Commentary

Worry not about the Red Sox

Boston's club has yet to hit .500, but remember: It's only mid-May

Updated: May 13, 2011, 4:40 PM ET
By Gordon Edes | ESPNBoston.com

BOSTON -- We are an odd lot, those of us who spend an unhealthy amount of our existence invested in the fortunes of the Boston American League Baseball Club.

For as often as we sing the blues, we should be on Beale Street instead of Brookline Avenue.

Two World Series titles in a span of four seasons have not cured us of our innate capacity to decide that whoever is currently wearing the laundry of the hometown nine has rarely been eclipsed in their ability to inflict misery on those of us watching them.

Listen to the recitation of our whine list:

John Lackey makes us want to scratch our eyes out. Dustin Pedroia's big swing is finally catching up with him. Jarrod Saltalamacchia couldn't throw out someone trying to steal second in a potato sack. Ozzie Guillen was right about Bobby Jenks. Nice of Carl Crawford to show up after taking off the month of April. The definition of trade imbalance: The Japanese got Rockefeller Center, we got Daisuke. A traffic cone could coach third base better than Tim Bogar. Terry Francona is a great manager -- when he had Manny.

It is mid-May. The Bruins are still alive but the Celtics are done, the Patriots are locked out and the Red Sox are still three games under .500, the breakeven point a modest level of achievement they have yet to reach in the season's first six weeks. We can abide a lot in these parts -- high taxes, low pay, crummy weather, crooked politicians, potholes that rival Olympic-sized swimming pools. A mediocre baseball team stretches tolerance beyond our limits to endure in silence.

So we boo. And we write things like this because we are sure, in all our years of following this team, it has rarely been this bad. The Red Sox, Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy wrote, are "Underachieving. The opposite of clutch. Hard to watch. Not worthy of the love of the legions back home.''

Now here's the funny thing about what Shaughnessy wrote, and he was by no means alone. He wrote that not about this team as it prepares to make its first visit of 2011 to New York, but about last year's team on its first visit to New York.

You might remember the occasion. It was May 17. The Sox twice fell behind by five runs to the Yankees in the Bronx, and twice they rallied to take the lead. David Ortiz, J.D. Drew and Kevin Youkilis hit home runs. Victor Martinez hit two.

[+] EnlargeDustin Pedroia
Harry How/Getty ImagesDon't let frustrations mount over the Sox just yet.

Francona handed the game over to Jonathan Papelbon with a 9-7 lead. Papelbon had never given up four runs in the ninth inning before. Nor had he ever given up a walk-off home run. That night, both of those things happened. The despised Alex Rodriguez hit a two-run home run to tie. A backup pinstriper, Marcus Thames, hit a two-run game-ender.

The Sox, nearly one-fourth into the season, were a game under .500, 19-20. They trailed the first-place Tampa Bay Rays by 8 1/2 games. They were 6 1/2 games behind the second-place Yankees. Their next eight games were against first-place teams, the Minnesota Twins, Philadelphia Phillies and Rays. It wasn't even Memorial Day, and we were inclined to bury those Sox.

It got even worse the next night, when Josh Beckett slipped on a wet mound, after Francona pooh-poohed the possibility of that happening, hurt his back and wound up missing the next 56 games. But before that night ended, it turned. The Sox spotted the Yankees another five-run lead, came back, and this time they held on to win, Papelbon surviving a harrowing ninth. That was the start of a stretch in which the Sox won eight of nine and 12 of their next 15. They left .500 long behind. Less than a month later, they were a game out of first place.

They had won 25 of 35 games when Dustin Pedroia fouled a ball off his left foot and fractured it. The next day, Clay Buchholz pulled a hamstring and the day after that, Victor Martinez fractured his left thumb.

That's when a season begins to unravel. Not in the middle of May, when a team is still languishing around .500 and has yet to hit its stride. And believe me, these Red Sox will hit their stride. Despite our well-rehearsed fears, they're too good not to.

It might even begin this weekend, in the Bronx.

Gordon Edes covers the Red Sox for ESPNBoston.com.

Gordon Edes

Red Sox reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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