An 0-3 start to the season is slightly discouraging for any team, but
for the Red Sox, it might have been a good thing. The Red Sox entered
the 2010 season with an air of invincibility after a successful
off-season that addressed, if not compensated for, nearly all of the
team’s weak spots.
But in baseball, invincibility is an impossibility. It is a game
designed to humble, and this is exactly what happened to the Red Sox on
Opening Weekend: they were humbled.
There is no need to panic, and there is little need for concern. Losses and
sweeps are inevitable parts of the game. Baseball is a cyclical game:
the are winning streaks and losing streaks, and likewise, there are also losing
streaks and slumps.
Perhaps it was important for the Red Sox to get shelled in their first
series of the season. Texas has the kind of hitters that will take
advantage of every mistake a pitcher makes, and that’s what they did to
Lester, Lackey, and Buchholz when they left the ball up in the zone.
Nevertheless, good pitching can tame the Rangers lineup, as we saw last
October. The Red Sox, too, have a great starting rotation. Now, it’s
just a matter of adaptation.
Many say that more than half of baseball is mental. If this is true, the
rest of it has to be adaptation. During Zach Britton’s major league
debut for the Orioles on Sunday night, he hardly used his trademark
sinker. Instead, he had to adjust and rely on his secondary stuff. If
Britton has the ability to do this in his major league debut, I have no
doubt he will stick as a major-league pitcher.
If a pitcher can’t throw one of his pitches for strikes, he has to
adapt. They have to adapt to lineups, to left-handed hitters, to counts,
to bad calls, to bad plays, and to the situations that ensue. Hitters, too, have
to adjust their approach to the pitcher, to the count, and to
bad-calls. Baseball is all about adaptation, and in the end, it’s
survival of the fittest.
After a sweep, it’s easy to focus on the negatives, but after the first three games of the season, it’s almost futile. I took two things out of this weekend: Adrian Gonzalez hitting to all fields, and David Ortiz’s hot start. Ortiz’s slow starts over the past three seasons have been grounds for a lot of scrutiny, but this year, he subtlety asserted himself in an otherwise disappointing weekend.
As I said before, many say that more than half of baseball is mental: this applies to recovering from tough innings, slumps, sweeps, and more. Hitting a 95 mph fastball is one thing, but maintaining confidence in your mechanics and yourself after striking out three times in a game is another thing. Baseball is all about focusing on the present, and moving on after a tough at-bat, day, or series.
The Red Sox came into the 2011 season with a lot of expectations, but expert analysts have been predicting them to win the World Series for years because every season, Epstein puts together a World Series caliber team. But expectations are intangible, and they do not always materialize into the tangibility of positive results.
I don’t think anyone predicted that the Rangers would sweep the Red Sox in the opening series. This series is indicative of baseball’s unpredictable nature, and it made a lot of people realize that the Red Sox aren’t invincible. Vulnerability is the essence of humanity: They are prone to error and to failure because they’re playing a sport that fosters it.
I don’t think the Red Sox ever sought invincibility; rather, they seek some degree of immortality. They have a fantastic lineup that could transcend baseball’s generations. However, baseball is a team sport, and a team is only as strong as its weakest link.