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The Reducer, Week 30: Bad Scene, Everyone's Fault

A Nervous Exchange of Red Sox E-mails

Trading messages about the uncertain past, present, and future of the Sox

When the Boston Globe‘s Chris Gasper wrote about a potential Bobby Valentine&#8211Ben Cherington rift last weekend, it broke new ground even for Red Sox fans. Our new coach and GM quarreling before our first regular-season game? They couldn’t have held off until Patriots’ Day? Die-hard Sox fans Michael Schur and Bill Simmons decided to ease the pain by trading e-mails about the 2012 season. Here’s what transpired.

Simmons: Let’s recap everything that happened since Game 161 in late September. The first body blow: We totally choked away Game 162 (and a playoff spot), completed the biggest September collapse in baseball history, turned Robert Andino into the modern-day Bucky Bleeping Dent, spawned bitter pieces from both you and me and made me ask myself things like, “Why does it feel like we won that last World Series 40 years ago?” and, “I thought I was done with the part of my life that revolved around getting condescending kick-in-the-scrotum e-mails from Yankee fans.”

Schur: Jesus, that’s depressing. I already regret doing this.

Simmons: You can’t back out now! You promised! Second, stories/rumors/e-mails/message board posts quickly started circulating that there was more clubhouse dissension than anyone realized. And trust me, the team already felt very clubhouse dissensiony.

Schur: That’s not a word.

Simmons: I stole it from Mike Tyson. Anyway, there’s no hiding in the dugout, especially from that one in-the-dugout camera that shoots everyone’s whiteheads, nose hairs and shaving cuts from two feet away. You can always tell when your guys like or dislike each other, right?

Schur: Maybe I’m naive, but I didn’t have any idea about the clubhouse stuff until it blew up after the season was over.

Simmons: Really? I remember watching other teams happily standing on the top step of the dugout, then seeing our guys grimly sitting next to each other, and thinking, All right, something feels wrong here.

Schur: You’re like The Mentalist.

Simmons: I will be the first to admit: I overrate those goofy dugout moments like Victor Martinez going out of his way to rub Adrian Beltre’s head as a sign that everyone likes each other.

Schur: It definitely didn’t look like a happy bunch of guys last September, but I attributed that to going 7-20. I never felt like the team was as close as 2004’s was, but I also didn’t feel like it was that 2001 team, when poor David Cone, who was just trying to hang on and play one more season, found himself the official team spokesman when no one else wanted to talk to the media because everyone was so miserable. (You know things are bad when I express sympathy for David Cone.)

Simmons: You’re right, that 2001 team was openly unbearable. It was like one of those families that fight in restaurants in public. The 2011 team was more like one of those creepy, Ordinary People families that seem fine on the surface … but they’re not.

Schur: Both of those kind of describe my family.

Simmons: Things only got more dysfunctional when poor Terry Francona was given 2011’s Manny Ramirez Scholarship: handed out annually to the fall guy for a screwed-up Red Sox season who leaves the team, then gets smeared on his way out the door by a vicious Boston Globe piece that may or may not have been condoned by at least one of the Red Sox owners (who never seem to get raked through the coals by any of those vicious Boston Globe pieces).

Schur: Even for a city with a long and celebrated history of awful, anonymous, backroom behavior, this was a low point. I don’t fault Bob Hohler — at all — for writing that postmortem. But I do very much fault the jackass who insinuated that this was Francona’s fault because he had personal problems and a prescription-pill addiction. (That jackass now has his own plaque in the Red Sox Moron Hall of Fame, mounted proudly next to pictures of Tom Yawkey tossing Jackie Robinson off the field during his tryout and Grady Little walking back to the visiting dugout without Pedro.)

Simmons: (And a life-size wax statue of Wendell Kim waving someone home who’s about to get thrown out by 20 feet.)

Schur: Francona is the best manager the Red Sox ever had, by a factor of like six. It might have just been time for him to leave, for any number of reasons, but the way it happened was brutal.

Simmons: Here’s how I know you’re right about Francona — I couldn’t come up with a second candidate for “Best Sox Manager Ever” that didn’t involve the words “Morgan” and “Magic.”

