The Boston Red Sox aren’t a lost cause after three bad games
Starting strong out of the gate was vital for a Boston Red Sox team eager to put their miserable 2020 season behind them but any optimism that this year would be an improvement is quickly fading. The bats went cold, the defense was sloppy and the pitching unraveled as Boston was swept in three games by the Baltimore Orioles.
The humiliating season-opening sweep has many fans clamoring that the sky is falling but it’s too soon to hit the panic button. This very well might foreshadow another disastrous campaign but history tells us that the season can still go in either direction following a dismal start.
The last time that the Red Sox lost their first three games to begin a season was 2012. Boston was swept by the Detroit Tigers and lost five times during a six-game road trip to open the season on their way to a 69-93 record that buried them at the bottom of the AL East.
This was the turbulent Bobby Valentine season that still makes Red Sox fans cringe at the mere mention of that regrettable chapter in franchise history. A toxic clubhouse filled with malcontents mutinied against the new manager as the season spiraled down the drain.
The silver lining of this dumpster fire was that it compelled the front office to make drastic changes. Boston unloaded over a quarter of a billion dollars in a blockbuster deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers, freeing them of several players who were a burden to their payroll and clubhouse chemistry.
The Red Sox used their newfound financial freedom to retool the roster the following offseason, stocking up on high-character veterans and cost-effective role players to replace the overpaid prima-donnas.
The result was a World Series Championship in 2013. The Red Sox hit rock bottom the previous season but they didn’t stay down for long.
A long road trip can be a tough way to begin a season and could factor into a slow start. You might expect that starting a season by losing three games at Fenway Park would be even worse but that historically hasn’t been the case.
The last time that the Red Sox lost the first three games of a season at home was 1948. Boston was swept by the Philadelphia Athletics before hitting the road where they dropped two out of three to the Yankees in the Bronx.
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Boston managed to climb out of that early-season hole to rally their way to the top of the American League. The season ultimately came down to the final game against the Cleveland Indians. The teams entered the game tied with 96 wins, making the season finale essentially a one-game playoff to decide the pennant. Cleveland won the game 8-3 to advance to the World Series where they would defeat the Boston Braves.
In those days, MLB didn’t have multiple postseason rounds. The team with the best record in each league at the end of the regular season jumped straight to the World Series to crown a champion. The Red Sox settled for second place that year but their 96 wins would have been plenty to qualify for a playoff spot under today’s format.
The ’48 Red Sox were led by Ted Williams, who won his fourth batting title that season while leading the league in doubles, walks, OBP, SLG and OPS. The Splendid Splinter finished third on the AL MVP ballot, an award he almost certainly would have won if his team had won the pennant.
A case can be made that getting swept to open the season cost Williams another chance to compete in a World Series. All games count the same in the end. The Red Sox still had an opportunity to win the pennant at the end of the season though. As discouraging as the season started, the Red Sox proved to be a great team that came up just short.
This year’s club isn’t as talented as that ’48 team and there’s certainly no Ted Williams on the roster. They aren’t nearly as dysfunctional as the 2012 team though.
The point is, this season can still go in either direction. It’s frustrating to watch the Red Sox lose at home to a team they expected to beat but three games doesn’t doom the season. There are 159 more games on the schedule which gives this team plenty of time to turn things around. Expectations might have dipped a bit lower in the wake of this agonizing sweep but it’s far too soon to call this season a lost cause.