There were points in the offseason, mostly December, where I was really low on the prospects of the 2021 Red Sox. Hadn't played a game yet. Pitchers and catchers weren't set to report for nearly two months. And I couldn't get the taste of the 2020 team out of my mouth. Mookie was still gone, the rotation hadn't improved, we were picking fourth in the draft and were no longer doling out big contracts to proven veterans in an attempt to kickstart a faux turn around. It was an adjustment. I remember saying on Section 10, if the Red Sox are out of the hunt by July, August, why even bring Chris Sale back? Give him as much time to recover and then come into '22 with a fresh ace and hopefully a brand new roster around him.
Then by February, it became pretty clear that this team had all the makings of a playoff team assuming a few things broke right. The pitching staff and bullpen were much improved from '20. Not quite five aces, but competent. The heart of the lineup was as good as anything any other team could trot out on a given night assuming J.D. Martinez came back strong, which he did. And a few of the Hunter Renfroes, Kiké Hernandezes, Marwin Gonzalezes of the world would have to hit and come into their respective roles, which has happened more than it hasn't. It's not a perfect roster, there are holes in the lineup, first base has been a question mark all year, but the Red Sox have put themself in a position where there was no sense in holding out Sale until '22. In fact, there isn't a better time for him to be rejoining this staff as Garrett Richards and Martin Perez have turned into pumpkins simultaneously. You think this team, losers of 8 of their last 10, couldn't use this type of spark?
The Red Sox have their ace back. He missed the tail end of a forgettable 2019, the entirety of a 2020 no one will ever care to remember, and the first four months of an unexpected 2021. If I told you in February that the Sox would be three back of the Tampa Bay Rays when Sale finished up his rehab you'd have been ecstatic. That's not how this works, the Red Sox shouldn't have let the Tigers take two out of three, they shouldn't have looked so lifeless since the deadline, it has been a shitty fucking week, and yet I remain plenty optimistic. Toronto got a shiny new ace they trotted out against a dead in the water Red Sox lineup last night: they lost. Nick Pivetta almost threw a MadBum no-no against one of the top offenses in baseball. Garrett Whitlock continues to look like the frontrunner for AL Rookie of the Year. Kyle Schwarber is lurking, he wont need months in the minors to get back to the big club. I know this last week stunk out loud, there's no reason to feel all warm and fuzzy about what we just watched. Equally, there's no reason to act like the fucking sky is falling. The Yankees have been the hottest team in baseball for the last month, they're still 1.5 games out of the Wild Card, 2.5 back of the Sox, and 5.5 back of the division. Toronto has been nearly as hot, they're even further back in the division. And neither of them are bringing back Christopher Allen Sale on Saturday.
It's not too little too late, it's right on time.