Of all the pre-Opening Day traditions I tend to indulge right around this point in March, including, but not limited to, re-sorting baseball cards, finding the latest Athlon magazine, dusting off caps and re-watching Bull Durham, none are quite as frequent or neurotic as my tendency to take out a piece of paper, write out a prospective Boston Red Sox roster, and repeat for days on end.
Names are swapped in and out constantly. Players are called up to the big club and sent down to Pawtucket. Depth charts are tweaked. The sun rises in the east and sets in the west.
The pre-dawn of March each season presents its own challenges and puzzles. Years past have included debating which four of the nine journeymen Dan Duquette had signed would fill out the rotation behind Pedro Martinez (Bret Saberhagen, Pat Rapp, Kent Merker and brother Ramon Martinez would have been good guesses). Last year, I hunched over a notebook and debated the relative worthiness of having Cody Ross or Ryan Sweeney in right field, with Ryan Kalish on the bench. This year, none of those names are even worth writing down for one reason (departed as a free agent to Arizona) or another (trapped in the minors, on the disabled list, etc.).
One of the primary wonders this season is whether or not the Red Sox will carry three catchers, a scenario made more likely by a heel injury that may sideline David Ortiz for the opener, hence, Ryan Lavarnway penciled in as the team’s designated hitter to start 2013.
Beyond that, there are bench questions: will Jose Iglesias start the season in the majors, or will he be bumped down in favor of Brock Holt? Or, will newcomer Stephen Drew be hurt, and Iglesias be slotted in at shortstop and hitting ninth? Which of the 10 pitchers angling for relief spots will make a six-or-seven man bullpen? Is there room on the bench for Mike Carp? Whither Mauro Gomez?
It could be a maddening exercise for anyone on the outside looking in, but instead, here I am, mindlessly killing the free moments of my day laboring over whether Franklin Morales or, forgive me, Andrew Miller is more deserving of a spot in a bullpen that could have three left-handers in it.
Of course, it isn’t. It’s a dumb, calming reminder that Spring is on the horizon, and with it will come baseball, the greatest sport in which to indulge daily to the point of neurosis. The games themselves are constant, sometimes two-a-day, and each one an episode in the greater saga of the season and the pennant chase. If we’re lucky, the team we nearly arbitrarily follow will advance to play in October and aim for glory out of the monotonous recreation. But that’s never a guarantee, not even in New York.
Everyone gets March, though. And while the Red Sox are in Fort Myers working out and rolling through five pitchers a game, I’ll be up here in Massachusetts, scribbling names onto paper, debating the worthiness of each, and we’ll both do the same tomorrow.