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Exciting matchup worth the wait

Exciting matchup worth the wait

BOSTON -- In theory, what a wonderful way to start the season.

When we last viewed the Boston Red Sox and the Tampa Bay Rays, they were playing for nothing less than the 2008 American League championship. And they were terrific stories; the Red Sox the only team to have won two World Series in this century, the Rays emerging from a decade of defeat to stun the baseball world by winning 97 games and the AL East. They kept on stunning people by winning this AL Championship Series.

And here they were again at Fenway Park on Monday to open the 2009 season. There was reason to believe that both teams would be at least as good as last season. With the emergence of the Rays, and with the Yankees responding to a third-place finish and no October at all by spending $423.5 million on three free agents, there was also reason to believe that the AL East would be the most difficult division in baseball.

The rivalry between Boston and New York needs no introduction. But Tampa Bay has added a terrific twist to the plot. It was David against at least one Goliath. The competition would be somewhere between better than ever and absolutely great. So let's get started with the Red Sox and the Rays as soon as possible. Opening Day at Fenway is one of baseball's splendid events in any circumstance. With the quality of the competition, this one could have even more meaning.

We have waited all winter for something very much like this. Come on, play ball. Oops.

All of the glorious anticipation for this event is going to have to remain in place for one more day. With forecasts calling for rain in something like Biblical proportions, the Red Sox did the prudent thing, postponing this game roughly four hours before it was to start. Opening Day at Fenway will now be Tuesday, beginning at 4:05 p.m. ET -- weather, of course, permitting.

With the heavy rain not expected to arrive until afternoon, the Red Sox put their late Monday morning to good use by taking batting practice. This looked a lot like a typical pregame ritual, except that this BP was going to be pre-going home.

"You hate to work for two months and then sit around for three days," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said.

The early postponement spared the Boston fans getting soaked for no apparent purpose and also worked out for Red Sox starter Josh Beckett, who was spared an afternoon of uncertainty.

"It's much better this way," Francona said. "There's no sitting around, put your uni on, get up, get down, getting updates."

There was a letdown that Opening Day would be delayed, but it wasn't a crushing letdown, even though the day had begun in sunshine, largely because the rain was absolutely no surprise.

"I think we all kind of knew in the back of our heads that this was a possibility," Francona said. "It's hard when you wake up with sunshine and think you're going to play."

Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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