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Monardo: Too early in the year to panic, baseball fans (April 11)

Joseph Monardo | Wednesday, April 11, 2012

All around me, the sounds of spring ring loud and clear. The leaves rustle in the wind and birds sing cheerfully. The sweet sounds of baseball join in the seasonal refrain, adding to the song organ tunes, the crack of a bat and the roar of a crowd.

But simultaneously, in my head, voices scream, fire tears through the streets and alarms ring. Disaster has struck, panic is running rampant.

After a long offseason and months of eager expectation, baseball season is back. And my Atlanta Braves kicked off the 2012 season by crumbling at the feet of the Mets three

times and falling to the lowly Astros.

The pitching was subpar, the offense was almost nonexistent and the star players disappointed. On opening day at Citi Field, the Braves failed to tag Johan Santana in his first game since 2010 and fell 1-0. In the second game of series, R.A. Dickey controlled the Braves and Lucas Duda knocked two homeruns in the Mets’ 4-2 victory. Jonathon Niese took a no-hit bid into the seventh inning of game three and a late Atlanta rally wasn’t enough to steal the win as the visiting team fell, 7-5.

The Braves began the season with their first 0-3 start since 2003 and now sit at 1-4 after committing four errors in their first game against the Astros. After their loss at Houston on Monday night, the Braves had racked up nine straight losses dating back to their late-season collapse of a year ago.

And it is not just the Braves’ early-season failures that have me worried. In both of my fantasy baseball leagues (don’t frown upon me), my teams suffered thorough routs. My pitching was disastrous, my offense was atrocious and my scores were generally embarrassing.

I am not the only one whose faith was shaken by the opening weekend of the MLB, either. Both Yankees fans and Red Sox fans were left shaking their heads after 0-3 starts. The Pinstripes dropped three straight to division-foe Tampa Bay, an unwelcome sign for New Yorkers hoping to buy AL East Champions merchandise this fall. The Red Sox, meanwhile, blew two saves during an 0-3 start against the Detroit Tigers, inciting speculation about Daniel Bard’s return to the bullpen.

In another disappointing start, Ozzie Guillen began his career at the helm of the Miami Marlins by making controversial remarks about Fidel Castro and making public his habit of drinking and sleeping at the hotel after games (“I don’t do anything else,” he said).

So clearly, there is plenty for baseball fans to fret about, whether it be slow starts or controversial beginnings.

And yet, there is nothing for baseball fans to fret about. Four or five games into a 162-game season, nothing has been established. This is what I need to keep telling myself.

The last times the Braves began the campaign 0-3, in 2003, they finished with 101 wins and won the NL East. More recently, in 2007, the Braves inaugurated the season with a three-game sweep of the Phillies, only to watch Philadelphia capture the division title at season’s end. Regardless of how terrible a team looks or how disappointing its results are in the season’s opening week, the sheer size of the baseball season offers reason for hope.

The Braves will be fine (I hope). Their talented pitching staff will lead the way as the offense pieces together some semblance of consistency and productivity. While a playoff berth will be a tall order, Atlanta is certainly in the running.

For the Red Sox and the Yankees, as well, the wins will start to pile up as they both join the Rays in a three-team battle for two playoff spots.

As for Ozzie Guillen, I think we can pretty much accurately predict what the larger trend will be from the sample size already. If he manages to move past this rather large impediment, he will probably talk his way into the line of fire again quite soon.

For the rest of us, at least, there is hope.

Contact Joseph Monardo at jmonardo@nd.edu The views expressed in this Sports Authority column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.