Boston Red Sox: 10 Reasons the Winless Club Can Still Win the World Series
When the Boston Red Sox dropped the first two games of the season in Arlington, some were saying their summer had already been ruined. The team has since lost two more, falling to 0-4 for the first time since 1996. Nobody is pleased with the way they have played to open the 2011 season.
They have struggled mightily at the plate and the pitching (in particular, starting) has been woeful. Boston was hammered by the Texas Rangers and mustered just four hits in a whimper of a 3-1 loss to the Cleveland Indians.
But it is not all over yet. The adage goes: "You cannot win the World Series in April, but you can lose it." Well, the Sox have not lost it yet. An eighth world championship is still possible.
Tito Will Work out the Lineup
Four games in, Terry Francona has yet to find the right lineup for this team, with Carl Crawford in particular bouncing up and down the order.
When the outfielder was signed in the offseason, many were unsure where he would fit. He is so similar a player to Jacoby Ellsbury that it is risky to have them back-to-back. He is not a legitimate power threat, so the No. 3 hole is doubtful. Then you have Kevin Youkilis, Adrian Gonzalez and David Ortiz occupying the heart of the order.
After going hitless in his debut, Tito dropped him to seventh in the finale of the Texas Rangers series. Crawford collected two hits, but went 0-for-4 in his return to the No. 2 spot last night. But give it time. Francona will work it out.
Carl Crawford Will Improve
This is a guy who has stolen more than 45 bases seven of the last eight years. In that span he has batted over .300 five times and led the league in triples on four occasions, including last year with 13.
He is feeling the pressure in his new uniform. Far too keen to get a big hit early in his Boston career, he is out in front of everything and his average has suffered for it. Batting 2-for-15 in his first four games is not good but it is not a sign that he is declining. He will get out of this slump soon enough.
The Team Won't Bat .186 All Year
It's not just Crawford who is struggling. Here are the batting averages of some of the Red Sox core players:
Marco Scutaro: .000 (0-for-11)
Jarrod Saltalamacchia: .091
Carl Crawford: .133
J.D. Drew: .167
Kevin Youkilis: .182
Jacoby Ellsbury: 188
Six players batting below the Mendoza Line? That is not going to continue.
Big Papi Is Still Big Papi
With a .267/.313/.667 line, two home runs and four driven in, David Ortiz has been one of the few offensive bright spots for the Sox. There have been no signs of a slow start for Papi this year; the 35-year-old still has it.
David Ortiz was the greatest Red Sox slugger of the last decade; Adrian Gonzalez might be the greatest of the next.
Unlike Carl Crawford, Gonzalez has started reasonably well in Boston. He is batting .294 with three RBI. He has managed only one extra base hit (a double) so far but those will come, especially when he gets to Fenway Park.
The predictions of 50 home runs, 50 doubles and 130 driven in are outlandish and very much over the top. He should still be pretty spectacular, however.
Josh Beckett Will Be Better
Beckett was horrific last season.
Aside from his final start, he was pretty poor in spring training, too.
But his first start of the season was an admirable effort. It was not the stuff of an ace—this was far from the 2007 Josh Beckett—but the best performance by a Sox starter in 2011. He only pitched five innings but only surrendered three runs—fewer than Clay Buchholz, Jon Lester and John Lackey.
A 5.40 ERA is still awful, of course, but it was at least not a complete disaster of an outing. The 2011 season will be a better one for him.
Besides, he cannot exactly be worse, can he?
Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz
There is a good chance both Lester and Buchholz will finish in the top 10 in Cy Young voting at the end of the season.
They were poor in their respective starts at the start of the season, but they will come back from that, and while they might not win 20 games, 17 or 18 is easily within reach.
The AL East Is Winnable
The Tampa Bay Rays took a giant step backward in the offseason and have now lost Evan Longoria for the first month of the season.
The Toronto Blue Jays are still an offensive powerhouse but lack a dominant rotation.
The Baltimore Orioles are one of the best teams in baseball at the moment, but no one expects them to keep that up.
New York is still great but the Red Sox would settle for the AL Wild Card if they cannot beat the Yankees.
The Phillies Are Not Invincible
Cole Hamels was rocked by the Mets in his first start of the season. In the first three games, Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Roy Oswalt were all sublime, naturally, but the rotation is not invincible. The addition of Lee was wonderful for Philadelphia but that does not guarantee a World Series.
The Atlanta Braves teams in the 1990s had one of the greatest rotations in Major League Baseball history, but how did they fare? They won the division 14 straight seasons but only had one championship to show for it. The Phils' starting five is phenomenal but it is beatable.
The 1998 New York Yankees
The 1998 Yankees were one of the greatest teams of all-time. The 2011 Red Sox are not. But there is a comparison to be made.
The Yanks started 0-3 in 1998 and ended up 114-48. They won the World Series that year, bringing their total victories to a record 125.
Boston is 0-4. They will not win 114 games but they can definitely win enough to earn a ring in October.