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After losses, not at loss for words

By Nick Cafardo
April 3, 2011

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ARLINGTON, Texas — It’s been interesting and sometimes amusing to receive feedback from two factions of Red Sox Nation the past couple of days.

There’s the school of thought that it’s too early to make Negative Nelly comments after two dreadful losses, last night’s by a 12-5 score. Got one message from a guy who thought it was horrendous that newly acquired Carl Crawford’s 0-for-4, three-strikeout Opening Day was referred to as a “dud’’ in a headline in this newspaper and on this website.

Then there are those who think, “Wow, what a horrible two games right out of the chute’’ by a team some predicted would win 100 games.

We only have two games to assess and it’s an easy assessment — the Red Sox have been awful. Both sides can agree on that.

Are we surprised? In some ways, no. We hear the players and manager say that spring training records are meaningless, and for the most part that’s true, but the Sox didn’t look good all spring. There’s been a carryover, no question.

You would never expect Jon Lester to look that ordinary in his first Opening Day start, and when you look at the bullpen, which of the relievers is the surest thing? Daniel Bard, of course. And he allowed four runs after coming into a 5-5 game on Friday.

Then there’s John Lackey. He lost 18 pounds, but we’d rather he lost 18 points off his ERA from a year ago. Didn’t happen last night. The nine runs and 10 hits he allowed over 3 2/3 innings, including three doubles, two triples, and two home runs, one solo and one grand slam, was stunning. Not many cheapies there, folks. Now, Lackey has always been horrible in this ballpark. He entered the game with a 6.11 ERA here in 16 starts, so he’s had days like this here before. But after an Opening Day loss you figured, “Maybe Lackey’s up for a good one, finally.’’ No such luck.

The first faction of Sox fans would say, “What should we do, jump off a bridge after two bad games?’’ No, don’t do that, but you can certainly look at two bad games and draw the conclusion that the season hasn’t started like we thought it might for such a talented roster. Would it have been nice to see the Red Sox beat the defending American League champions in this series? Of course. But that won’t happen.

We’ve certainly seen some positives, such as Adrian Gonzalez hitting the ball to all fields, and David Ortiz homering in each game. Jacoby Ellsbury is healthy and homered last night, but he also dropped a ball in center after a long run. It was ruled a double. Crawford continued to struggle and is now 0 for 7 with four strikeouts. And after Bard didn’t have his best stuff on Friday, newcomer Dan Wheeler got hit around for four hits and two runs in two-thirds of an inning.

Back to Gonzalez, it’s been this correspondent’s opinion that the Sox are batting him too far down in the order. He needs to hit third because he’s the best hitter and you want him to get as many at-bats as possible.

There’s no panic and no conclusion to be drawn about the next 160 games. The Sox certainly have a roster capable of rattling off 10 straight wins at the drop of a hat. A few times. Or at least we think they can.

In these distressful times, it’s always interesting to catch the mood of Red Sox fans on Twitter. Most of the messages received were negative, but there were a few from people who thought we should just ignore the past two games. And some blamed me, of course.

“Did these guys do any pitching in spring training?’’

“Has anyone informed the Red Sox that spring training is over?’’

“Why does Lackey [expletive]?’’

“Curt Young entering federal protection.’’

“Let’s make you manager, shall we?’’

“Two games behind the Yankees after two games. Laughable.’’

“[Lackey] can’t pitch, period. No matter where he pitches.’’

“Red Sox rotation chock full of frauds.’’

“That was ugly wasn’t it?’’

Yes, it was. That’s a good word for the first two games. Ugly.

Also, don’t think making me the manager would have done any good. Terry Francona’s job is secure. In fact, if he gets about 95 wins and makes it to the World Series, the last two games will be forgiven. They will be anyway.

What we do as media and fans is weigh on in on every game. Our thoughts and view of this team will change constantly over the next 160. What we all do is think good thoughts when they play well and bad thoughts when they don’t.

That’s what we’ve always done. And especially with a team that has come into a season with so much hype, so many expectations after the acquisitions of Crawford and Gonzalez, and after they failed to make the postseason in 2010.

The Rangers, who have outscored the Red Sox, 21-10, have had story lines that have been too close for comfort, as well, including David Murphy’s two-run double on Opening Day that broke a 5-5 tie, and Adrian Beltre’s grand slam against Lackey last night.

But as they say in baseball, the season begins tomorrow. And with that will come a new day of opinions.

Nick Cafardo can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo.

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