Forget about approaching the baseball season like Alberto Salazar. The Red Sox needed to be ready to burst out of the blocks like Usain Bolt.
Unfortunately, they've already stumbled.
If ever a club can't afford a slow start, it's this one, and the schedule-makers did them a solid with an opening slate that includes six games in 10 days against the woeful Baltimore Orioles.
Of course, it's only a gift if the Red Sox take advantage of it, and that mission's off to a poor start. They dropped their opener on Friday while getting thoroughly dominated by All-Star left-hander John Means, and this is normally the point where we'd preach patience, long season, marathon, etc. . . .
But these aren't normal times. The Red Sox have drained whatever reservoirs of goodwill they accumulated during the 2018 World Series run by following up with a lackluster 2019, trading MVP Mookie Betts, and not really even trying in 2020.
Now comes 2021 and the very early Show Me portion of the schedule. In a city where the most popular sport right now is the NFL Draft followed by the future of Jimmy G., there's a massive opening after that, thanks to the travails of the Celtics and Bruins.
The former have somehow become the most unlikeable team in Boston, while the latter don't even register except among the diehards.
Say hello to an opening for the Red Sox! Except their window for exploiting it could be very small.
"That's my third opening day (loss)," said manager Alex Cora with a sigh. "We're 0-3 with me managing. We knew we were going to lose during the season, so we got it out of the way, I guess."
The Red Sox told us a lot this spring about the team they weren't going to be. They weren't going to nibble around the strike zone. They weren't going to muff routine plays in the field. They weren't going to be easy outs.
They imported a considerable amount of new talent to aid in this endeavor. And on Day 1, they failed to live up to those promises.
No nibbling? Tell that to reliever Matt Andriese, who walked the first hitter he faced with one out in the sixth. He then served up a double-play rocket that infielder Kiké Hernández booted before falling behind Ryan Mountcastle and serving up a two-run double that broke a scoreless tie. They were the only runs the Orioles would need.
"Andriese is a guy, he gets groundballs," Cora said. "He walks (Trey) Mancini, he gets a groundball after that. We make an error and then obviously they score two. That's where we were, pitching-wise, pitch-count wise. We felt comfortable with him going in that situation."
Then how about the defense? Hernández is here because he was supposed to represent a clear upgrade on Jose Peraza and Co. at second last year. And though the Anthony Santander grounder he booted was smoked at over 107 mph, it's a play he absolutely must make.
"Hard-hit, topspin, tried to come get it, didn't get the hop that I wanted," Hernández said. "Made an error. . . . Tough time to make an error there."
Of course, the Red Sox might've been able to survive if they had managed anything offensively. But after Hernández led off the first with a single and was picked off, Means retired 18 straight batters. The Red Sox finished with just two hits and only threatened twice -- when Bobby Dalbec struck out on three pitches with two on to end the eighth, and when J.D. Martinez doubled in the ninth before being stranded at third.
The offense that was supposed to make life tough on rival pitchers instead went down quietly.
"I don't think we made adjustments," Cora said. "Obviously, it's Opening Day and sometimes emotions take over and you want to do a lot."
Instead the Red Sox did pretty much nothing. They get right back at it on Saturday against former Mets ace Matt Harvey, who was abysmal for the Royals last year. He's exactly the kind of pitcher the Red Sox should pulverize.
They've already blown one chance to capture the region's attention after two years of irrelevance, and they'd best get a move on, because their clock is ticking.