Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jacks… baseball is back! The long winter is finally giving way to spring and the Red Sox will look to start their pursuit of another World Series title. However, those aspirations got off to a little bit of a rough start this past weekend.
This could not have been the start envisioned by Sox fans after an explosive offseason that featured two of the most coveted acquisitions this winter. Boston fell victim to an overpowering offensive display by the Texas Rangers and dropped the first three games of the year down in Arlington.
One of the concerns for this team heading into a season with incredibly high expectations was their starting pitching. And, unfortunately for the Sox, that concern grew to an even greater level. Lester, Lackey and Buchholz combined to give up nine home runs and have an ERA over 10.00 in the opening weekend, while the entire pitching staff surrendered a whopping 26 runs during the three games.
The struggles were not just on the pitching side either. Much of the lineup failed to provide any offensive production. The most notable of the players unable to make any offensive contributions was the new $142 million left fielder, Carl Crawford. He had one of the most disappointing debuts imaginable, going 0-4 with three strikeouts. His next game wasn’t too much better as he failed to collect his first hit and went 0-3.
In a surprising move, Francona slid the struggling Crawford all the way down the 7th spot in the order for the third game of the series. A move that a lot of people considered an over-reactionary panic decision actually ended up working out to a certain degree. Crawford ended up getting his first two hits for the Sox on the season and drove in the only run for Boston.
While the move paid minimal dividends for the one game, this cannot be a long-term solution as his bat will be needed to play a significant role if the Sox want to have a successful season this year. Terry Francona will certainly have his managerial work cut out for him early on as he will experiment to try and find a comfortable spot for him in a loaded Red Sox lineup.
There were, however, a couple of bright spots over the weekend. Newly acquired first baseman, Adrian Gonzalez, looks like he is poised to have a monster season. Despite being severely limited in spring training, due to offseason shoulder surgery, his swing looked to be in mid-season form. He piled up five hits in his first nine at-bats in a Red Sox uniform.
Also appearing to be rounding into mid-season form, David Ortiz, a notoriously horrendous and slow starter, hit two bombs and drove in four runs over the weekend. To provide a little statistical perspective, he did not hit his first home run until April 23rd of last year and then did not smash his second until May 1st. Needless to say it’s a welcomed sign for Boston fans, and he’s already well ahead of his pace from last season in which he hit 32 homers and racked up 102 RBIs.
Despite the ridiculous panic emerging from the early season analysis, we need to keep in mind that it’s only three games. There are 159 more games and the dooms-day predictions of disaster are completely absurd. There’s hardly a season that goes by where a team does not either experience a three-game sweep or a three-game losing streak at some point.
Therefore, let’s put those panic meters back in pantry for a while and try and relax a little bit. It’s understandable that Boston sports fans are passionate when it comes to the Sox, but try and channel that passion through more positive and optimistic outlets, at least for now anyway. The Red Sox are stacked with seasoned professionals who know what it takes to win and will do whatever it takes to achieve that success. Additionally, their leader is Terry Francona, and he has developed a keen knack for inspiring his players and getting the most out of his teams.
There’s also more good news on the horizon for the Red Sox — the Cleveland Indians are next up on the schedule. They are an incredibly young team who is currently mired in a depressing, losing culture. Look for Boston to find their bearings and get back on track before their Fenway home opener this weekend. Oh yeah, and case you hadn’t heard, that series just happens to be against the New York Yankees.
Along with those peanuts and Cracker Jacks you might want to pick up a parka as well if you’re planning on going out to the old ballpark this weekend. Weather reports range from high 30’s to low 50’s with the potential of showers. So, not only is baseball back, but we will be treated to an early season installment of the greatest rivalry in sports. Here’s to warmer weather wishes and better results this season. Go Sox!