Schur: It’s not a glorious group. The second best all-time Red Sox manager might be Bill Belichick, because he once visited the Red Sox clubhouse to talk about leadership.

Simmons: From that Globe attack, we also learned that our 2011 starting rotation looked doughy/sweaty/gaspy/lethargic partly because they were eating fried chicken and drinking beer in the clubhouse during games. It’s unclear if this happened a couple of times, or dozens of times, but really, it doesn’t matter because this is the Red Sox and things like “fried chicken and beer” are always going to take a life of their own. Eventually, they become the touchstones to help us remember a bitterly disappointing season in the worst possible way. The 2011 season is now the Fried Chicken and Beer Season, just like 2008 was the Let’s Defame Manny Season, 2000 was the Carl Everett Kills Karma Season, 1996 was the Clemens Turns It On Before Leaving Season, 1993 was the We Need To Kidnap Lou Gorman Season, 1987 was the Year After the Apocalypse season, 1981 was the Fisk Left and This Sucks Season and so on.

Schur: Yeah, “Fried Chicken and Beer” is never going away. Ever. We’ll be talking about Fried Chicken and Beer in 30 years. Which is silly, because I would set the over/under on “MLB clubhouses regularly stocked with fried chicken and/or beer” at 14.5, and take the over. When it leaked that Kevin Millar had the team taking Jack Daniel’s shots before playoff games in 2004, people were happy about it, because they won. It’s fascinating, but completely understandable, that the same exact behavior reads completely differently when a team loses.

Simmons: I still can’t believe Jack Daniel’s hasn’t turned that Millar/2004 thing into the greatest commercial campaign ever.

Schur: Yeah, that was a missed layup. It’s like if Kia had said, “Eh … is this Blake Griffin thing even that big a deal?”

Simmons: The offseason hits kept coming when Chicago hired Theo Epstein (the guy who built our two title teams) AND Jed Hoyer (the guy we always assumed would come back to replace Theo when Theo finally left). Even though Theo was still under contract, Boston’s owners allowed him to leave without securing compensation, immediately lost all their leverage, spent weeks fighting with the Cubs and ended up getting No Not That Chris Carpenter the Other One for him. Were you disturbed by how this played out, or not really?

Schur: Theo leaving burns pretty badly, though the fact that his last few free-agent acquisitions were so stunningly terrible makes it a little easier to swallow.

Simmons: Yeah, it’s hard to believe that the same guy who was once so obsessed with finding value, building around under-29 elite players, throwing gobs of money into his farm system and avoiding the old Red Sox mistake of splurging on free agents hitting their 30s was suddenly so willing to overpay the Crawfords and Lackeys. Since we won in 2004 and 2007, nobody could really say anything.

Schur: I think the whole front office — or at least a good chunk of it — was obsessed with Crawford. I blame Varitek and Mirabelli, because every time the Sox played the Rays, Crawford would single, steal second, steal third, steal home, then come out of the dugout and steal first, then steal second and third on one pitch, then reverse-steal second again just so he could steal third and home on the following pitch.

Simmons: Part of me wonders if, when you have that money available, you eventually can’t resist the urge to say “Fuck it” and start spending it over sticking to what got you there. Do you think this is what happened to HBO?

Schur: I think that any organization that has a ton of cash runs the risk of recklessly spending the cash, especially when there are very high expectations for the organization’s performance. Partly because they know that they can cover their mistakes with more cash, and partly because, well, it’s exciting to spend money, and less exciting not to spend it. In this case, I believe the Sox front office looked at an aging Yankees franchise, with multiple bad long-term contracts at key positions, and thought: “If we can get Adrian Gonzalez, John Lackey, and Carl Crawford, we can step on their throats and drum them into third place in the division for five years.” They went 1-for-3.

Simmons: Also, they panicked because of what was happening in Boston that winter — the Pats were on a roll, the Celts had the NBA’s best record, the Bruins were coming on (and headed for a title), and meanwhile, we were coming off a fairly boring Red Sox season and the whole “Look how nice Fenway is now!” dynamic had been played out. Getting Gonzalez made sense, but Crawford always felt like one of those, “Look at us! We made a big move! HEY, LOOK AT US!!!!” Steinbrennerian luxury purchases that big-budget teams make for headlines. The 2003 Theo would have thrown his body in front of a move like that.

