Is It Too Early to Panic in Beantown?

Coming into the 2011 baseball season, the Boston Red Sox were a popular pick to win the always-competitive American League East on their way to a World Series berth. Unfortunately for the Sox, their hyped-up season began inauspiciously to say the least.

Starting the season against the defend­ing league champions is never easy, es­pecially for a team with a good number of new pieces, but what the Red Sox did over the first weekend was just embar­rassing. Granted, the Texas Rangers are as good as any team in baseball, but so far the Sox have averaged just three runs through three games against the Rangers and one against the Cleveland Indians. In fact, that number is actually inflated by the two five-run performances the Sox put up in subsequent losses. Every game so far has exposed new areas of weakness for a team expected to win the World Se­ries. No matter how you look at it, the Boston Red Sox have been perfectly awful in 2011.

Wait a minute. Isn’t it a bit too early to be asking the baseball gods for another shot? After all, it’s not as though the Red Sox are the only high-expectation team to struggle early-on. The Tampa Bay Rays are still winless as well and have lost one more game than the Sox alrady. The Ori­oles are at the top of the division! The incredible Philadelphia Phillies pitching staff has one of the worst ERAs in all of baseball. The New York Mets are leading the NL East! The Kansas City Royals are winning the AL Central, with all of their victories coming in their final at-bat. Al­bert Pujols is hitting .182 for Pete’s sake! Clearly, things are not exactly normal in professional baseball right now. Red Sox fans, please take solace in that.

Even with all of the wackiness going down in the big leagues, the Sox can­not pretend they don’t have some glaring problems. They have been outscored by 17 runs so far as every starter not named Josh Beckett has combined to give up 18 runs and nine homeruns in just 14 1/3 innings. Beckett has not really been much better, throwing 106 pitches in five innings of work and allowing three runs.

Don’t look to the defense behind the pitchers or the bats for a bright spot, ei­ther. In the Indians game, Carl Crawford overthrew a cutoff man on an RBI single, allowing Orlando Cabrera to move up a base. Cabrera went on to score the go-ahead run. Catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia threw the ball into center field on an at­tempted steal in the third inning. Adrian Gonzalez, who started off hot, has gone hitless in his last nine at-bats and Marco Scutaro has yet to reach base in 11 trips to the plate. There are some big issues that need to be addressed right now.

If the Red Sox don’t win a game against the Indians, panic-mode will undoubted­ly ensue in Boston. However, this team is way too talented to be swept by a rebuild­ing Indians team that has just four players from the 2007 team that threatened the Sox in the ALCS. I am fairly confident that Boston can take the last two games in the series before they come home to face the New York Yankees over the weekend.

Assuming that the Red Sox head into that series with a 2-4 record, they will need to step it up and at least take two of three to prove they can overcome the early adversity. The Yankees only two losses have been very winnable games and the team as looked very good over­all. Mark Texeira has easily been the MVP of the first week (saying a lot, I know) with four homeruns, 10 RBI and a .333 batting average. If the Sox can take it to their rivals with the support of the home fans, any doubts in Beantown will fade into the April…snow. If not, it’s go­ing to be a long, hot summer for Terry Francona’s boys.