Photo (c) Kelly O'Connor, 2012

Photo (c) Kelly O’Connor, 2012

I’m ready for baseball.

Let’s be honest, basketball is my first sports love. For the past few years, the Celtics have captured my attention more than any of my other teams. I know those guys. I’ve watched them since the Big Three came together in 2008. I’ve watched Rajon Rondo mature, I’ve watched the Kendrick Perkins trade shake the team’s foundation, and I’ve watched them fight to stay relevant.

But most of all, I’ve watched them persevere.

The Celtics should have stopped being a threat in 2009 when Kevin Garnett injured his knee. Every year since, they’ve been counted out by the trade deadline, only to scrap their way into the playoffs and make a run, despite all evidence why the opposite should have happened. Whatever the circumstances, however unlikely it might look, I always know the Celtics will give me something to watch.

I’m straying dangerously deep into “sports generality” territory, so I’ll get to the point: I want to see the Red Sox get to that level. I was merely a casual baseball observer for the 2004 and 2007 championships; I didn’t really fall for the team until 2009.

I saw those championships, but I wasn’t as invested as I am now. I wasn’t watching every available game and checking every box score. I wasn’t devouring all the Red Sox-related material I could find. In a way, I missed the Red Sox’ prime. Somewhere along the way, they stopped being the lovable idiots from 2004 and turned into a spending machine. The personality wasn’t there anymore.

I know we don’t like that kind of analysis in the blogging world. I usually don’t either. I like statistics and things that I can prove. I’m still just a sports fan, though, and for all the ups and downs, the one constant with the Celtics is their identity. Even as players have come and gone, they’ve continued to be the physical, defense-minded team that has brought them so much success.

As this year’s baseball season approaches, the primary thing I want to see from these Red Sox is an identity. But how do you define that? You can’t quantify it or prove it. What, then, does it count for?

We as fans know this is likely not a playoff team this season. That’s not a bold statement. What it is, then, it’s a transition year. A changing of the guard. If you read this site, you likely know plenty about the top-end of the Sox’ farm system. That’s what we’re building for. Xander Bogaerts looks like the soon-to-be starting shortstop. Jackie Bradley will be the centerfielder. Matt Barnes, Allen Webster, and Rubby De La Rosa will find their way into the starting rotation. Others like Bryce Brentz may find a way to contribute, as well.

It’s a fundamental change from everything I’ve seen since I started following every single Sox game I could. Where Theo Epstein began lobbing large contracts at players like John Lackey and Carl Crawford, Ben Cherington avoided such deals with Josh Hamilton or Anibal Sanchez. Where the farm system was once dry, it now appears to be strong.

In other words, I think the Sox are on the right path. This, to me, is how you build a baseball team. I believe in Ben Cherington, I believe in John Farrell, and I believe in the direction the organization is moving. It just has to be seen through to completion. Maybe that’s what I’m looking for – that we have a plan, and we’re on our way to achieving it.

I’m ready to watch some baseball. Football is long gone, and the Cowboys perpetually disappoint me anyways. The NBA season is more than halfway done, and the Celtics are limping to the finish line. Hockey is not my cup of tea as a whole. I want to comb box scores, dominate my fantasy league, and I want to generally hate the Yankees and every little thing they do.

It’s a new year, and it’s a new team. I can’t promise they’ll be good, and I definitely can’t promise they’ll contend, but what I can tell you is that they will be more fun than the past two seasons. I’m confident of that. The locker room drama is gone, and so is the World-Series-or-bust pressure. This year will be brighter for Red Sox Nation.

We’re now about a month off. Spring is here, the boys are in Florida, and anything is possible. So here’s to a new Red Sox season, and – hopefully – a new era as well.