is also in hoping that a player might make it, against all odds. Heading in to Saturday’s spring opener, I was convinced that the Sox had made their decision with regard to their shortstop of the future. From my perspective they had given Stephen Drew a one year deal in order to buy time for wunderkind Xander Bogaerts. In their shoes, it makes all the sense in the world. Since he signed in 2010, he has made steady, tremendous progress as he marches towards Opening Day 2014. He closed out the 2012 season with the Portland Sea Dogs (AA) where he slugged .598 while batting .326 in 92 ABs.
The guy I’d rather see playing short for the Sox, however, is Jose Iglesias. The problem that has plagued him in extremely limited big league action is that he hasn’t hit at all. In 68 at-bats in 2012, he hit just .118. I don’t know much, but I know that I could hit .118 in 68 big league at-bats (it only takes 8 hits.) I’m not saying it’d be a pretty .118, but I’m confident that I could get that done. The thing that Iglesias can do better than just about anyone in baseball right now is play defense. His glove is so good that if he could just crack .200 with the slightest of pop, he could start for most teams.
Given his career .264 minor league average, I had hopes for him that he might be able to find a starting gig somewhere. As recently as last Thursday, I thought his best option would be to head to a NL team where his defense might be appreciated, and his light-hitting ways could be overlooked. Then he stepped to the plate on Saturday and crushed a ball over the 42 foot tall wall in left field at Fenway South, and all of a sudden, him becoming an impact player for the Red Sox didn’t seem so incredible. Why couldn’t he become this generation’s Ozzie Smith?
That is the magic of spring, the magic of baseball. Nothing seems impossible, and logic can be set aside. All you have to do is Believe.
What’s your spring wish?
Let me know: