Every so often, I come across an article that’s so appropriate for the current environment that I feel compelled to provide my take on the matter. On Tuesday, Paul Jannace of the Wellsville Daily Reporter in Wellsville, NY (about two hours away from where I grew up) provided that article. In his piece, Jannace discusses the trap that fans, mainstream media, and baseball blogosphere fall into every season—they take too meaning from the first few games.
“The Red Sox have to hear the dreaded stat — only three of the last 80 playoff teams over the last decade have made the postseason after starting 0-3. Sound the alarms and pack up the bats and balls because there’s just no sense in even continuing the season.
That fact about the three 0-3 playoff teams is true, but go back a little further to 1998 and there’s another team which made the playoffs after a similarly bad start. The 1998 New York Yankees started 0-3 and finished with 114 wins and coasted to a World Series title. Every year media and fans fall into the same trap of judging a baseball team’s season far too early. It’s what makes baseball great, but also frustrating at the same time because it does so much time to truly see who will be the cream of the crop.
In this very space just about a year ago, you may have read about the 2005 season in which the Baltimore Orioles were 14 games over .500 and on top of the A.L. East in late June, but finished 14 games under .500 and in fourth place out of five. During that same season, the Washington Nationals hit the exact midway point of the season on track for 100 wins, but ended up going 81-81 and finished last in the N.L. East despite being in first place as late as July 24.”
By the time you read this, the Red Sox are 0-4, not 0-3. Last night, the Sox lost a 3-1 game to the hapless Cleveland Indians on a night where fringe major league starting pitcher Josh Tomlin limited the offense to a single run in the second. Josh Beckett, who pitched well through the first couple of innings, didn’t settle anyone’s nerves by allowing three runs and nine base runners (four walks) in five innings. To date, the Red Sox starting pitching staff has failed to record a quality start. Jacoby Ellsbury, Carl Crawford, Kevin Youkilis, and Marco Scutaro all failed to record a hit, thus keeping their batting averages under the Mendoza line. Sounds pretty bleak, right?
Look, I’m not going to sit here and tell you that I’m not disappointed by the way the Red Sox started the season. I definitely am. It’s frustrating. As a resident of the DC-Baltimore metro area, I’m surrounded by Oriole fans who are gloating about their four game lead over my beloved Red Sox. Yes, you read that right. These are the same Oriole fans who’ve not only experienced 13 consecutive losing seasons, but also willfully concede their beautiful ballpark to Red Sox and Yankee fans any time their respective teams are in town. Is it irritating? Sure, but I’m letting them have their fun for now. Why? Because it’s been four freaking games! Four games! If this four game losing streak occurred either in mid-June or early-August, the reaction would’ve been limited to the lunatic fringe and not the masses. The only reason people are making a big deal out of this is because they see a big “0” under the win column next to the Red Sox. Furthermore, does anyone really expect this trend to continue? Do you really think:
- The Orioles (4-0), Royals (4-1), and Mets (3-1) retaining their division leads?
- Carl Crawford will continue to produce a .133/.188/.133 triple slash line?
- Albert Pujols continue to hit .167/.238/.333, while averaging four GIDPs per five games?
- The Royals offense will produce a .352 OBP (good for fifth in the AL) with the likes of Jeff Francoeur, Chris Getz, Alcides Escobar, and Melky Cabrera in their lineup?
- The Rays will average 1.5 runs of offense per game over the course of the season?
- Howie Kendrick (career SLG of .438) will continue to slug 1.000?
- Derek Lowe will hold his ERA under 1.00 throughout the season?
Of course not! So why are we making such a big deal about our slow start? It doesn’t make any sense. Quite frankly, it comes off as silly, reactionary, and a bit juvenile. People all over the internet are laughing at us—and no, it’s not just Yankee fans and Red Sox haters. It’s everyone. Last night, Dave Schoenfield, the new writer for the ESPN Sweet Spot, had this to say about Red Sox Nation:
“Red Sox fans: Actually, I’m not covering my eyes. I’m covering my ears. I can hear the whining all the way down here in Connecticut.”
Gordon Edes of ESPN Boston has also joined in on the fun. On Tuesday, he wrote an article titled “Top 10 Overreactions to an 0-3 Start for Red Sox,” and then followed it up with article about his five favorite responses to his initial piece. Et tu, Gordon Edes? Yes, and rightly so.
Despite our recent bouts with success, Red Sox Nation, as a whole, is completely incapable of handling the daily swings of the baseball season. We fret over every pitch; make way too much out of a bad plate appearance or pitching performance; second guess every decision Terry Francona (or Francoma, if you’re one of those types of fans) makes; and criticize the front office for its mistakes rather than praising them for their extensive run of success. We are the “Debbie Downer” of baseball fans, and everyone knows it.
Yankee fans, in particular, take advantage of this knowledge by exposing our insecurities and attacking. What do we do? We sit there and take it until we finally freak out. It’s the classic big brother/little brother mentality. As a result, Yankee fans always have the upper hand. Why? Confidence. Yankee fans don’t freak out. They remain calm at all times. No matter the situation, they believe their team will find a way to win. Red Sox Nation is very much the opposite. Any time the Red Sox fall behind the Yankees in a game or in the standings, the Nation goes into full-on freak out mode. When the Yankees fall behind the Red Sox, it doesn’t bother them because (in their minds) the situation is only temporary. The “inevitable” will happen sooner or later.
So what am I saying? I’m saying that we need to eschew this Chicken Little mentality that’s plagued us for so many years, and instill some of the more pleasant traits from the Yankee fan base (like confidence, albeit not in a smug manner). The so-called curse is over. The Red Sox have won 90+ games in seven of the last nine seasons; made the playoffs six times; appeared in four ALCSs; and won two World Series. I know old habits die hard, but it’s been six-and-a-half years since we finally won it all. We’re not the laughable losers anymore. We’re one of the titans of baseball. Don’t you think it’s time we ditch the “Nervous Nellie” act? I do.
Categories: Boston Red Sox