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MLB.com Columnist

Terence Moore

Panic is a specialty in Red Sox Nation

Moore: Panic is a specialty in Red Sox Nation

Panic is a specialty in Red Sox Nation
On the Red Sox Nation scale of panic (which is legendary, by the way), that little grounder rolling through the legs of a Boston first baseman during the World Series ranks as a 10.

So this is about a six.

Let's make it a seven -- as in seventh.

That's where Boston Red Sox manager Terry Francona dropped his $142 million man named Carl Crawford to in the batting order on Sunday afternoon in Texas. It was during the Red Sox's finale of a three-game series against the Rangers to open the season.

Simply put, the guy was demoted from the third spot . . . after two games.

It gets worse. Crawford batted second on Tuesday night in Cleveland against the Indians. Which means he has hit in three different spots during Boston's first four games. Which means the Red Sox already are a mess, especially since they've started 0-4 in the midst of Francona's game of musical chairs with Crawford.

If you didn't know better, you'd say the Red Sox can't handle their ridiculously high expectations.

Courtesy of their offseason acquisitions of Adrian Gonzalez, Crawford and others, the Boston Herald even declared last week on its front page that this Red Sox team is "The Best Team Ever."

Guess those Herald folks aren't baseball soothsayers, because Red Sox pitchers relinquished 11 home runs and 21 extra base hits to the Rangers. Plus, during the first two of those three games, the Red Sox's $142 million man wasn't worth a couple of nickels. Crawford went 0-for-7 at the plate, and struck out three times in those first two contests.

Then came Tuesday night's 3-1 loss to the Indians that featured Crawford's batting average dropping to .133 after an 0-for-4 showing.

Such things happen, though.

When Ken Griffey Jr. became the $100 million man for the Cincinnati Reds after much hype following his trade from the Seattle Mariners, he slumped from Opening Day into May.

The same was true of Mark Teixeira, the $180 million man for the Yankees, who took his reputation as a notoriously slow starter at the plate to the extreme. During his first two pinstriped years in 2009 and 2010, he hit a composite .166 in April.

The point is, nobody ever dipped Griffey or Teixeira into Mendoza territory on lineup cards.

In contrast, prior to the Red Sox's third game this season, Francona told reporters in Texas of Crawford, "Looking at him, it's kind of obvious he's trying too hard." That's when Francona dropped Crawford in the lineup as a way of "taking a little heat off him."

Did I say panic?

There are so many bad things about this for the Red Sox. And, no, it doesn't matter that Crawford responded by going 2-for-4 with an RBI against the Rangers in that seventh spot.

Neither does it matter that Crawford will spend the bulk of the season batting higher in the lineup, simply because his past says so: four-time All-Star during his eight-plus seasons with the Tampa Bay Rays, American League leader in stolen bases for four years, a .300 hitter during five of his previous six years.

He's also a Gold Glove outfielder.

He'll be fine.

As for the Red Sox, not so much.

Francona suddenly has Crawford and other Red Sox players asking questions while glancing over their shoulders.

If closer Jonathan Papelbon hints of struggling again this season, will he get yanked and replaced by Bobby Jenks, another one of those high-profile newcomers to the Red Sox?

Jarrod Saltalamacchia dragged his slump from the end of last season into this one. Does that mean Jason Varitek isn't totally out as the Red Sox's starting catcher, especially since pitcher Josh Beckett prefers Varitek behind the plate over Saltalamacchia?

Then there is right field, where J.D. Drew is the starter.

Or is he? He didn't start on Opening Day.

Mike Cameron did, and let's just say this lifetime starter wasn't signed to a two-year contract worth nearly $18 million before last season to sit and watch. He also had an impressive spring.

Anyway, to hear Francona tell it, since Texas left-handed pitcher C.J. Wilson is the bogeyman to left-handed hitters (and Drew bats left-handed), and since Wilson was slated to throw on Opening Day, Francona thought it was best to start right-handed-hitting Cameron.

We're back to panic.

This isn't to say it's not justified for the Red Sox.

In recent years, when it comes to those who flopped despite considerable talent, there were the 2008 Detroit Tigers, supposedly something along the lines of "The Best Team Ever" in the Motor City.

With an already loaded roster, those Tigers did their version of adding Crawford and Gonzalez by grabbing rising stars Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis from the Florida Marlins. Those Tigers also traded for veteran shortstop Edgar Renteria.

As a result, with an impressive group of starting pitchers and closer Todd Jones -- and a slew of strong hitters and fielders -- the Tigers were picked by many to win the World Series.

They finished last in the AL Central.

Not only that, the Tigers were swept during their first series of the season along the way to an 0-7 start.

Sound familiar?

The Red Sox are just three losses shy of 0-7, and they have that history of panicking in dramatic fashion.

There was the 1975 World Series, for instance, when Carlton Fisk leaped and clapped his way around the bases after slamming a game-winning home run at Fenway Park. Despite all of that momentum from Game 6, the Red Sox lost Game 7 at home to the Cincinnati Reds.

The 1978 Red Sox had a 14-game lead over the Yankees in July, but in October, two words: Bucky Dent.

Three more words: Aaron @#XT^ Boone.

There also was the Curse of the Bambino, and years later, there were two other words: Bill Buckner.

Now, with Francona's ongoing juggling act with Crawford (and likely with others), you have the Red Sox flashing signs of remembering all of their horrors through the decades, instead of their joy that came from snatching world championships in 2004 and 2007.

Two final words: Not good.

Terence Moore is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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