Quick! Everybody Freak Out!

It’s a debacle. It’s a catastrophe. It’s a calamity of unseen proportions. The Boston Red Sox are back to where they left off last September, featuring 10-0 shutouts, blown 9-0 leads, and a team ERA of 6.68–more than a full run higher than the next worst team. Bobby V’s Red Sox are 4-10 to start the season–and it’s never going to get better.

It’s a season that was seemingly destined to fail. Near-MVP Jacoby Ellsbury suffered a freak injury when Rays’ shortstop Reid Brignac fell onto his shoulder, and now he’s out for two months. Fellow outfielder Carl Crawford, poised for a comeback after last year’s forgetful season, is still recovering from his January wrist surgery. Now? Now the team is staring at unsavory permutations of Cody Ross, Ryan Sweeney, Marlon Byrd, Darnell McDonald, and Lars Anderson roaming Fenway’s outfield.

Even the bullpen, once a strength of the Red Sox, is imploding. The two big pickups–Andrew Bailey and Mark Melancon–have done nothing to help the team. Bailey is, once again, injured and out for most the season, while Melancon has an unimaginably high 49.50 ERA, and has since been optioned to AAA Pawtucket. Alfredo Aceves, the new closer, has already blown two saves en route to a 24.00 ERA.

The team chemistry was bad last year, but now it’s soured from bad to worse. They’re not even a loose, fun-loving team with beer and fried chicken like last year; now they’re uptight with a new manager who calls out players, always needing to be in the center of attention. I wasn’t just wrong about this team being a World Series contender, I was wrong about them being a winning team.

Fire the manager; fire the pitching coach; nothing’s going right. The vaunted top of Boston’s rotation (Beckett, Lester, and Buchholz) has a 7.52 ERA to match a 1.45 WHIP. Even the formerly-frightening lineup has become far from formidable–just look at Kevin Youkilis hitting .190 on the year. From the look of things, there won’t be much improvement on the horizon. This is an unmitigated disaster; Boston sports will never be the same.

Or maybe, just maybe, we’re overreacting a bit.

There’s no excuse for the way the Red Sox opened the season, but there are some solid explanations. A team this talented should never win well under a third of their games, but let’s not forget they faced a hellish schedule to start the year. Five teams with a combined winning percentage of .641, to be exact. The Tigers. Blue Jays. Rays. Rangers. Yankees. That sounds like a playoff preview, if you ask me.

Contrary to popular belief, the Red Sox offense remains elite (top-10 in runs scored), and Carl Crawford hasn't even returned yet.

I don’t mean to defend this terrible start, but things will turn around. Youkilis won’t finish the year with a .271 OBP. Beckett, Lester, and Buchholz will each have ERAs well under 4. And while Bobby V’s antics may never end, he’s not the reason the bullpen is pitching so poorly.

Just like the 12-4 Washington Nationals will fall back to Earth–regression towards the mean, in case you didn’t know the term–the Red Sox will return to the upper ranks of the AL. And as if it couldn’t have come at a better time, the Sox are about to face the soft underbelly of their schedule. I’m talking about the Twins, White Sox, Athletics, Orioles, Royals, Indians, and Mariners. Twenty-two games against teams with a combined .426 winning percentage.

It’s not time to panic, yet. In fact, it’s never a good thing to panic–that’s when teams make rash decisions. Crawford will return soon, the pitching will even out, and the Red Sox should be back above .500 by the end of this 22 game stretch. But if Boston’s outlook still don’t improve, changes need to be made. Not major changes, but card shuffling–like the promotions of Ryan Lavarnway, Alex Wilson, Jose Iglesias, and perhaps Aaron Cook.

The Boston media will never take a lax position like this, but what’s the use of worrying this early in the season? It isn’t the end of the world. The 2007 Yankees started the year 21-29 before coming back to win the Wild Card–tougher turnarounds have happened before. Between the powerful lineup and strength atop the rotation, things will work themselves out because this team is too talented to fail over an entire season.

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