69°
UMass Boston's independent, student-run newspaper

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Step Back From That Ledge, Sox Fans

A strange panic has officially set in around Boston.

Despite the Red Sox’s recent reign as one of baseball’s dominant franchises, the Fenway faithful have been anything but as Boston has gotten off to a slow start. At press time, the Red Sox are 3-6 and have lost series to the Rays, Angels and Athletics.

The Sox began the 2009 campaign with an Opening Day victory over the defending American League champion Tampa Bay Rays. Since then, they have mustered only one win, against a heavy-hearted Los Angeles squad, two days after they lost rookie Nick Adenhart to a tragic auto accident.

So what’s wrong with the Sox? A few things, but nothing that can’t be corrected over a 162 game season. Dustin Pedroia hasn’t come out strong, but after an MVP season, shouldn’t the guy be granted more than three series to catch fire? The middle of the lineup does miss Manny (Ramirez) Being Manny, as Red Sox Nation knows, but there is more than enough firepower in the form of David Ortiz, Jason Bay and J.D. Drew (if healthy) to make up for Man-Ram’s absence.

The starting pitching, vaunted as ever due to their depth and experience, hasn’t quite lived up to its advanced billing yet either. Jon Lester hasn’t looked like a budding ace, and Josh Beckett hasn’t shown the consistency needed of a true number one. But again, patience is required. Each hurler has only pitched twice in a season that will feature both big guns taking the hill around 35 times. Also, Sox fans haven’t seen future Hall-of-Famer John Smoltz or promising prospects Clay Buchholz and Michael Bowden, both of whom looked lights out in spring training.

Finally, the fans worried about the potency of the pen can rest easy. Setting up perhaps the best closer in the game in Jonathan Papelbon is a stable of quality relievers who bring big game experience to the right field bullpen. Hideki Okajima, Manny Delcarmen and Javier Lopez all pitched for the 2007 World Championship squad, while Ramon Ramirez offers a young, electrifying arm to the mix. And the dark horse is Takashi Saito, who, despite his advanced age, put up very impressive numbers as the closer for the Dodgers over several seasons.

This is not to say there are not legitimate concerns. Both Mike Lowell and Ortiz have ailments that they couldn’t quite shake in 2008, and haven’t shown signs of being 100 percent healthy. If those two hitters can’t return to their pre-2008 form, then the offense might be truly damaged. However, these hitters will need more than a week and a half to prove that any stiffness isn’t from a nagging injury but instead just early season rustiness. But these don’t seem to be the issues that are concerning Red Sox fans. Instead, people are wondering if the front office made a mistake in trading away Coco Crisp or giving Lester a big extension.

Local media outlets like the Boston Globe and NESN aren’t doing anything to dissuade the panic. Their responsibility is to report the facts, but there is an undisputed benefit to their companies when they offer “the-sky-is-falling-on-the-Sox” pieces. It seems distant, but before 2004, the Sox faithful were the some of the most pessimistic, “my Guinness is half-empty” fans in all of baseball. This is going to sound crazy, but it seems that Red Sox fans are more alive when the team is scuffling, for it reminds them of their roots. Sadly, it appears that a struggling Sox squad brings them back to the times when they were blissfully miserable.

So is the worry and concern warranted after only 8 games? Probably not. With battle-tested Terry Francona deftly navigating the Sox through the baseball-crazy atmosphere by deflecting criticism off his players, the team will be consistent during the dog days of August. Fans weighing their options as they straddle the ledge of Longfellow Bridge should remember former left fielder/philosopher Ramirez’ wise words, when he said, “The fans need to relax. Winning or losing, it’s not the end of the world.” In this case, it’s Manny Being Mindful.