Time to Break up the Red Sox? And Other News From Week 1

Well, none of us saw that one coming did we?  As of today, the Boston Red Sox are 1-7.  That’s one win this 2011 season. That’s last place in the American League East.  Boston is looking up at the Baltimore Orioles and worse than the Kansas City Royals.

I’ve read a couple of columns this week wondering if it’s time to fire manager Terry Francona, and those articles weren’t even in the Boston papers. The general consensus seemed to be the following: Carl Crawford can’t hit so far and probably never will, and Josh Beckett is finished. Kevin Youkilis hasn’t been able to and won’t be able to make the adjustment to playing third base, and old veteran Jason Varitek will have to do most of the catching. Could non-scalpers tickets become available for an upcoming game at Fenway? Don’t worry Sox fans: Bad teams that start 1-7 finish last, but good teams with good managers who start 1-7 will be right up there at the end.

The Tampa Bay Rays are also 1-7, batting .145 with only B.J. Upton and reserve player Sam Fuld doing much offensively. Johnny Damon says something has to start clicking and soon. But the Rays haven’t put up eye-popping offensive numbers during the last two seasons, and while they’ve managed to win a lot of games, there could be more challenges in store. The retirement of offseason pickup Manny Ramirez is just the latest blow to a team that lost several players from last year and has star Evan Longoria on the disabled list. About the only thing going for the Rays is that their series with the Red Sox starts Monday.

The Baltimore Orioles are winning baseball games. Manager Buck Showalter is getting lots of press for his turnaround of the team last season and its good start in 2011 and deservedly so. However, I think the remake of the starting eight has much more to do with it. Baltimore for the past few seasons has had to use utility players and bench players as regulars, or rookies with a high ceiling but with little experience. These players were thrust into roles they were unfamiliar with and burdened with responsibilities they had difficulty handling.

There was no way for the Orioles to deal with the inevitable injuries every team suffers because those players who should be injury fill ins were being used as starters and were the players being injured. Baltimore  now has legitimate major league starters at every position making the everyday lineup much stronger and providing a deep bench.

It sure has been fun watching Tim Lincecum pitch in 2011.  His first start, which was  against the Los Angeles Dodgers and Clayton Kershaw on Opening Day  was a pitching duel that I was hoping would never end. Lincecum was very good but Kershaw was lights out and the Dodgers won that game.  It was good old fashioned hardball at its very best.

Lincecum’s second start was a real gem, typical of what he has done the last three seasons.  He struck out five of the first six San Diego Padres and had all four pitches working to perfection.  Lincecum gets the ball back from his catcher, and with little to no time wasted, throws it again.  When a Tim Lincecum is on his game, there is nothing better to watch.

It’s been great to see Alex Gordon finally making some progress at the major league level. It must have been very tempting for the Kansas City Royals to give up on this potential face of the franchise but I must admit, I admire the Royals, who really had nothing to lose by keeping him, for giving him another shot. He seems relaxed and might finally have realized that he’s only one player, and one player cannot win every game. Actually it’s been fun to watch the Royals, like Baltimore, being competitive, at least while it lasts. Maybe all those scouts weren’t wrong about Gordon. Time will tell.

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