Scouting the opponent: Boston Red Sox

By Gordon Edes

ESPN Boston

ANAHEIM, Calif.—With the Red Sox coming to town for a four-game series, ESPNLA colleague Mark Saxon (Mark, shouldn’t that be the ESPNLA of Anaheim?) was interested in some first-hand observations about the state of the Sox in the season’s first month.

* Naturally, Saxon commenced his inquiry by asking what the “vibe of the town” was like during those initial startling days when the Sox gracelessly lost their first six games after going 162-0 in all the preseason forecasts. Not satisfied by his own research that showed there was not a spike in calls to suicide hot lines, no leaps from the Lenny Zakim Bridge, and no sightings of Ben Affleck and Matt Damon in Yankee caps, Mark clearly was hoping that a jaded journalist would confirm his fantasy that disillusioned Sox fans had switched to professional lacrosse in droves (And yes, Mark, we do have a professional lacrosse team—they’re known as the Cannons and you’re invited to come when the Angels come our way later this month).

Sorry to disappoint you, old pal, but while Boston drivers might have been even surlier than usual as they navigated the rotaries that still terrify Terry Francona (“How come,’’ he once asked, “that when five drivers enter the rotary at the same time, they’re only giving the finger to me?’’), the region generally maintained its equilibrium.

This isn’t Philadelphia, after all, where fans just booed a robot that bounced its ceremonial first pitch into home plate. Boston is so magnanimous, Sox owners cut a business deal with LeBron James and no one organizes a boycott on Yawkey Way. (A-Rod, we heard, was the next name on their list)

So, OK, there may have been an uptick in calls to radio stations that identified the Red Sox manager as someone named “Chowderhead,” Daisuke Matsuzaka was booed louder than Kobe on his worst day, and bewildered John Lackey, who never got this treatment when he was an Angel, found himself skipped in the rotation for the first time ever and his acquisition discussed in terms generally reserved for the Babe’s sale to the Yankees.

Even Carl Crawford, the new left-fielder who by comparison makes even Manny look underpaid by the Sox, said he fretted that the Sox would be booed en masse when they lined up for the home opener with an 0-6 record.

But instead, the crowd showered them with the usual affection, the Sox took two of three from the hated Yankees, and the general consensus was that owner John W. Henry didn’t need to be shipped out to Liverpool after all.

Of course, if they’d have been swept by the Bombers, they’d be celebrating the 100th anniversary of Fenway next summer on a funeral pyre.

* Saxon then wanted to know all about Crawford, feigning concern about his wretched start and in syrupy tones asking if, well, you know, does anyone back there think maybe Crawford wasn’t worth all that money.

Mark, I know you can do better. New Englanders, you must know, didn’t just fall off the turnip truck. They haven’t forgotten that everyone in the world thought Crawford was going to leave one beach house off Tampa Bay for another off Newport Beach, that he would join old pal Torii Hunter as the newest Angel in the outfield. That was the idea, of course, until your GM, Tony Reagins, got out-maneuvered, and CC stayed in-conference. Here’s some advice: Don’t start gloating yet. Yes, CC has a number -- .149 -- that would show much better as an ERA for CC Sabathia than as a batting average for Carl Crawford, but did we panic the last two Aprils when Big Papi didn’t hit a lick? (Well, we did, but we learned from that experience, especially since Ortiz hit home runs in the first two games this season after going six weeks without one in 2009.)

We haven’t lost a whit of confidence in our Carl, though we must admit we expected a little bit more out of his first dozen or so games. Especially since he made more money in that time than Ted Williams made in his entire career. But we don’t take cheap shots like that around here. If a few dozen shrinks called up Theo Epstein offering their services to help Crawford make the adjustment from Tropicana Field, where kid-friendly rays swim around in an outfield fish tank, to Fenway Park, where beer-swilling piranhas roam the bleachers, well, just chalk it up to trying to be helpful. It’s a matter of time before he comes around. We’ve had guys from Tampa Bay before, you know. Remember Julio Lugo?

It’s getting late here, Mark, so I’m going to put your last questions in tweet form and answer them the same way.

* @GordonEdes wht can u tell me re Lackey? FB down, CB up, confidence broken? R media picking on him?

@MarkSaxon JL is one po’d-Texan. 4 sure. Pride took big hit. Ptched great when mad, tho. 1 scout: Best I seen JL in 3 yrs. Vel 95 1 pitch. See 4 urself Sun

* @GordonEdes Doctor, doctor, give me cure. What ails Sox most?

@MarkSaxon Can Scioscia still catch? Track shoes for Angels. Salty not throwing, Varitek not hitting. SOS.

* @GordonEdes Angels fans save their Haterade 4 Sox 4 more reasons than can count. Where do Angels rate on Sox hate scale?

@MarkSaxon Last time hate 4 Angels was when Cowboy stole Lynn and Remy, 30 yrs ago. Remdawg rules, Lynn 4given. Angels? Plyoff loss in ’09 a fluke.

Hope this was helpful, Mark. Maybe we’ll let you write your name inside the Monster when you visit next time. So you’ll know what real history feels like.

Your friend, Gordon