Schur: Maybe, maybe not. The previous year Crawford hit .307/.356/.495, and he was 28/29. He seemed for all the world like a guy who was finally realizing his potential, and they had every expectation that he’d be an elite player for at least three to four years. And when Epstein imagined both Crawford and Ellsbury in the outfield, he had every reason to expect his pitchers (including Lackey) to record seriously low BABIP. It all backfired, tremendously, but it wasn’t insane.

Simmons: I’m going to print that last paragraph out and tape it next to my television, then read it every time he swings at a two-strike ball in the dirt when it’s second and third with two outs this season.

Schur: You’re going to read that paragraph out loud 200 times?! That seems excessive. And for the record, I didn’t really care about Theo’s compensation from the Cubs. What did we think we were going to get for him? Some fans were holding out for Garza or something, but realistically, no one important was ever coming back to Boston. I also think it was annoying and petty to draw it out so long — but in this case, I blame Bud Selig.

Simmons: I’m always for blaming Bud Selig.

Schur: Me too. It’s something about his haircut, I think. Selig should’ve stepped in after three days and said, “You dopes have 24 hours or I’m giving Boston [Player X], which neither of you will like.” He forced the Astros into the AL, for God’s sake — he couldn’t have clipped that irritating hangnail any sooner?

Simmons: To be fair, Bud was committed to more important things, like making sure that no baseball fan can ever put up a fun baseball clip on YouTube.

Schur: Yeah. Sometimes it feels like the NFL is Google and MLB is Microsoft — they both make a ton of money, but somehow every decision MLB makes is just a little … off, somehow. (Although it should be noted, MLB has the best online network in the world. Their app is amazing, and they figured out how to get their product online before everyone else.) As for Hoyer, which also stings, I am choosing to believe that in the post-Moneyball era, there are a decent number of smart, thoughtful young persons who can use a fanatical fan base and an astronomical payroll to build a championship team. Hopefully, Ben Cherington is one of those thoughtful young persons.

Simmons: Good segue to another offseason “thing” that happened: We spent nearly two months looking for a manager while everyone predicted, “This is a charade, they’re going to hire Bobby V.,” only Cherington was clearly thinking, Whatever I do, I don’t want to hire Bobby V. and interviewing everyone short of Darrell Johnson’s embalmed corpse. What happened? You guessed it … we ended up hiring Bobby V.

Schur: Here’s the glass-half-full view of this: Boston has a ton of great players, and baseball managing isn’t about constant moment-to-moment decisions the way basketball or football managing is. Really — and this goes doubly for Boston, or New York, or Philly — it’s about keeping the team together and focused over an absurdly long season, and dealing with the constant crush of media types who work 18 hours a day trying to slake the thirst of idiots like us who care very deeply about whether starting Lars Anderson at DH against the Blue Jays in May would give the team a 2 percent better chance to win. I think Valentine is a good choice, given that. He doesn’t mind being a lightning rod (“doesn’t mind” = loves), and can withstand the six-month scrum.

Simmons: I can’t decide where I fall on the Bobby V. thing yet. It worries me that so many baseball people ridiculed it, but on the other hand, it’s not like he failed miserably at his other two stops. My only prediction: There’s going to be a prolonged honeymoon period with him and the Boston sports media. Historically, the Boston sports media have always loved people who give them time, access, quotes, copy and sound bites. That’s why coaches/managers like Joe Morgan, Tom McVie and even Doc Rivers (pre-2008) were always defended to the death by Boston media people. They’re going to love the Bobby V. experience and will shape the opinions of casual fans accordingly. Shit, it already happened — my dad told me on the phone this weekend, “I can’t remember anyone ever owning every moment of spring training like Bobby V. did this spring.” Whether this means he’ll do a good job managing the team … I don’t know.

Schur: At the very least, there’s a 5 percent chance he gets tossed out of a game and comes back to the dugout dressed as Gandalf or something. Which makes games against the Blue Jays in May a lot more entertaining.

