Amalie Benjamin has a great piece on Boston.com today about the apparent lack of conflict in the admittedly awkward Adrian Beltre/Mike Lowell situation. Of course, Mikey is the fan favorite who had an underwhelming season last year due to decreased defensive production, while Beltre is the new guy who has a reputation for flashing the leather, though he struggled immensely at the plate in 2009.
According to Benjamin's piece, the Sox front office assured Beltre that Lowell would not be the starting third baseman, regardless of his eventual decision (which fully explains their botched trade attempt) but it will make things awkward if Beltre gets off to a slow start. The fans will not be particularly forgiving of a bad April from a player replacing Lowell, who is so revered that he even had the Captain lobbying for him back in 2007.
It's tough to replace a guy who is held in such high esteem by the fans, and Beltre gets it: as he said to Benjamin, he's been down this road before. However, I have a hunch that Beltre could turn out to be a fan favorite in time, especially if his swing is as suited to Fenway Park as some have speculated, and all he has to do is stop confusing us with the Yankees. In Seattle, he said, the goal was to try to contend for a playoff spot:
"Here, it’s different because you don’t hope. Playoffs is a failure. World Series is the main goal."
Alright, let's set some things straight. Every year, the Boston Red Sox try to win 95 games, a number Theo and his team of math wizzes have decided is generally good enough to get to the playoffs. Yes, the roster is set up by those same men to be as good as possible, and thus the team generally makes it there. However, fans who have started to see the playoffs as a birthright (or a failure) need to get the hell out of Red Sox Nation. Let's be serious: anything can happen in a seven game series, and the effect is magnified in the LDS, which of course is only five games long. Getting to the playoffs is what takes most of the work: winning the World Series has almost as much to do with luck as anything else.
Of course winning the World Series is the main goal. I do, however, like to think that most Red Sox fans aren't spoiled and ignorant enough to see any other playoff run as a failure. Get that straight, Beltre, and you could easily win yourself a place in fans' affections.