Through a whopping 4.3 percent of their 2008 schedule, the Red Sox find themselves in last place for the first time in three years after getting swept in Toronto over the weekend by the AL East darling Blue Jays.
Like the Globe and Mail’s Jeff Blair writes today, so what?
The Red Sox are just 3-4 to start their campaign, and finally play a home game tomorrow after their long, strange trip (had you heard?) took them from Florida to Chicago to Japan to Los Angeles to the Bay Area to Toronto to Boston. But they’re not using a two-week case of jet lag and dirty laundry as an excuse for their start. Not yet.
I always enjoy the overreaction folks have following the first week of a season in which teams play 162 games over a six-month schedule. It's the only time of year we'll hear statements like the "emerging Royals," or the "surprising Orioles." The Tigers are 0-6 and an almost unmanageable four whole games out of first, leading fans to wonder how, oh, how they're going to pull out of this giant hole they've dug for themselves.
Here's a reminder who was in first place on April 7, 2007:
AL East: Yankees, Rays, Blue Jays in a three-way tie.
AL Central: Twins
AL West: Angels
NL East: Braves, Mets in a two-way tie
NL Central: Reds
NL West: Diamondbacks
Three of those teams made the playoffs.
So, forgive me if I don't praise the thrilling start the Marlins have gotten off to, or dwell in the winless campaign that the Tigers bring to Fenway tomorrow. As easy as it would be to harp on Julio Lugo's three-error day, remember Mike Lowell's triple-miscue afternoon in the first week last season. He went on to make only 12 more all season.
Then again, Lowell has a track record of excellence at third, while Lugo, well, who are we to banter?
That being said, how about these starts to the season?
In two starts so far, Milwaukee's Ben Sheets has pitched 15 1/3 innings, allowing just seven hits and two walks to go along with a league-leading 15 strikeouts. He's 1-0 for the Brewers, who boast a 5-1 mark in the NL Central. That's the good news. The bad: Sheets hasn't started more than 30 games in a season since 2004. What's more inevitable, a trip to the DL or a Cy Young award?
Then again, Kyle Lohse has the same ERA.
The Cla Meredith-Josh Bard giveaway still ranks as Theo Epstein's worst trade, but it's getting some company. In exchange for the uselessness that was Eric Gagne last summer, Boston surrendered lefty Kason Gabbard and David Murphy to the Rangers, and both players are already paying dividends for Texas. Gabbard impressed in his debut, hurling seven innings of shutout ball against the Angels. Murphy is hitting .409 and batting fifth for the Rangers. Remember, the Sox backed up the Brinks truck for J.D. Drew because he was the No. 5 hitter they never had, yet shied away from a Johan Santana deal this offseason at least in part because of the monster contract the lefty would come with. Murphy, meanwhile, is making $393,000 this season.
Livan Hernandez leads the AL with two wins.
Gabe Kapler has as many home runs as Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz combined.
It'd be a little disingenuous to preach about the first week not mattering and then turn around and point out the 3-3 start the Pirates (wild card bound, we tell you) have gotten off to, so here's this little tidbit. When asked by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette which team would win the Central, 13 of 20 Pirates players actually picked Pittsburgh.
No question caused greater hesitation, as some players clearly were loath to choose another team because of how it might look, so they simply selected their own.
We're frightened to see the Boston bullpen have such a dreadful start, allowing 7 of 9 inherited runners to score during the sweep in Toronto. But how many how many of these guys will even be here come June? Last Opening Day at Fenway, J.C. Romero, Brendan Donnelly, and Joel Pineiro were all in Boston's pen, which doesn't bode well for fringe guys like David Aardsma, Bryan Corey, and Javier Lopez.
I love these stats. Only two teams ever to start a season 0-5 made the playoffs. Steve Phillips whipped this one out on Baseball Tonight last night previewing what amounted to a "must-win" for Detroit against the White Sox. (Even this morning's First Take on ESPN debated whether they were done after an 0-6 start. Seriously, we're actually asking this question.) The Tigers are now 0-6, which should spark the first 1988 Orioles mention any day now. Cal Ripken Sr., remember, was replaced as manager after starting 0-6 that season. If the Tigers lose at Fenway tomorrow, do folks start wondering about Jim Leyland's security? Let's say, probably not. But following an assumed Terry Cashman-less ring ceremony at the Fens tomorrow, it will be their biggest game of the year, a year that happens to be all of eight days old.
Others did not hesitate.
"Pittsburgh Pirates!" reliever Damaso Marte fairly shouted when asked.
Bay, the only one to choose the Brewers, found some diplomatic middle ground: "We'll be the wild-card team. How's that?"