Simmons: For whatever it’s worth, I’m aligned with Bobby V. on the two recent controversies: Should Daniel Bard leave the bullpen to be a starter (I say no, Bobby V. agrees), and should rookie Jose Iglesias start at short (I say yes, so does Bobby V.). That reminds me of another weird offseason development: We traded our shortstop (Marco Scutaro, the team’s most reliable hitter down the stretch) to create cap space to sign Roy Oswalt even though baseball doesn’t have a salary cap. One catch: We didn’t sign Oswalt, so now we have to watch a guy who can’t field (Mike Aviles) and a rookie who can’t hit (Iglesias) fight for Scutaro’s old job, along with Cherington and Bobby V. reportedly fighting over that fight … which, actually, has spiced up spring training because it’s always interesting when a team with a $175 million payroll has no idea who’s playing shortstop.

Schur: I’m going glass-half-full again: The team would have a great offense if I hit ninth. Ellsbury-Pedroia-Youkilis-Gonzalez-Ortiz-Salty-Crawford-Sweeney/Ross-Iglesias is a great lineup, and gets greater if Crawford comes anywhere close to his 2008-10 averages. Also, the team would have a very, very good defense if you played short. Those same eight position players feature above-average defense at basically every position, so they can afford to swap Aviles in for a little extra offense if they need to.

Simmons: Man, I hope you’re right. Having a crappy shortstop is like having a crappy goalie, point guard, field goal kicker or closer. It just haunts you day after day after day.

Schur: Well, remember, Pokey Reese played 96 games in 2004, sported a 46 OPS+, and the team won the World Series. It’s a sign of how spoiled we are that a roughly league-average SS hitting ninth makes everyone freak out. (Me included.) Scutaro was a solid player, but he’s 36. Baseball Prospectus has him as being worth about a win and a half next year, and there’s a decent chance Aviles/Iglesias can match that.

Simmons: Believe me, I’m fine with Iglesias hitting .205 and being a vacuum at short. I really am. (I love when we have vacuums at short. I still miss Alex Gonzalez.) But you’re much more optimistic about Crawford’s 2012 potential than I am. The Ortiz/Crawford combo scares the daylights out of me. We’re playing with house money with Ortiz at this point — for all we know, he might be older than us.

Schur: Ortiz? Come on. He doesn’t look a day over 48.

Simmons: And Crawford had 50 of the 125 worst at-bats I’ve ever seen a Red Sox player have last year. What if he’s just fork-in-his-back finished? Why is everyone so certain he’s having a bounce-back year?

Schur: No one is certain. Everyone is hoping. And there’s reason to — his OPS+ dropped 50 (!) points from his age 28/29 year to his age 29/30 year. That’s astonishingly unlikely, barring injury or mental strain or … hmmm … I don’t know … prescription-pill problem?!?!?!? (I’m kidding. Only that anonymous source in the Red Sox front office has a prescription-pill problem.)

Simmons: Do you believe in the whole “small-market star going to a big market and falling apart” phenomenon? Just seems like it’s happened so many times, especially with the Yankees. You go from 17,000 fans per game, two daily reporters, one columnist and one drive-time radio show to 36,000 fans per game, 30 daily reporters, 10 columnists and two all-sports radio stations — not to mention the totally insane Red Sox fans — and it has to be at least a little jarring, right? I’m not saying Crawford was a threat to shave his head like Britney Spears in 2007 or something, but it did seem like Boston kind of swallowed him up. (Thinking.) You’re right, I’m acting like The Mentalist again.

Schur: That is one of the great unanswered questions in sports — does that “big-market effect” thing exist? It’s possible, I suppose. As everyone who hates Moneyball is fond of pointing out, these guys are not robots. It’s at least a little suspicious that the guy didn’t even change divisions and dropped off so dramatically.

Simmons: Speaking of Crawford, that’s another thing that happened: Our soft-spoken billionaire owner (John Henry) inexplicably insulted our aforementioned most expensive player, resident head case and The Guy Who Has a Chance to Be the Most Disappointing Red Sox Player Ever (yes, Crawford) on a local radio show, saying that he “opposed the deal” before it was signed. So that was good news.

Schur: That was so weird and atypical for Henry. Just goofy. The hallmark of his success as an owner was that he and his team managed to get rid of exactly that kind of stupid BS, which had plagued the franchise for years — the backbiting, infighting, contradicting, and general under-the-bus-throwing, and to watch Henry do it was really disappointing. I’m sure he did oppose the move, and I’m sure paying Crawford all that money and watching him flail his way to an 85 OPS+ was vexing. But for goodness sake, everyone — keep your mouths shut.

