Monday, April 4, 2011

Red Sox Nation Pushing the Panic Button

Over the weekend the Boston Red Sox were swept by the defending American League Champion Texas Rangers and are now 0-3 for the first time since 1996.  Even though there are 159 games left in the season Red Sox Nation is starting to worry and already there is talk about Carl Crawford being a huge bust and Jarrod Saltalamacchia aka Salty being unprepared to handle the full-time catching duties.  As a Red Sox fan I definitely didn't enjoy watching my team get swept but I am by no means ready to throw away the season like it appears so many other have already done.

Yes Carl Crawford struggled at the plate in the first two games (he went 0-7) but once manager Terry Francona moved him down to 7th in the batting order he produced and went 2-4.  I think Crawford will be fine and it may have been the pressure to produce right away that got to him a little and he just needed to be eased into the lineup a bit.  Francona made the right move by adjusting his spot in the order and hopefully Crawford can gain some confidence moving forward.

As far as Salty is concerned that may be an actual issue.  Over the weekend the Red Sox pitchers gave up 26 runs, 34 hits and 11 home runs which considering we used 2 out of our 3 best pitchers (Lackey is just awful I don't care how much weight he loses) is not good.  Obviously the Ballpark in Arlington is a hitters park and home runs occur more frequently but its still a troubling statistic.

I think the Red Sox pitchers will eventually get used to Saltalamacchia and will get back to being their normal selves. They are probably too used to Jason Varitek who had been the catcher with the team for 10 years before finally being replaced this off-season.  It may have been smarter for general manager Theo Epstein to ease Salty into the starting role by giving him more time to develop a relationship with the pitching staff but he probably thought that with the amount of offense the team would produce it wouldn't be a problem.

One thing to keep in mind about Saltalamacchiais is that he is only 25 years old and at one point Texas tried to convert him to a first basemen.  Most 25 year old catchers are down in the minors trying to refine their craft and very few come up and make an immediate impact (Buster Posey being an obvious exception to this rule) so Sox fans would do well by having a little patience with our new starting catcher.  He could help his own cause however by getting a hit.  Against Texas he went 0-10 making him an even bigger target for hatred from Red Sox fans. 

In an interview with ESPN Saltalamacchia had this to say for his performance, "I'm not going to judge my season on 10 at-bats right now. I was overaggressive, I was really amped up because it was the team I used to play for," he said. "I wanted to put good at-bats together. We were losing. I wanted to win. I was trying to get more aggressive and make something happen. I've got to learn to be more patient."  I think Red Sox fans need to be a little more patient as well.

Another thing that a lot of fans are forgetting is that the Texas Rangers were the American League champions last year.  Just because they lost Cliff Lee doesn't mean that they won't be an elite team in the American League and a potential World Series contender.  Their batting order 1 through 9 is stacked beyond belief with guys that can hit for both average and power.  They have Ian Kinsler, Micahel Young, Josh Hamilton, Adrian Beltre, Nelson Cruz, Mike Napoli  and Elvis Andrus.  That is a Murderers Row of talent and when you combine those bats with that ballpark the Rangers are an offensive juggernaut.

I did however read an article this morning on that made me worry a little bit as they provided some historical evidence that makes the sweep at the hands of the Rangers a little harder to stomach. 

According to the article of the 80 teams that have qualified for the playoffs over the past 10 years only 3 of those teams ever started a season 0-3 (the 2007 Phillies, the 2003 Braves and the 2001 Cardinals were the others).  Now that data didn't take into account opponent or any variables it strictly looked at wins and losses to begin a season but it is still something to think about going forward.

Red Sox fans would do well to remember that the baseball season is a marathon and not a sprint.  There were a lot of positive things that came out of the Texas series.  Adrian Gonzalez looked great at the plate and it seems that Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury and Kevin Youkalis have all recovered nicely from their injuries last season.  So while it was a bad series from a team perspective there are some individual performances that make the losses easier to take.

Luckily for the Red Sox, and their fans, the teams next series is against the lowly Cleveland Indians who in 3 games against the Chicago White Sox gave up 24 runs.  The Indians managed to take 1 of 3 from the White Sox but they are a team that is rebuilding and hopefully the Red Sox can take advantage of that and get their first win of the season putting an end to the panic that has set in all across Red Sox Nation.

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