Far be it from me to jinx things, but I have to say after today's game I am finding it hard to repress my enthusiasm for the way this 2007 squad has been constructed and how it's already coming together in spring training.
Today saw a solid outing from Josh Beckett as the Sox beat the Marlins 12-6, but what really caught my eye in the early innings when the starters were still in was the lineup and the defense.
The third inning saw the lineup through from the top to the middle--Lugo, Youkilis, Ortiz, Ramirez, Drew, Lowell. Lugo got on base to start things off against the Marlins' Yusmeiro Petit--I can't remember how, also can't find a detailed play by play at this point, but the important part was that he was on base, which set the table nicely for his teammates, since Petit and his catcher were thereafter so distracted by Lugo on first that they allowed Kevin Youkilis a walk. And so there were two ducks on the pond for Big Papi, who lifted a bad breaking pitch (a slider) into left center for a two-RBI double, and I couldn't help but picture Theo cracking a little smile watching it unfold. This must have been exactly what he envisioned for this lineup.
With Ortiz on second, Ramirez hit a warning-track flyout that would have been a wall-ball at Fenway. Drew didn't deliver, and neither did Lowell, but it was easy, after the first three guys, to imagine that inning going on, Ramirez with a single off the wall, Ortiz to third, still no one out, Drew a double up the left field line, maybe, or a pull hit into right center, and Lowell right behind him, keeping it coming...this lineup has the potential to be very scary indeed, especially as a whole greater than the sum of its parts given the way the on-base machines at the top work off one another and the cleanup men work off them...if a pitcher gets himself into a hole against the top of the lineup, it's easy to imagine his long trudge down through the heart of the order and straight to the showers.
In the top of the fourth, all three outs would have been scored 5-3, all of them smooth, crisp, tricky plays pulled off to the hilt by Messrs. Lowell and Youkilis. I still maintain that keeping Lowell was the best non-deal of the off season for Theo, and can't wait to see these guys work their magic together at Fenway all season long.
Things, as the Yankees have seen of late, can change quickly, and Sox fans wouldn't be Sox fans if we weren't wary of all things jinx, drawback, catch and letdown. But as of right now, the only problem for Red Sox fans is that Opening Day is still a week away.
P.S. Speaking of coming together, the Patriots are having a nice off-season for themselves. Check out my take on their choices at linebacker over at MVN.