The word isn't "panic." It isn't even "concern."
From "Will the Red Sox win 100 games?" to "What's wrong with the Red Sox?" all in the span of six days. The Best Team Ever is 0-4 to start the 2011 season, and while panic is a characteristic saved for the Skip Baylesses of the world, a certain sense of humility indeed trickles into the streets of Boston. Nobody is entitled to anything in this game.
The numbers are so putrid that they are hard to fathom. The Best Team Ever ranks 27th in runs with 12, 29th in batting average (.186), 26th in OBP (.271), 30th in ERA (8.16), and 29th in WHIP (1.72). Only David Ortiz, Adrian Gonzalez, and Dustin Pedroia are batting above .200. The pitching has been so awful that nobody seems to know what to make of the numbers. ESPN.com's team leaders graphic lists Tim Wakefield as the team leader in wins with zero, and Josh Beckett the team leader in saves and holds with...zero.
Now we know what the late, great Lou Gorman meant when he asked, "Where would we play Willie McGee?"Terry Francona has no clue how to utilize his "splash" man, the $142 million Carl Crawford, who could bat anywhere from leadoff to ninth tonight in Cleveland, where 482 fans are expected to show up. Many opined that Crawford didn't have a natural fit on this team, and that theory is proving prophetic in the early days of the season. I'll bet Christmas at Fenway was a hit though.
It's too early to debate whether or not Jarrod Saltalamacchia is adept at actually calling a game behind the plate, but seeing as we had to hear constantly about how otherworldly Jason Varitek was at it over the years, maybe it's a fair question. Despite an offseason of major moves, the Red Sox felt content to hitch their wagon to a 25-year-old with throwing problems who's on his third team in four years. When do we start the "Would you rather have signed Crawford or Victor Martinez" debate?
Clearly though, Boston's 0-4 start means as little as Baltimore's 4-0 start. I mean, why be concerned about starting the season out slow when an 11-14 start last April played one major role in the team not making the playoffs, along with injuries, and a blatant refusal to do anything at the trading deadline? It's not like they're the 1988 Orioles, but at what point do these slow starts add up? You're going to lose four games in a row at some point during the season. But five, six, seven...
That seems as good a time as any to remind you that Daisuke Matsuzaka pitches tonight. No, that's good news. We think. The Indians were one of the few teams Matsuzaka had any semblance of success against last season, positing a 2-0 record with a 0.56 ERA. In his one start at Progressive Field, he hurled an eight-inning shutout. And the way his teammates are brushing the baseball, he'll need a repeat performance in order to give his team its first victory of the season.
It's an awful start, but it means next to nothing in the long haul. But it does raise some questions, namely: Maybe this team isn't as good as you thought it was. Three-fifths of the rotation are question marks, the catcher has never performed full-time duties, the $142 million man is expected to perform at a level at which he never has in his career, and the closer is a shell of his former self. Best Team Ever? In many ways, they're still the snooze-fest they were in 2010.
The Red Sox will open their home schedule on Friday with nothing better than a 2-4 record, and John Lackey's 22.09 ERA on the hill against the Yankees. At least there will be booze.
Whether or not they'll be greeted with boos depends on the next two days. After all the hype of the offseason, wouldn't that be a hoot?