In this young Major League Baseball season, these may be the thoughts making their rounds across Red Sox Nation:
"Oh my God, Dice-K's on the DL!"
"David Ortiz hasn't gone yard yet!"
"Jon Lester served up too many homers!"
"Tim Wakefield's our best pitcher?!?"
Usually quick off the bat, the team's poor start may remind fans of the horrendous '96 campaign where the Sox collapsed in all aspects of their game, despite having sluggers like Jose Canseco, Wil Cordero, and Mo Vaughn.
The cast of the losing ALCS team of last season remains relatively the same in 2009, save for starting pitchers in Brad Penny and John Smoltz, right fielder Rocco Baldelli, catcher George Kottaras, and relief pitchers Takashi Saito and Ramon Ramirez.
These are hardly hair-raising additions to a team that just missed out on last year's World Series in a season that had some boiling points.
Notably, with the discontentment of longtime Sox star Manny Ramirez, the team that seemingly had a harmonious spirit in their championship year of 2007 collapsed into a unit of fragile egos.
Still, that didn't stop Red Sox Nation from believing in their team last year. Despite their adversities and the eventual shipping of Ramirez to the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Sox nearly made it all the way.
Year after year, whether it be a season producing the coveted World Series trophy or a theatrical breakdown in the organization costing a shot at the title, Sox fans are often quick to press the panic button.
Admit it, when the team struggles or makes a trade or transaction, we are often quick to freak out and think of the worst-case scenarios for our beloved franchise.
Case in point:
- The trading of Nomar Garciaparra, a longtime shortstop with the team from late 1996 to the mid-point of 2004.
- General Manager Theo Epstein's abrupt resignation-turned-return of the winter of 2005-'06.
- The epic Ramirez trade last year that ushered in the beginning of the Jason Bay era in Fenway.
Sox fans are quick to worry, and perhaps rightfully so, about their team faster than a NASCAR Sprint Cup lap around Bristol Motor Speedway.
After all, looking at the roster and based on the expectations by fans and media heading into the season, the Red Sox looked to be a team with tickets for this year's title series, right?
Well, instead of winning, they have managed to start this season with a measly record of three victories and six losses.
This hardly translates into a team that is supposed to excel in the American League East division, the same that has the perennial contenders in the New York Yankees and the sudden powerhouse Florida-based team in the Tampa Bay Rays.
The offense has been sluggish so far, with only Kevin Youkilis and Bay starting off quickly this season with .472 and .345 batting averages respectively.
So Red Sox Nation, is it really time to press the panic button for 2009?
As atrocious as the Sox have started the year, it's never too late to make some gains in the standings.
With shortstop and third baseman Jed Lowrie out with a left wrist sprain, and starting pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka resting on the DL with right arm fatigue, the team is hardly running at full strength and potential.
Surely, Bay and Youkilis will not be the only hitters that will be a force to be reckoned with for opposing pitchers as the season goes on.
David Ortiz's output may not resemble the offensive prowess of years past, with declining power and hitting consistency, but his presence in the batter's box still carries that intimidation factor for those who may serve up the long ball for "Big Papi."
Second baseman Dustin Pedroia's sluggish beginning in 2009 is nothing new, as he also struggled in the first month and a half of the '07 season. With some tweaks to his stance at the plate, Pedroia became quite the hitting machine.
While the frustration of the slow start reared its ugly head on the Red Sox, especially in last weekend's series against the Angels at Anaheim, the team will surely rebound, provided that the Sox, namely Lowrie and Dice-K, get their act together.
Call me a writer who's wearing red-shaded glasses.
Yes, I might be thinking too optimistically for a team that looks hardly like title material.
After all, they were the same team that came up short in last year's ALCS against the Rays.
It's the same team that's made "questionable" moves in the past that supposedly hurt our organization, correct?
And they're also the same Red Sox organization who happen to have made postseason play all but once in the Epstein Era, missing the cut for the playoffs in 2006 with a collapse down the stretch.
Unless the team decides that mediocrity is the acceptable means of performance, which is as unlikely as a Sox fan wanting to see Fenway Park demolished, the men who suit up in those Boston colors will definitely be a force and factor to be reckoned with come October.
Just when you count the Sox out, they'll be on top and ready to press a button.
Not the panic button; rather, the "winning it all" one.