Byline: Bill Ballou
COLUMN: BILL BALLOU
It is approaching the dreaded 86 years the Red Sox went between World Series victories, but it is nowhere near as significant, so Boston's long drought between truly great teams is not such a big deal.
This could be the year, though. The Sox' 64-year wait for another 100-win season - the unofficial gold standard for excellence - could be over.
That's how good the 2011 Red Sox look as Opening Day approaches. They could go 100-62, or even better. Every hole has been patched, every weakness has been attended to. Boston has speed and power. It has outfield depth and infield depth. It has at least four reliable starting pitchers, what seems to be a reliable bullpen, with lots of help - and bullpens always need help eventually - in Pawtucket.
A 100-win season? How about 162-0?
It has been a long, cold, lonely winter after all, and any hint of baseball season can do crazy things to the mind. Plus, even the 1964 Red Sox looked improved on paper. Their many shortcomings were exposed between the foul lines.
Thinking that the 2011 Red Sox will win 100 games doesn't seem to be a ridiculous reach. One hundred victories should give them the AL East title. Where they go after that is a different matter, as teams like the 2001 Mariners (116 wins, no World Series title) and 1954 Indians (111-43, swept in the World Series by the Giants) have shown.
It's surprising, really, that Boston has not won 100 since 1946. The Sox have won five American League pennants and two World Series since then. And, since 1946, 55 different major league teams have had 100-win seasons, led by the Yankees with 11 and the Braves with six.
The only teams that have gone longer without winning 100 are the Cubs, Pirates and White Sox.
While April is a notoriously poor indicator of future success, or failure, Boston does have a chance to show right away if this season will unfold as management hopes. The Red Sox open in Texas on Friday, and no place in North America has been as inhospitable to Boston teams as Arlington. Even Sox pennant-winners have struggled there. The Sox are just 3-8 in their last 11 games at The Ballpark, and are 32-43 there all-time.
The Red Sox in Texas are like cars in January - if there's anything wrong, that's when you find out.
Expectations are never reality, but in baseball, they have a way of creating it. It's like when Jorge Posada came up against Pedro Martinez in Game 7 in 2003. Everybody, save for the unfortunate...