A mere four days ago, Red Sox Nation was bursting at the seams with anticipation as the new baseball season was about to get underway in Arlington, Texas. Visions of a hundred-win season and a World Series championship danced in the heads of Sox fans everywhere.

First baseman Adrian Gonzalez was entrenched in the heart of the batting order (hitting either fourth or fifth, depending on the opponent’s starting pitcher). LF Carl Crawford was entrenched in the No. 3 slot behind Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia, and in front of Gonzalez, Kevin Youkilis and David Ortiz. The 2011 season promised a highly-potent offense, a solid starting rotation, an excellent bullpen and a well-rounded bench.

After the opening series in Texas, some fans and many pundits have questioned whether the ballclub is as good as we thought it would be.

Why? The current discussion is much ado about nothing. The sky is falling! It reminds me of the talk-radio nitwits (callers and radio station co-hosts alike) who clamored for the firing of Boston Bruins coach Claude Julien when the team struggled back in January. When I called EEI, I was summarily rebuked for defending the coach—the team needed the change at the top to get the player’s attention, don’t you know?

LOL. As if the coaches lace up their skates and take the ice to play the game.

Every team has a slump in professional sports—oftentimes more than one. On occasion, the slump comes at the beginning of the season—when the club has a full 159 games to make up for a slow start. Oh, the horror of it all!

Look, nothing has changed since April Fool’s Day (kind of ironic, huh?). The Sox offense will still be very potent. Jon Lester will still struggle in April (as he does annually). Clay Buchholz will still win 15-plus games (although his ERA will be closer to 3.50 as opposed to 2.50, as I have predicted previously). Josh Beckett and Jonathan Papelbon will still be under scrutiny due to sub-par 2010 seasons and struggles throughout spring training.

Did anyone think the club would win 135 games this year? Slumps are bound to occur… does it really matter if it happens in Texas during the first weekend of the year? In my opinion, it’s better than having a slump this coming weekend—against the Yankees at home—when the games count double. I say, get it out of the way all at once—and it’s better to have it happen to an opponent from the AL West than the AL East.

Nothing that happened this weekend was a shocker, though the outings by Bard and Buchholz were certainly a bit surprising. Bard’s rough outing had an exclamation mark placed on it by David Murphy’s chalk-biter down the left field line—a ball that could have just as easily gone foul.

Buchholz was the beneficiary of good fortune last year, including a high strand rate, low BABIP and a ridiculously small number of home runs allowed… I wrote two weeks ago that those numbers would even out this year and that Red Sox Nation should be prepared for his ERA to rise to somewhere in the vicinity of 3.50.

Take this to the bank—Jon Lester, John Lackey and Clay Buchholz will NOT have a combined ERA of 10.57 at the end of the year (as they do today). If they do, I’ll give away my tickets for Opening Day (for 2012) to one of my readers.

Was Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s oh-fer a shocker to anyone? Sure he had a nice spring against pitchers who were working on things, or who are minor league talents, or who aren’t going to be in the major leagues this year. But he has been a bust thus far throughout his major league career, and while we hope he will be better, we shouldn’t be shocked when he stinks.

The Rangers had a hot weekend… and the Red Sox just happened to be the club in the opposing dugout. These things happen. The baseball gods even out these things over the course of a full season.

As Dustin Pedroia says, “We’re all frustrated. We got outplayed. It’s not for lack of talent on our team. We just got our ass kicked, that’s it.”

It’s time for Red Sox Nation to take a deep breath… to decompress.. and to start enjoying the baseball season all over again. Three games does not make a season. As Peter Abraham pointed out in this morning’s Boston Globe, the 1998 Yankees won 114 games and the World Series that season after starting the season 0-3 (and being outscored 21-6 by Oakland and Anaheim).

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