It is a tradition at ESPN before each MLB season for a panel of experts to lay out their predictions for the upcoming year.
Each expert picks the winner of each division as well as wild card winners, league winners, individual award winners, and ultimately the winner of the World Series championship.
45 experts chimed in this year from across the ESPN landscape to share with the world their take on the 2011 baseball season. Out of the 45 expert picks, 43 chose the Boston Red Sox as the winner of the American League and 35 picked the Sox to win it all.
Following an offseason that included the signing of first baseman Adrian Gonzalez and outfielder Carl Crawford, two of the most highly regarded free agents on the market, it is clear that the majority of America believed that this would be a special year for Boston baseball.
So where do the Red Sox stand now, 14 games into the regular season? Try 4-10, the worst record in all of baseball.
“We're just not putting everything together,” Red Sox pitcher Jon Lester said after a loss to the Tampa Bay Rays. “One night it's the pitching. One night it's the hitting. Some nights it's both. Nothing right now is clicking for us."
Lester is exactly right. Nothing is working for Boston right now.
The Red Sox can’t hit. They are currently tied for fourth to last in the American league with 50 runs scored and are third to last with a team batting average of .230.
And those two major additions that they added this offseason that were supposed to be the catalysts to a World Series championship? Crawford is batting a putrid .127 and has been benched due to poor play and Gonzalez it batting .269 and has only managed one home run and eight RBI in his first two weeks of play.
“He’s trying too hard,” Red Sox manager Terry Francona said of Crawford. “No one doubts that he’s going to be the player everyone thinks he is. He’s real good. It just takes time sometimes. We know how good he’s going to be.”
The Red Sox can’t pitch. They have an MLB worst 6.32 team ERA and have allowed the third most runs in all of baseball. Their starting rotation has been atrocious. They have a staff ERA of 8.17 and starters have accounted for seven of the teams ten losses.
The Red Sox and Francona believe the starting pitching woes are crippling the team and preventing them from digging themselves out of their early hole.
"How many times do you hear people say, 'Momentum goes as far as your next day's starter.’?” Francona said. “It’s true.”
The Red Sox struggles is a classic example of a team who tries to buy success but fails to consider the importance of team chemistry. The new additions have not performed well and it has created a domino effect across the team in which the homegrown players are struggling as well.
If the Red Sox cannot pull themselves out of this hole then the American League could be wide open and 43 so called “experts” may be forced to relinquish that unfortunate title.