As of this afternoon’s loss to the Toronto Blue Jays and Ricky Romero, they are 1-5, and panic seems like a more realistic possibility. Until now, every possible solution to the team’s woes has seemed to revolve around pulling Daniel Bard out of the starting rotation and putting him back in the bullpen. This ignores the fact that the rotation is also short and the offense has started slowly, having had the difficult burden of facing the tough Tigers rotation plus Jays ace Ricky Romero. Perhaps in addition to relieving, Bard could hit cleanup.
Actually, Jon Lester did a fine job on Wednesday, allowing just three runs in eight innings, but Romero was better—a significant accomplishment given that he normally struggles against Toronto’s New York and Boston rivals. This is what is known as being out of sync. Putting aside odd cases like Adam Dunn ’11, hitters in their primes don’t just forget how to hit, and a team that has hit just two home runs so far is going to remember how to knock the ball around the park.
Jacoby Ellsbury and Kevin Youkilis are not going to hit .100 all season, David Ortiz is not going to be held homer-less, Josh Beckett and Clay Buchholz are not going to combine for a 15.00 ERA and if Alfredo Aceves can’t close—a role which wastes his ability to make long appearances—the Sox will find someone who will. Franklin Morales, with his great stuff, might be able to do it, even with his wildness; if Mitch Williams could close, so can any other wild lefty.
Not every winning team opens up 35-5 like the 1984 Tigers did. Many of the Yankees dynasty teams of the 1950s didn’t achieve even a .500 record until well into May. Then there were last year’s Red Sox, who opened 0-6 but reached .500 in May, just like those old Yankees teams, then went 72-37 (.661, a 107-win pace) from May through August before being undone by their historic September collapse.
The pain of that collapse still traumatizes, but historic events don’t happen very often—that’s why they’re historic. The first six games matter, but they’re not predictive. This is not a .167 club. It’s not a .500 club either. The pitching is thin, just as it was last September, and that may be a problem all season long, but it’s good enough to keep the Sox involved—remember, the Rays and Yankees have their problems as well.
The only thing we can’t discount completely is injuries. The Red Sox are not well-equipped to deal with too many trips to the infirmary. Barring that dire possibility, just keep repeating this mantra:
The Sox lead the league in runs scored last year and will be potent again this year—starting any minute; a staff handicapped by John Lackey and Tim Wakefield still finished third in strikeouts; panic is not productive unless I am being pursued by a bear, maybe not even then.
Seriously, it’s going to be alright.