By Dick Flavin
Boston Red Sox Poet Laureate
and New York Times Best Selling Author
DAMNED IF I KNOW
“How are the Red Sox going to do this year?”
That’s the question I’ve been asked most often this off-season. It’s one to which I have
gven an extraordinary amount of thought. I am, at last, ready to reveal my answer. Be
forewarned; this is the straight-from- the-shoulder, no sugar-coating, let-the- chips-fall-
where-they- may honest opinion of this seasoned observer.
Damned if I know.
Now that I think of it, that’s the same answer I’ve always had to that question. It’s the
same answer that Casey Stengel would have had seventy years ago and that Dave
Dombrowski or Alex Cora would have this year. We can take guesses or make
predictions, then either gloat over them if we guessed right or conveniently forget about
them when we are wrong, but they’re all only guesses. You have to play the games, and,
counting Spring Training and possible post-season encounters, there could be more than
two hundred of them between now and when the games finally end.
It’s just that this year my level uncertainty is higher than it’s ever been.
For one thing, the roster is far from being set. Will the Red Sox sign free agent J.D.
Martinez? Damned if I know. Will David Price ever again be the same pitcher he once
was? Ditto. Will it rain, or even snow, on Opening Day? Ditto again. Will the Cy Young
winning Rick Porceello of 2016 (22-4, 3.15 ERA) show up in Fort Myers in a few weeks
or will it be the evil twin (11-17, 4.65 ERA) who bluffed his way through security last
year? Who’s to say?
The Red Sox had off-years from Porcello, Price, Mookie Betts, Hanley Ramirez, Jackie
Bradley, Jr. and Xander Bogaerts in 2017 and still won 93 games and the American
League East. Who could have predicted that?
I worry about Betts’ wrist. He spent a lot of time toward the end of last season holding it
in obviuous discomfort. I don’t know a whole lot about much of anything but I do know
that when Nomar Garciaparra hurt his wrist fifteen years ago he was never again the
same hitter. Bat speed is everything for a hitter, and it’s all in the wrists. David Ortiz,
even when he had bad feet and looked like he was fifty, much less forty, lumbering
around the bases, never lost his bat speed and had perhaps his best year at the plate in his
I worry even more about Pedroia. He’s a warrior and an inspiration, but with that come
battle scars and with those comes battle fatigue. If anyone can climb that mountain of
excellence once again, he can. But can he?
The Red Sox have what seems to be a thousand questions yet to be answered. They have
a new manager who is loved and respected by everyone, but who has never managed a
game in the big leagues. How will he do? Will Chris Sale be as good as he was last year?
Will he be as good in October as he is in May? Will Rafael Devers avoid the sophomore
jinx? Will David Price and Dennis Eckersley kiss and make up?
Damned if I know.
I think back to 2013, when no one had much confidence that the Red Sox would do much
of anything. They had finished dead last the year before and had signed only a couple of
middle-of- the-road free agents during the off-season, Mike Napoli and Shane Victorino.
But they won it all, to the surprise of everyone except them. They played with the attitude
of winners right from the beginning. I remember being at an event with pitcher Ryan
Dempster near the end of that season and he was asked what it was that made that team
so special. In trying to explain its unique chemistry he recalled a morning in Spring
Training when he arrived at the clubhouse early. Jonny Gomes was there ahead of him
and Dempster greeted him, saying, “How are you, Jonny?” Gomes said, simply, “I’m one
day closer to the parade.” Sure enough, seven months later there was Gomes, along with
every other member of the Red Sox, parading through the streets of Boston with the
World Series trophy.
I also think back to 2014, when the defending champions, with virtually the same roster,
laid a giant egg. They wound up in the cellar of the American League East again. Who
knew? Who could have known? Not me, I’ll tell you that.
I have no idea what 2018 holds in store for the Red Sox and neither does anyone else. But
I can tell you this: I’m on board for the ride, bumps and all.
THE RED SOX ROLLER COASTER
Rooting for the Olde Towne Team
Has twists and turns to make one scream.
It’s not a simple, easy glide,
It’s like a roller coaster ride.
It takes you to the very top –
My God, you’re in a nosedive drop!
A look of panic’s on your face,
You plummet right into last place.
You careen at breakneck speed,
Then your nose might start to bleed.
You hold on tight, you’re one scared pup,
Then you think you might throw up.
Then once again you’re back on top –
Then comes another belly flop!
The ride gives you the Red Sox bends.
And worst of all it never ends.