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Slow starts a historically bad sign

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Tracy Ringolsby

Tracy Ringolsby is a Hall of Fame baseball writer. He is in his 37th year covering Major League Baseball, is a co-founder of Baseball America, and is in his fourth year as pregame and postgame analyst for Colorado Rockies games on Root Sports.

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The high-priced Boston Red Sox are in trouble.

It can get late early in the baseball season.

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The Sox stumbled to a 2-8 start to the season.

That doesn’t bode well for Boston.

Pennants are not won in April. History, however, has shown they can be lost in the opening month of a season.

Horrid starts — and the Red Sox are off to a horrid start — are nearly impossible to overcome.

Consider that since the advent of three divisions and the wild card in 1995, 72 teams have opened the season with a record of 3-7 or worse in their first 10 games. And only five of those teams — 6.9 percent — have been among the 128 teams to advance to the postseason.

So, in addition to the Red Sox, scratch Tampa Bay (3-7 in its first 10), Seattle (3-7), Detroit (3-7) and Houston (2-8) from the list of 2011 contenders. (For the record, no team has ever overcome a 1-9 or 0-10 start to advance to the postseason.)

Of the five teams to start 3-7 or worse to advance to the postseason, only one — the 1995 Cincinnati Reds — advanced past the divisional series. The Reds, who started 2-8 and wound up 85-59 in the strike-shortened regular season, swept Los Angeles in the first round but then were swept by Atlanta in the NLCS.

The four other teams to struggle early in the season that advanced to the postseason but were eliminated in the first round were the 2007 Philadelphia Phillies, who started 2-8 before eventually rebounding and being swept by Colorado in the NL Division Series; 2001 Oakland Athletics (2-8), who lost to the New York Yankees in five games; 2000 San Francisco Giants (3-7), eliminated by the New York Mets in four games; and 2006 San Diego Padres (3-7), who lost to St. Louis in four games.

Gotta agree

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Josh Hamilton is correct. The slide into home plate on which he suffered the bone fracture in his right arm was a stupid play — on his part.

Coaches and instructors constantly lecture about the dangers of a headfirst slide, which is a lazy approach to the game.

If Hamilton didn’t like the idea of tagging up on the play, he had the option to not run — just as, over the years, he has had the option to ignore the coaches who have lectured him about the stupidity of a headfirst slide.

Hamilton’s injury is not isolated. The day before, the Los Angeles Dodgers lost shortstop Rafael Furcal for six weeks when he broke a bone in his right hand on a headfirst slide.

Furcal’s injury could be expensive. He needed 600 plate appearances this season to automatically vest a $12 million option for 2012.

Say what?

Did anybody notice NFL commissioner Roger Goodell’s response during an appearance at Woodlawn (Md.) High School when a student asked him why there were more drug problems in baseball than football?

“I’m not sure that’s true,’’ Goodell said.

Changing of the guard

Likely Hall of Fame catcher Pudge Rodriguez says he wants to get 3,000 hits, and he is currently 180 shy.

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It’s not likely to happen in Washington, however. Rookie Wilson Ramos is considered the Nationals' catcher of the future. Right now he is sharing time with Rodriguez, but Ramos is making a push to assume the job on a regular basis.

Ten games into the season, Ramos was hitting .450 in 20 at-bats, and Rodriguez was hitting .150 in 20 at-bats.

A Rose is a Rose

Chicago White Sox farm boss Buddy Bell, a Cincinnati native and admitted Pete Rose fan, has hired Pete Rose Jr. to work with hitters in extended spring training and then manage Bristol in the short-season Appalachian League.

Rose was the hitting coach for Florence in the independent Frontier League last summer, then accepted an invitation from Bell to work with White Sox hitting prospects in the Arizona Instructional League after the 2010 season.

Bell initially approached the young Rose about managing 13 years ago, in Bell’s first tour as the man in charge of the White Sox farm system.

Rose Jr. tells the story of being in an 0-for-20 slump at Class A Sarasota back in 1991 and calling his dad for help.

“His response was, 'I don’t know, son. I’ve never been in one,’ ’’ the younger Rose said.

Time to move on

Houston owner Drayton McLane has a buyer, Jim Crane, which is interesting given the strong protests that came out of the Astros' front office when it was mentioned here last season that the Astros were for sale.

McLane has enjoyed some good times during his ownership in Houston, including the Astros’ only World Series appearance, but he is getting out with the team at the bottom.

The Astros are headed to a third consecutive losing season for the first time since 1966-68, back when LBJ was President.

Talk in Houston is that former NBA Houston Rockets president George Postolos will assume a similar role with the Astros, replacing longtime baseball exec Tal Smith.

Time to move on II

Seattle would like to find a trade market for infielder Jack Wilson, who had never played a professional game at any position other than shortstop before being moved to second base during spring training.

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Wilson only added to his short rope with the Mariners when he pulled himself out of a game last week after botching back-to-back double plays and then, after the game, said he was pulled by manager Eric Wedge.

It’s that kind of selfish attitude that comes with a player who has never been on a winning team in his professional career.

The Mariners made the spring switch of Brendan Ryan to shortstop and Wilson to second with the idea that Wilson, a free agent at season’s end, is just filling in at second until sweet-swinging Dustin Ackley is deemed read to jump to the big leagues.

Numbers game

6 The number of big league managers who have no minor league managerial experience — Dusty Baker of Cincinnati, Ozzie Guillen of the Chicago White Sox, Buddy Black of San Diego, Kirk Gibson of Arizona, Don Mattingly of the Los Angeles Dodgers and John Farrell of Toronto.

FYI

Dodgers owner Frank McCourt can try all he wants to paint a pretty picture about the security situation at Dodger Stadium. But there are big league scouts who, the past couple of years, arranged their coverage to catch the Dodgers on the road because of safety concerns at Dodger Stadium.

Tagged: Mariners, Dodgers, Nationals, Jack Wilson, Wilson Ramos

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