Like the dawn of every baseball season, by now the fans of all 30 MLB teams—with the likely exception of the Kansas City Royals and the Pittsburgh Pirates—have managed to convince themselves that they have a chance this year. Hope springs eternal when every squad boasts identical 0-0 records. The spring of 2011 is no exception.
But for those of us loyal members of Red Sox Nation—I would say "card-carrying members," but most of us are too savvy to fall for our sneaky front office's money-laundering scheme—we know better. You see, 2011 is our year.
Yes, of course we say this every year, including one unfortunate dry stretch lasting longer than some countries' lifespans. And yes, we pretty much have to win it all this year, as our annual payroll edges ever closer to $200 million.
Nevertheless, there is something magical dusting that Bostonian seaside air these days. The Celtics (first in their conference) and Bruins (second in theirs) are making a run at championship trophies again this season, after disappointing finishes for both teams last year. But the Hub is a baseball town first and foremost, and recent events have served only to strengthen that claim.
Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez, the dynamic duo acquired in the offseason, have tilted the star-studded AL East decidedly in Boston's direction once again. Are we favorites, as Mark Teixeira (he of the Yankees' $207 million annual payroll) unconvincingly declared last month? Perhaps, perhaps not. But we are certainly among the most formidable contenders in a year in which baseball may once again lay claim to the title of "nation's most beloved sport" as the NFL grapples with a possible lockout.
Who will win the AL East in 2011?
Heart-warming tales of inter-division camaraderie notwithstanding, Sox and Yankees fans know well enough to understand that, once the first pitch is thrown in Boston's home opener against New York on April 8th, the gloves come off.
Bill Lee and Thurman Munson may be long gone from the diamond, and today's players navigating a free-agency world may not resent their on-the-field rivals on a personal level anymore. But the fan frenzy continues unabated, and—as it always has—our enthusiasm will provide the spark to ignite another year of the nation's most vaunted rivalry.
There will be no confetti pouring down in the Canyon of Heroes this fall, New Yorkers. There will only be the sound of silence, and the distant roar of a victory parade a few hours north on I-95.