Simmons: Another signature offseason moment: Jonathan Papelbon signed with Philly for an absurd amount of money ($55 million), which would have been fine except our closer in waiting (Daniel Bard) decided he wanted to start … so instead of grabbing Chicago’s Sergio Santos (hijacked by Toronto for a piddling price), we settled on Oakland’s Andrew Bailey If He Can Stay Healthy (apparently his full name). Even though ABIHCSH had better raw numbers than Papelbon these past three years, there’s no way you can go glass-half-full here.

Schur: If only I could. I think John Smoltz kind of screwed everything up in this department, because he went back and forth so effortlessly from starter to closer, and that gave everyone the idea that pitchers can just kind of flip back and forth, which is absurd. I have serious doubts about Bard’s ability to do so, especially since he wore down to a nub last year and only threw 73 innings. The fact is, he’s a gigantic question mark, and Bailey is a moderately sized question mark, and if things don’t go well for one or the other in like the first two weeks, everyone north of Hartford, Connecticut, will be calling for Bard to close, and then the circus will be off and running. This is maybe my biggest fear heading into the season, next to Crawford having a nervous breakdown like Luke Wilson at Wimbledon in The Royal Tenenbaums.

Simmons: Here’s the part I don’t get — every other team seems to have these live young arms falling out left and right. We spend $175 million a year — where are Boston’s versions of Vinnie Pestano, Greg Holland, Addison Reed or whoever? Why don’t we ever get lucky with those wacky Grant Balfour/Joel Peralta types? The closest we’ve come the past few years was Alfredo Aceves … who, by the way, we should probably discuss at some point. I love that guy.

Schur: That guy is awesome. I couldn’t believe the Yankees let him go — he is so valuable, and he was perfectly filling that annoying Ramiro Mendoza role. Look at his 2009 numbers! He was 10-1 with a 1.01 WHIP in 84 innings! That’s essentially what Mariano Rivera gives you. And they just let him walk. Inexplicable. But as to your other point, the minors have produced Lester, Buchholz, Papelbon, and Bard in recent years, which ain’t bad.

Simmons: True, but those were high-end blue chippers — I was thinking more about those random 45th-round picks who were former outfielders, get converted to the bullpen and suddenly start throwing 98, or those little guys who were overlooked because of their height and ended up defying the odds, or even those guys who failed on one team and inexplicably became good on another. For instance, remember when El Guapo gloriously fell out of the sky in the late ’90s? (And caused a 5.5 earthquake when he landed?) We’ve had bad luck finding those guys. And it seems like it’s 100 percent luck. As Boone Logan would tell you.

Schur: The place we haven’t recently gotten lucky is the reclamation projects. The Yankees somehow got like 800 innings of Cy Young-level pitching out of Bartolo Colon — who was 38 years old, perfectly cube-shaped, and out of baseball entirely when they signed him — and Freddy Garcia, who is Freddy Garcia. That saved their 2011 season.

Simmons: We’re like 1-for-75 with reclamation projects. Speaking of reclamations, the 10th and last highlight/lowlight of the offseason: John Lackey announced he was getting Tommy John surgery, which meant we wouldn’t have to watch him pitch … so I’m going ahead and declaring that a highlight. For me, it narrowly edged J.D. Drew’s contract officially expiring and Kevin Youkilis proposing to Tom Brady’s sister as my favorite highlight of this offseason. It’s been a rough winter. I’m not gonna lie.

Schur: Youkilis’s family merging with Brady’s feels like two Game of Thrones kingdoms consolidating power. Their future baby has already been given dominion over all lands from Lowell to Mashpee. But I disagree on Drew: He was a good player for the Red Sox. 2011 was kind of a wash, I don’t wish that he were back, and he was at times frustrating to watch, but from 2007 to 2010 he was worth the money he was paid, while playing what might be the most difficult RF in baseball.

