Only two teams in major league history have opened the season 0-5 and still reached the postseason: the 1974 Pirates and the 1995 Reds.
Hmmm (I thought) ... That's not real encouraging, but at least there were two, right?
Yes. But even those two aren't real encouraging. In fact, those two are downright discouraging.
The '74 Pirates? They went 88-74 to win a weak National League East.
The '95 Reds? Actually, they were pretty good. They won only 85 games, but that was a 144-game season (due to the player strike). Prorate the Reds' 85 wins to 162 games, and they're a 95-win team.
So there's your target, 2010 Red Sox (and Rays) ... the 1995 Cincinnati Reds, managed by Davey Johnson. And those Reds were no fluke, as they'd sported the best record in their division the season before, too. So we know that exceptionally talented teams can lose five straight to open the season and play like gangbusters the rest of the way.
It just hasn't happened often. Not by this measure, anyway. The more interesting list, actually, would be a list of teams that opened the season 0-5 and ultimately played excellent baseball the rest of the way.
I do not have that list, so I will explore just one more avenue of inquiry ...
When pondering a (very short) list like the one above, we have to keep another question firmly in mind ... What sort of team is likely to open the season with five straight losses?
A great team? Probably not.
A good team? Again, probably not.
A mediocre team? Well, not really.
A lousy team? Perhaps.
But the truth is that no sort of team is likely to open the season with five straight losses.
This season, three teams have done it. According to the preseason predictions and projections, one of the teams is (or was) great (Boston), one is good (Tampa Bay) and one is lousy (Houston).
In 2010, only one team (Houston) opened the season 0-5.
In 2009, only two teams (Cleveland and Washington) opened the season 0-5.
In 2008, only one team (Detroit) opened the season 0-5.
Some of these teams were expected to be better than others, but I think it's safe to say that none of them were expected to reach the World Series, as so many of expected the Red Sox to reach the World Series this year.
But we can chase our tail around all day, and wind up devouring ourselves. The Red Sox' start probably doesn't tell us a great deal about how good they are ... but it does tell us, in the most concrete of terms, that they've dug themselves a hole. Not a massive hole, perhaps. But if the Red Sox are going to win 90 games - a rough minimum for a real shot at the postseason - they now have to go 90-67 the rest of the way.
Which of course is far from impossible if they're as talented as we thought, just one week ago. But each new loss does make us question our judgment just a little bit, doesn't it?