You might remember, from back at the beginning of the NFL season, when we previewed each team by having a writer we liked write about their favorite team.
Well, we're less than a month away from the start of baseball — spring training is here! — so it's time to do the same thing in the baseball world. Every weekday until the start of the season, a different writer will preview his/her team. We asked a gaggle of writers, from the Web, from print, from books, to tell us, in as many or as little words as they need, Where Their Team Stands. This is not meant to be factual, or dispassionate, or even logical: We just asked them to riff on why they love their team so much, or what their team means to them, or whatever.
Today: The Boston Red Sox. Your author is Eric Gillin.
Is it just me, or does this year's Red Sox team feel a lot like the team from Major League II? They're both motley crews of total weirdos trying to make it back to another World Series. They're both playing in cities where people develop mental illnesses about baseball teams. (Honestly, tell me Randy Quaid's uncredited performance as a deranged Tribe fan doesn't remind you of Dan Shaughnessy.) And as much as it pains me to say this — neither team can ever possibly regain the magical exuberance surrounding what happened the last time around, no matter how hard they try.
Entering this season, both teams find themselves in similar positions. Consider IMDB's plotline summary of Major League II: "The Indians are now a World Series contender. But last year's hunger is now replaced with complacency, and bad decisions by the new owner threaten to tear the team apart."
Yup. That accurately sums up how I feel about last year's season, when Johnny Damon left town, the team finished in third place and Keith Foulke came apart faster than Anna Nicole Smith on a Bahamas vacation. And Major League II also provides a blueprint for how I feel about this year's season as well — there's so much potential on this club, what with the Dice-K signing, J.D. Drew's monster spring training, a promising spring from Josh Beckett ...
... maybe there's an ALCS in this team's future, too.
But I can't say that. So, instead of making positive predictions that will ultimately jinx the Red Sox's chances of winning another World Series, I'm going to break down the team player-by-player.
Rick "Wild Thing" Vaughn = Jonathan Papelbon
OK, so Papelbon wasn't freed from a state prison to pitch for the Sox (although you could make a case that leaving the single-A Sox team in Lowell, Mass. is the same thing), but last year Papelbon kicked off his rookie campaign by coming out to "Wild Thing" and cutting his hair like Rick Vaughn. As with Vaughn, everything comes down to Earth for Papelbon, who needs to prove if last year was a rookie fluke or if he's the real deal. And now he's closing again.
Jake Taylor = Jason Varitek
Let's see. In the sequel, Taylor doesn't make the squad and serves as an assistant manager. Unlike Taylor, Varitek will actually make the team — despite looking lost at the plate this spring, whiffing at meatballs, and finally showing his age — but as last year's second-half swoon proves: Like Taylor, Varitek is the heart and soul of the Sox. They need him behind the plate to win.
Roger Dorn = Curt Schilling
The Indians' veteran third-baseman buys the team in the sequel and promptly runs it into the ground, putting up all kinds of billboards and running his yap. The same is true of Schilling — only he acts like he owns the team, is the one appearing on billboards and runs his yap. Oh, and it can be safely said that neither man was in game shape entering their respective seasons. Schilling came into camp overweight at 248 pounds, six pounds over his goal weight of 242.
Willie Mays Hayes = Coco Crisp
As is all too painfully clear, Coco Crisp is not Johnny Damon in the same way that Omar Epps is not Wesley Snipes. And with Coco's inflamed shoulder, I can't help but feel like Omar Epps might be better a better center-field option than Crisp.
Pedro Cerrano = Wily Mo Pena/Manny Ramirez
After not winning the ALCS, Cerrano returns to the team as a completely different man — a Zen-like Buddhist who loves everyone — which is exactly the same transformation that happens to Manny every year! But unlike Cerrano, Manny can hit the curveball. Wily Mo Pena, the freakishly large 26-year-old fourth outfielder, most certainly cannot. Manny's the off-field Cerrano. Wily Mo is the on-field.
Isuro Tanaka = Daisuke Matsuzaka
Neither man speaks much English. Both become the rallying point for the team, providing a spark at a critical time. Besides, it's fun to think about Dice-K telling Wily Mo: "Marbles! You have no marbles!"
Eddie Harris = Mike Timlin
I'm not even sure if Eddie Harris, the crafty Cleveland reliever with a penchant for using everything from Vaseline to sandpaper to keep his pitching career going, is in the second movie. But I do know that in Game One of the 2003 ALCS, Timlin was called out by Joe Torre for potentially having some foreign substance under his cap. Furthermore, I'm not even sure if the 41-year-old Timlin will be on the team by the end of the year.
Lou Brown = Jerry Remy
With a 32-pack-a-day smoking habit and a voice that makes Johnny Most sound like Michael Jackson, let's just say that if Jerry Remy were to collapse like Indians manager Lou Brown at any point during the season, I wouldn't be shocked.