Simmons: I’ve heard this argument before. I get it: Statistically, for what he brought to the table offensively and defensively, J.D. Drew was fairly compensated from 2007 to 2010 as long as you overlooked the part where you needed a quality fourth outfielder to bat against lefties for him, and also as long as you weren’t expecting him to be fun to watch on a daily basis. They paid him $70 million for five years; he was probably worth … $50 million? $55 million? When you consider the $70 Million Grand Slam basically won us the 2007 title, it certainly wasn’t a catastrophic contract or anything. But you wouldn’t have bought his jersey, either. (Right? Please tell me you didn’t buy his jersey.)

Schur: The last jersey I bought was Schilling’s. That’s what happens when you live in L.A. and don’t go to Fenway 10 times a year. The jersey supply gets dangerously low. By the way — what’s the most embarrassing jersey you own? Mine: Wilton Veras. (He was the third baseman of the future! Until it turned out he was bad at baseball.)

Simmons: I own a Dice-K jersey. Let’s just move on.

Schur: The point is, Drew was not a gigantic mistake. Lackey is (in all likelihood) a different story. He will most likely never be worth close to the money he is being paid, and there is a reasonable chance he’ll be playing for Pittsburgh in 2014 with the benefit of a generous grant from the Boston Red Sox Failed Acquisition Fund. This T.J. situation is actually just what the doctor ordered, literally and figuratively, because if he took the mound on April 13 and gave up six runs in four innings he might never recover from the verbal abuse.

Simmons: What do you think of my theory that you should never acquire a player if the fans on his current team are going to make fun of your fans after you get him? I really feel like I’m onto something here. After we signed Lackey, the three Angels fans I know all made fun of me. That’s just a terrible sign. Like, if we traded Crawford to the Phillies right now, I would call up my one Philly friend (Mike Tollin) and make fun of him. And I’d be right. Do you buy this theory at all?

Schur: It’s a little like saying you know it’s going to rain because your bones ache — but I get the point. If I were a Jets fan, I would not have felt super great about the Tim Tebow trade after reading, you know, anything that anyone wrote, anywhere, about the Tebow trade.

Simmons: Yeah that went to another level — my Jets fan buddies were actually texting ME as the Tebow trade was going down and ragging on it, almost like they were intentionally preempting the sarcastic text they knew I’d be sending them.

Schur: Here’s my question for you: After all of this, with all the question marks, and with the Rays and Yankees looming — are you in or out on 2012?

Simmons: I’m in only because that’s what Red Sox fans do when it’s edging toward April and the Red Sox are involved: think positively. (Well, except for the year Aaron Sele started on Opening Day. That felt more like Closing Day.) For one thing, I’m excited that Gonzo’s shoulder is healthy for the first time in two years (or so he says), and that he can finally drive through the ball again (or so he says). If Gonzo could throw down one of those 2000 Nomar/1979 Lynn-type career years and crush the ball for six months, that would be more fun than anything else that might happen this season.

Schur: He has the potential to be the best hitter in the league.

Simmons: I’m excited for those three weeks before Dice-K’s comeback start when I totally talk myself into the whole “He’s going to turn it around because Bobby V. speaks Japanese!” thing.

Schur: That seems like tenuous causality at best, but I’m with you.

Simmons: I’m excited for Iglesias to throw the leather around; plus, rooting for him to make contact every at-bat will be like rooting for our pitchers to make contact during interleague games (which, by the way, I always enjoy).

Schur: I like it when a pitcher gets a hit in an interleague game and you cut to the dugout and everyone’s laughing at how badly he ran to first.

Simmons: I’m excited for Youk’s inevitable comeback season (and you know it’s coming) and the top five in the order (a murderer’s row). I’m also excited for Year 10 of Big Papi in Boston (Year 10!!!!) and Year 1 of Cody Ross (who just seems like a classic everyone-in-Boston-will-love-him guy).

Schur: I’m getting happier now. Keep going.

Simmons: I’m excited for the 23.43 percent chance Crawford slaps together a massive comeback season, starts swiping bags and legging out triples, and basically turns back into the Crawford who used to scare the living shit out of us 19 times a season. And if that doesn’t happen, I’m excited to read 500-word vitriolic e-mails from my buddy Hench about how lousy Carl Crawford is. I’m going to win either way.

Schur: Please give Hench my e-mail address.

