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Things are looking up!

Posted by Chad Finn, Globe Staff  April 6, 2011 08:22 AM

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Get it? Wait, wait, look at the picture again. Get it now?

Genius headline, right?

Oh, shut up.

I'm trying here. And surely you must sympathize with my honest attempts to be a voice of reason regarding the 2011 Red Sox, given that through four games and four losses, they are batting .186, their starting rotation has a 9.30 ERA, and they've been outscored 29-12.

Optimism tends to get dented a little when the 3,000 fans who bothered to show up in Cleveland last night are chanting "0-4!" before the eighth inning is complete.

But I'm not lunging for the reset button on this thing just yet, and neither should you. I never thought we'd be clinging to moral victories . . . well, really at all this season. But hey, the real thing has been strangely impossible to come by through four games, and there were several harbingers to be found last night that suggest good things ahead for this team.

So excuse me while I point them out:

The bullpen was outstanding, particularly Bobby Jenks and Matt Albers, both of whom struck out the side in an inning of work. (Cue random afternoon-drive caller: "Yeah, but they'd have both struck out four with 'Tek calling the pitches! Maybe five, Felgah!")

Josh Beckett wasn't lighting up the radar gun, but his curveball and changeup were as sharp as we've seen them in a long time, and I'm beginning to believe in him again. The missing velocity? Meh. It's April. Let him get warmed up.

The much-maligned Salty got his first hit of the season. Dustin Pedroia (.333) had two more knocks. Papi looks locked in -- the plan for more spring training at-bats looks like a savvy one -- and ready to put the two previous miserable Aprils behind him.

Like I said, good things. I'm not dwelling on the bad, because, again, it will all get better soon enough and we'll forget loaded statistics such as the one about a team that began 0-4 never having made it to the World Series when the Sox are 20 games over .500 on July 1.

While I understand the frustration that comes from the delayed fulfillment of such high expectations, I think some -- and by some, I mean 99 percent -- of it is misguided, particularly when it comes to Carl Crawford.

Peter Abraham and I talked about this in this week's podcast, but I'll emphasize it here too: The suggestion that Crawford is going to be fazed by the pressure of playing in Boston -- which, to be frank, is mostly a self-congratulatory creation of a certain segment of the media -- is preposterous. And thinking Red Sox fans should recognize this for the nonsense that it is.

Yes, he does look like he's -- for lack of a better word I don't hate quite as much -- pressing. He wants to make a good first impression on his new team and fans, the reality of his performance has been, oh, 178 degrees from that, and for now, it's resulted in a vicious cycle. He's frustrated, and it shows. Happens to the best of 'em.

But Crawford is in his 10th big league season. This is not his first turn in the spotlight. He was perhaps the biggest star on a Tampa Bay team that shoved aside the Red Sox and Yankees for the top spot in two of the past three AL East races. He had a .932 OPS in the 2008 World Series. He hit .345 in the ALCS against the Sox, a team he has tormented for years. If you're familiar with Carl Crawford -- and there's no excuse not to be -- you know you're seeing a wonderful player at his worst right now.

I'm reminded of something a wise, mustached sage named Dennis said on NESN last night: "If this were happening in July, no one would give it a second thought."

Amen to that. The Eck wasn't speaking specifically of Crawford, but of the state of the Sox as a whole. But the implied advice applies to both floundering player and floundering team.

Please, try to resist all of these overwrought and reactionary second thoughts. Soon, Crawford and his new teammates will play to their established high level. And that's when your faith will be rewarded, and everything really will be looking up.

About Touching All The Bases

Irreverence and insight from Chad Finn, a Globe/Boston.com sports writer and media columnist. A winner of several national and regional writing awards, he is the founder and sole contributor to the TATB blog, which launched in December 2004. Yes, he realizes how lucky he is.

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