Ah, the fresh, sunny optimism of Opening Day. Everyone has a chance.

Yep, even the Boston Red Sox have a chance. If the pitching continues to perform like it did in spring training. If Jackie Bradley, Jr. even comes close to the unrealistic fan expectations. If Jacoby Ellsbury, Will Middlebrooks, Dustin Perdoia, Mike Napoli and others with injury histories or concerns stay healthy. If David Ortiz and Stephen Drew get healthy. If Joel Hanrahan can be an effective closer in the American League. If the rest of the AL East is down.

It’s a lot of ifs, but we all can agree the Red Sox should at least be decent this year, certainly not as bad as they were in 2012. They should be more entertaining on the field, more likable off of it and, just by scuttling the worst manager in their history, erase the stigma of being the laughingstock in baseball.

Unfortunately for the Boston Red Sox owners, that won’t fill the seats during those raw April nights. But it could start to win back many of the fans who have soured on the team for a whole host of gaffes, blunders, bloopers and miscalculations.

It could, if the Red Sox owners would let it. History has shown us that they won’t. But what the hell. I’d like to suggest a few other things they could do to reverse both the apathy and anger that have been building.

1. Stick with the GM’s plan. General manager Ben Cherrington is building from within. If his vision comes to fruition, the next time the Red Sox are serious pennant contenders, they will be led by a core of home-grown players.

John Henry, Tom Werner, et al. have other visions, mostly dancing dollar signs. That’s fine. They’re businessmen. The concern is that if the Red Sox don’t contend, a half-empty ballpark will make them panic or, even if they somehow do contend this year, a full ballpark and improved NESN ratings won’t be enough for them. They will revert to the shopping-for-big-names, creating-offseason-buzz, selling-Carl-Crawford-jerseys-for-Christmas Red Sox that created this mess.

Don’t bow to the pressure of the short-sighted talk show nitwits. Don’t kowtow to the sensationalistic Boston media, which has reveled in the soap opera you’ve become since September, 2011. It’s not bad PR to have a payroll under $200 million.

2. Stop insulting the true fans. Ownership has taken countless steps to hear and address fans’ concerns, yet it remains remarkably tone deaf. That’s because it goes by the theory that it has a captive audience of diehards. The casual fan is where the money is at.

But many of the diehards don’t trust ownership anymore, and they are less apt to turn their hard-earned money over to them if their intelligence is constantly under assault.

Focus groups, consultants, and  concession discounts aren’t going to get people to come to the ballpark or watch NESN. True Red Sox fans don’t relate to cheesy music videos about Fenway Park. They don’t dream about buying a brick. They certainly don’t care about trumped-up sellout streaks. If you have any faith in your talent and the people you pay to assemble that talent, let the play on the field speak for itself.

3. Dial back on the Yankees obsession. They’re our rivals. We get it. You talk about them so much we’re starting to wonder if you actually care about beating them or if it’s just lip service to make your fans believe it’s about anything but the money.

Don’t know if you’ve heard, but Tampa Bay is pretty good, too. Probably better. Toronto could be a lot better. The Orioles kicked your butts last year. The AL West treated you like its personal pinata. You have to beat them all.

The whole idea is to get to the postseason. It can be done without beating the Yankees. You know that from personal experience. It’s certainly possible to do without trying to match their payroll. Worry about the Yankees if you see them in the playoffs. The chances of that happening, even when both teams are good, are marginal at best. They’re not a dynasty any more. Stop treating them like one.

4. Don’t assume that empty seats at Fenway means you need to make it more of an amusement park. A lot of fans have pretty much hit their limit with the Sweet Caroline-style gimmicks. I understand you think you’re adding to the “fan experience” and giving people more value for their expensive ticket. And I wouldn’t bring this up if there weren’t rumors going around that you’re considering having the public address announcer announce whether it was a ball or strike after every pitch.

We used to be able to laugh off such ridiculous rumors. We can’t anymore.

5. If the team struggles this year, hold the players accountable and go to the mat to defend your manager. Regardless of what you think about the job Terry Francona and Bobby Valentine did the past two years, we all know the smear campaigns and leaks to the media that undermined them were meant to serve one purpose — CYA. Even if John Farrell is a disaster, fanning the flames during the season won’t do any good. We’re all suffering from dysfunction fatigue. The media will try like hell to bait you into more dysfunction. Don’t feed that monster.

The Red Sox were just plain insufferable and embarrassing and turned a lot of fans off in 2012. We’re already seeing signs that the pendulum could swing the other way this year. All John Henry, Tom Werner, Larry Lucchino need to do is get the hell out of the way and let the Red Sox sell themselves. They might be pleasantly surprised with how the fans respond.


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