Simmons: I’m excited to follow Xander Bogaerts’s minor league stats, and also, for my dad to start regularly mispronouncing his name. (When I called my dad for a Patriots podcast last week, he called Brian Hoyer “Jeb Hoyer,” which made history as a double-mispronunciation. He got Brian Hoyer and Jed Hoyer confused while also calling Jed “Jeb.” Even Tommy Heinsohn couldn’t do this.)

Schur: I’m excited for when Bogaerts gets to the majors, has a great first week, and Baskin-Robbins releases “Xander Bogaerts Frozen Yogaerts.” (EllsBerry Blast. Chocolate Chip Youkie Dough. Bailey’s and Cream. Come on, guys, do I have to do everything for you?)

Simmons: I’m excited to have in-shape starting pitchers who might be able to run a lap inside Fenway without keeling over. I’m excited to make chicken-and-beer jokes regardless of how thin they look. I’m excited that I don’t have to talk myself into Tim Wakefield as a stopgap starter this season, or that we don’t have any players in their mid-40s who have legitimate beer guts.

Schur: Don’t you dare insult the name Tim Wakefield. That man is a saint. (But it’s probably good for the team that he retired.)

Simmons: I wore my Wakefield T-shirt jersey proudly just last week. But yes, it’s good for the team that he retired.

Schur: Also, Wakefield is one of many Red Sox whose last names are also towns in Massachusetts. How many can you name? I’ll get you started: Carl Everett, Mike Lowell, Josh Beckett (albeit spelled differently), Fred Lynn, Tom Bolton.

Simmons: Bill Lee, Jeff Russell, Garry Hancock … now I’m excited for the Red Sox to trade for Ben Revere and Derek Holland.

Schur: And Terrence Manchester-by-the-Sea.

Simmons: Another thing I’m excited about: People finally seem to be realizing that Alfredo Aceves is one of the best pitchers on this team and should probably start every five days. Enjoy middle relief, Daniel Bard.

Schur: Middle relief? The guy’s gonna pitch 160 innings of 1.1 WHIP baseball and start Game 3 of the ALDS! (I’m just feeding on your optimism. Don’t stop now.)

Simmons: I’m excited that Matthew Berry is excited about Andrew Bailey If He Can Stay Healthy’s fantasy potential, and that it’s OK to savor Papelbon’s inevitable, I-wish-I-could-wager-on-it demise in Philly after he made that comment about Philly fans being smarter than Boston fans.

Schur: First of all, I’ve been a fan of Matthew Berry ever since Fools Rush In. Second of all, Bailey has 174 Ks (and only 49 BB) in 174 career IP, so if he stays healthy there’s no reason he can’t be an elite closer. Third, I love Papelbon. I will always love Papelbon. But he is not a person who should be passing judgment on various peoples’ relative intelligence.

Simmons: Good point. I’m excited not to have John Lackey, J.D. Drew or (probably) Bobby Jenks in my life. I’m excited for Bobby V. to do Bobby V. things. I’m excited to root against the Yankees, make A-Rod/Kobe/Germany jokes and hope this is the year Rivera (four days younger than me) finally falls apart. Unless he’s a zombie and plans on living forever. Which is entirely possible.

Schur: When Rivera finally does decide to hang it up, after winning the Cy Young in 2022, throwing the same 89 mph cutters he’s been throwing since 1995, I am having a party at my house. Bring whomever.

Simmons: I’m excited that my expectations aren’t ludicrously sky-high like they were last year. (“Ludicrously sky-high” is never a good thing.) I’m excited to watch Red Sox games on my new iPad in various settings — the living room, dinner, the movies, school plays, you name it — without my wife or kids totally realizing it. God bless the MLB At Bat package.

Schur: See? Plenty to look forward to!

Simmons: You’re right. Most of all, I’m excited for us to get smeared in the Boston Globe by the Red Sox owners if they don’t like this column.

Schur: You didn’t hear it from me, but rumor is, you have a prescription-pill problem.

Filed Under: Art, General topics, Magazines, Star

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Bill Simmons is the editor-in-chief of Grantland and the author of the New York Times no. 1 best seller The Book of Basketball. For every Simmons column and podcast, click here.

Archive @ BillSimmons

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